I've witnessed a total of 216 missed shots in the past 12 hours. There should be some sort of award for that. Last night's Bulls-Bucks game wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing contest you'll ever watch -- it was played sloppily, unsynchronized, and down right ugly. That's not to say, though, that the game didn't feature some interesting notes and observations to takeaway. Because lest we forget, this is two teams that would face each other if the playoffs started today. So, with that, here are seven observations I picked up on that I'd like to share with you.
Note: although I'll predominately highlight things the Bulls did, that's not to say these observations are exclusive to all things Bulls. Just in general, sometimes I'll include some stuff about the opponent, too.
1) As You'd Expect, Derrick Rose
Every part of me wanted to start elsewhere. Like, the Bulls worked a playoff team -- at home, nonetheless -- and did some really exceptional things on defense, which we'll get into momentarily. But, in good faith, I simply could not.
For the game, Rose finished with eight points on 1-13 shooting, dished out eight assists, grabbed five boards and committed three turnovers in 33 minutes of play. Also, for the first time in Rose's professional career, he failed to make a two-point field goal.
It wasn't purely the bad shooting night because at this point of the season, we've seen a number of those. Rose's jump shot makes about as much sense as Phil Jackson's rebuilding plan in New York. It's just all over the place. But again, I think people who've watched the Bulls enough times this season have come to grips with Rose's consistently inconsistent jump shot.
Where Rose has steadily improved over the course of the season, though, is getting to the rim and scoring in one-on-one situations. According to NBA.com/stats, Rose is in the 90th percentile in points per possession on isolation-type plays. Meaning, Rose has done well when aggressive.
Last night, however, Rose was uncharacteristically poor around the rim. He missed five shots within nine feet of the hoop. And among those, this play stood out the most:
As you'll notice, Rose does well by using a pro-hop to gain separation, but after he gathers on two feet, he gets no lift whatsoever. If you want a charter example of Derrick Rose 2.0, well, that's it. For every ‘ooh-ahh' moment he's had this season, there's been a moment like this to match it. Suffice it to say, though, Rose will have better days ahead.
2) The Bucks Can Play Perimeter Defense
Take a look at how the Bucks thwarted Rose and Joakim Noah by showing hard on ball-screens.
You'll notice above that Noah isn't even aware of what's going on behind him nor does he seem to care. The reason for that is the Bulls are trying to run a play, where they do wind up getting two Gasol free throws, but let's keep looking.
Again, Noah can't really hurt the Bucks in this position, which is twofold. First, the Bulls are aware Noah can't do much in pick-and-roll as the roll man and are sending him elsewhere to set a screen / run the play. Second, the Bucks are challenging Rose to, if he can, turn the corner and burn them. The Bucks were willing to take the chance and test Rose, and it worked.
And once more, where you'll see the Bucks' scheme messes up any shot the Bulls have at properly spacing this possession out of a Rose-Noah pick-and-roll.
3) Pau Gasol Owns The Bucks
Milwaukee is a soild defense, but they cannot guard Gasol at all. On the year, Gasol is shooting 65 percent (13-20) on mid-range jump shots against them. I mention the mid-range specifically because as you may have noticed last night, the Bucks double-teamed Gasol at every chance and definitively decided that he was not going to beat them in the post again. Remember, last time the Bulls played the Bucks, Gasol scored a career-high 46 points.
One could hardly blame Milwaukee for doubling Gasol, which is why I want to give credit to the Bulls for making them pay time after time when they did it. The few instances in this game where some actual fluid, good ball movement was generated -- it came as a result of Gasol kicking the ball out of a double from the post. How many players in the league are going to happily settle for taking just nine shot attempts against a team that he single-handedly destroyed the last time they played? Major props to Pau.
4) The Bulls Hedging / Helping Screens
This one kind of caught me off guard because the Bulls don't normally do a whole lot of this. Although, they have peppered it in more this year than they have in the past, or so it seems.
First, here's Gasol helping off a down screen where if Zaza Pachulia simply rolls to the hoop, which is what O.J. Mayo anticipates he'll do, the Bucks would get an easy two points. This is actually an example where the Bulls should have been burned, but Pachulia decides to flare out towards the corner, and Mayo throws this pass out of bounds.
Next, this is Nikola Mirotic attempting to hedge a screen. He doesn't do a very good job of it, but it doesn't wind up hurting the Bulls as Mirotic and Tony Snell successfully switch back to their assignment on this example.
Here's Rose showing a really good example of a hedge, forcing Giannis Antetokounmpo to backtrack his dribble towards center-court instead of coming off the screen ready to attack, which is what Giannis wants to do.
And finally, here's Gasol showing a good hedge on an off-ball screen.
5) Jimmy Butler's Flying Rebounds
Jimmy Butler does this thing where, on occasion, he'll recognize a missed shot that's going to carom high into the air. When he recognizes this, on a running start, he freaking soars in -- typically, his man is somewhere around the perimeter which allows him to generate some momentum -- and skies over everybody to grab the rebound or tip it to a teammate.
It's really awesome when he does this and it puts his athleticism on display in a more subtle fashion.
6) The Bucks Can't Shoot
The Bulls did a fantastic job forcing Milwaukee to settle for mid-range jump shots all night long. Chicago's pick-and-roll defense -- minus a few lapses -- was superb. Perhaps the best they've been in the pick-and-roll all year. On the night, the Bulls made Milwaukee take 33 jump shots to which they only converted on 13. Even better, though, was that in the second half -- Milwaukee was 2-21 on all shots outside the paint. You can't defend better than that.
7) The Underlying Story - Rose, but ALSO the Bulls Defense
I started with Derrick Rose purposefully. Yes, his play probably matters more than anything else on most nights. However, regardless of what you read, or what you hear on sports talk radio in Chicago today -- the Bulls played unbelievably good defense. The brand of defense that's been missing basically throughout the season.
So while I guarantee people will be quick to dismiss last night because they don't realize that the Bucks are actually a very good, well-coached basketball team -- I'm telling you not to forget about the defensive effort the Bulls put on. We've had plenty of opportunities to focus on Derrick Rose, but very few opportunities to talk about some damn good defense. So just remember that.