As I said in the preview for this game, I was anticipating the Bulls bouncing back from their latest struggles in this matchup against Washington. It was a rival who they'd just lost to, and Thibs was all over them after some of their debacles lately. But the Wizards are talented and a problem of a matchup, so even an uptick in 'energy' wouldn't be enough in and of itself.
And it turned out that way. I thought that the Bulls started out the game just fine, with Joakim Noah looking especially bounce-y and active. But at halftime the Wizards still managed to have over 38% of the offensive rebounds, showing that it's not just effort but also having huge dudes that helps you keep possessions.
One Bull who was certainly dialed-in was Derrick Rose, as he exploded in the first quarter with 3 of 4 three-pointers and 7 of 9 from the field overall, culminating in this bomb to get him his 17th point.
Given how awful his percentage from deep has been lately, you can certainly figure that Rose was 'due' a bit. But I also don't think this was some kind of turnaround, as while even his misses did look real close (so...the opposite of a Tony Snell miss), the form and decision-making still wasn't what I'd like to see from him.
Of course, that wasn't a problem in this game since they were going in, as he finished with a career-high 6 makes. The problem was that slightly-ridiculous Rose shotmaking was the only sustained quality offense the Bulls had. The plan to try and force-feed Pau Gasol in the post was pretty disastrous, as he predictably struggled against Nene, one of the best post defenders in the league. Gasol finished strong to salvage his line, but had a 1-7 first half and had 3 turnovers. Jimmy Butler had his second straight dud against the Wizards, shooting 3-10 and getting production through just barreling in and throwing his head backwards to get FTAs. Credit to the evolution of his game that he's able to salvage that much on an off shooting night, but there's been a lot of those nights in the past couple weeks. And though Noah started out the game looking good physically, he still looked unable to help on offense at all, and had just 2 points in the only half he played.
The Bulls bench, as they did on Friday, looked to be a facet of the game where they could make up ground. After Rose's hot start, the Bulls lead swelled to 11 midway through the 2nd as the Wizards were just throwing the ball away. They had 10 turnovers midway through the 2nd quarter (though only finishing with 15...) and the Bulls took advantage. But given the huge margin the Bulls had on 3-point makes, it was a bit alarming that they were only up 6 at half.
And it was extremely alarming to see what happened in the second half. The Wizards opened the 3rd quarter on a 15-5 run, with Rose the only offense for the Bulls. The Wizards bigs were not only keeping up their dominance of the glass, but picking/popping the Bulls tandem of Gasol and Gibson to death. The Bulls were out-scored 32-19 in the quarter, and it could've been worse if the Bulls weren't getting some bailout calls on their poor possessions. Meanwhile the Wizards were getting things much more easily, whether it was Nene getting 8 assists, Beal coming off of screens that lost Jimmy Butler, and then John Wall heating up from distance himself.
The Bulls bench once again was a positive unit to start the 4th, as Aaron Brooks was held scoreless through 3 quarters but started heating up. It looked like a unit of Rose/Brooks/Butler/Mirotic/Gibson would finish the game, something that would potentially keep the Wizards pantsing on the interior in effect but perhaps at least change the Bulls speed capabilities on both ends. But it didn't last long (and to be fair, wasn't technically 'working' much either) as Thibs went back to Hinrich and Gasol (Mirotic stayed in).
From there the deficit that had been hovering around 5, and at one point was as low as 2, had ballooned back to double digits on a quick Wizards run that included a Hinrich turnover and whatever the hell happened here.
Pierce hit that three, and though there was still 4 minutes to go the Bulls never got much closer. Rose, Butler, and Brooks all hit late threes but Wall and Nene combined for 11 points in the same span as the defense never got the late stops needed for a comeback.
The defense wound up allowing 60 points in the second half to Washington, and allowed over 51% shooting overall. The Wizards had an offense that spread the ball around, with 29 assists on 40 field goals and solid lines from their entire starting 5.
Kris Humphries also had an impact with 4 offensive boards and 8 points in his 18 minutes.
Thibs wanted the Bulls 'in the circle', but it was the Wizards that worked circles around them. That line was almost as poor as how the Bulls have been playing defensively lately: as with Noah either out (or hurting), no quality pressure on the ball, and even Butler starting to look ordinary it's looking broken.It's a lonnnnng way to go so fixes can still have time to be implemented. But as Doug Collins said in the telecast: this game probably meant more to the Bulls than the Wizards given where each team's at right now, and if that was the best the Bulls can offer that's not good enough.