This was a very frustrating game to watch. I knew it wasn't going to be a pleasant one, with Derrick Rose missing again, and the Pacers depleted by injuries. Indiana was without David West, George Hill, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, and C.J. Watson, to go with also missing Paul George for the year. I figured that the Bulls offense wouldn't look so hot, given Rose's absence and with the Pacers still a top 10 defense on the back of Roy Hibbert's rim protection and Frank Vogel's schemes. What I did not figure was that the Bulls would blow this game, at home, after a day of rest, to this Pacers team on the second night of a back to back. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened.
The Bulls offense sputtered out of the gate, as they shot an awful 9 of 23 in the first quarter. Pau Gasol was the biggest culprit, as the Bulls tried to get him going early. As a strategy, with Rose out, going to Gasol as the primary scoring option makes some degree of sense. The trouble was the way in which the Bulls attempted to utilize Pau. Mostly, Chicago tried to force feed Pau on the block with him isolated on Roy Hibbert. Hibbert is 7'3" with an enormous wingspan and he moves better than Pau does, at this stage of Gasol's career. His length bothered Pau all night and at no time was this more apparent than in the first quarter, as Pau went 2 of 8. Gasol finished the game just 4 of 15 from the field and the Bulls never really changed their strategy when it came to getting their big guy going. It would have been a better idea to try to get some dribble penetration to draw Hibbert away from Pau and make finishing inside easier. Unfortunately, that gets me to the other big time poor performer tonight: Kirk Hinrich.
Hinrich was absolutely terrible. He took 17 shots to get 15 points. He barely broke down the Pacers defense to open anything up for his teammates. With Rose out and Pau stifled by the Pacers' interior length, a rotational shakeup with Aaron Brooks getting close to starter's level minutes would have been warranted. Brooks is able to do what Hinrich can't and break down the defense off-the-dribble to make things easier for the bigs and for guys like Dunleavy and McDermott who are only really threats to drive off of a close out that you'll only see if the defense has been broken down by an initiating action. Hinrich just doesn't have the foot speed to do this. There were a ton of vintage Kirk overdribbling sequences and it was just really hard to watch.
If Thibodeau didn't want to take Hinrich off the floor, he should have at least taken the ball out of his hands and put it in Jimmy Butler's hands to start every possession. Butler was just tremendous tonight as he continues his "Bet on Myself" World Tour. Jimmy has improved by leaps and bounds as a dribble drive threat and he was in attack mode all night when he had the ball, drawing 14 free throws, and scoring a career-high 32 points on just 17 shots. He also played 41 minutes and well, Jesus, Thibs, it's November.
Doug McDermott got a nice run of 14 minutes and went 3 for 4 for 7 points, but also turned it over 3 times, which just can't happen. But he's a rookie and he still seems like he's a bit nervous out there, so hopefully that will sort it self out sooner rather than later. Nikola Mirotic only got 5 minutes of time and given how badly Pau was struggling with Hibbert around the basket, it would have been nice to see Niko get more run to try and draw the Pacers bigs away from the basket to open things up for the offense. Unfortunately, Mirotic made a couple of pick and roll defensive mistakes in his short stint and Thibodeau promptly glued him to the bench for the night.
Continuing what has been a mostly season-long trend, the Bulls got beat on the glass again. This time it was the offensive glass where they couldn't get it done. (This probably has something to do with the Bulls not having enough dribble penetration to force big rotations out of rebounding position on that end.) The Pacers and Bulls each recorded 10 offensive rebounds, but the Pacers took 8 fewer shots than the Bulls. Overall, the Pacers snagged 46 boards to the Bulls' 34.
Giving up 99 points on 48.1% shooting to this relatively punchless Pacer team looks pretty bad, but the Bulls did mostly force the Pacers to take the looks they wanted them to take and protected the rim well on the inside. Indiana was just really hot from midrange going 17 for 32 on midrange shots (defined here as 2 point shots not in the basket area). I mean look at this shot chart:
As they say, it's a make or miss league and the Pacers were hitting tonight. The Bulls could have done a bit better job contesting some of those mid-range shots, but for the most part they gave up the right kind of shots and just got smoked on them.
The trouble was really with the offense and most of that goes back to a strategy of pounding it inside to Gasol against a bad matchup for him and too much Kirk Hinrich dribbling the ball and not enough dribble penetration.
This is a really bad loss to a weak team, at home, right before the Bulls big road trip out West. It feels crappy and it should. Hopefully, Derrick's injury really is minor so we don't have to see anymore of this version of the Bulls for a long time.