Since the 1973-74 season, only fifteen teams in NBA history -- according to Basketball Reference -- have finished the season with an offensive efficiency rating lower than 96. The 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers, as it stands, are one of those fifteen teams. Clearly, that's historically bad. So how should the Bulls feel about allowing 107 points to these Sixers, who were even without Nerlens Noel? Good is not the first word that comes to mind. Therefore, it is only appropriate we start with a look at the defensive side of the ball for Chicago.
1) Pau Gasol, Folks
For the most part, I've left Pau Gasol's defensive shortcomings alone. If only because those who watch the Bulls regularly should be seeing the clips I'm about to show you happening on a game-to-game basis. He is slow. He is a bad defender. He is a pretty good shot-blocker. He is good at being tall (yes, that's a skill). It's possible for Gasol to be all those things simultaneously. With that being said, here's what the tape looks like:
Mind you, the man driving with the ball in both of the above clips is 6-foot-9, 215 lbs Robert Covington. Last I checked, Bob Covington is not LeBron James. There are a handful of players, with that size, that can slice past Gasol with such ease, and Bob Covington should not be one of them. If it were a shifty guard blowing past Gasol, that'd be one thing. However, that's obviously not the case.
Gasol having trouble in 'ICE' and high-ball screen scenarios is nothing new. Legitimately, I could go back to any game in which Gasol played this season and show you a similar play(s) to the above clips. No exaggeration. Also not an exaggeration, the same 'any game' standard applies for "box outs" like this:
That's not a box out. That's an arm out. Now, I'm not going to complain about Gasol being out-hustled. The dude who out-hustled him, Henry Sims, is playing for his next contract. Gasol getting to that ball isn't going to change his life, but Sims getting or not getting to it might.
Oh, and by the way, all three of these plays happened in the first quarter. It didn't take a tremendous amount of digging or effort to find examples of Gasol's problems on defense. And actually, like always, there were many more to choose from.
Let's not fool ourselves here, folks. Is Gasol magically going to find lateral speed come playoff time? No. Is he going to box out? One would hope, and I'd lean towards yes. It goes without saying that Gasol's been wonderful on offense this season, in fact, I've mentioned it before even. But with the playoffs right around the corner and Tom Thibodeau starting to show more aggressiveness via hard traps, giving one last glimpse at Gasol's season on the defensive side of the ball is timely.
2) Derrick Rose's Activity
Of all the plays Rose made on Saturday night, to me, this steal stood out the most:
Rose misses a running layup attempt and as a result is slightly behind the play once JaKarr Simpson pushes the ball ahead. But look at how the play ends up:
Literally an end-to-end play. Rose's activity, in general, was stupendous on Saturday night. In fact, Saturday marked the first time since March 2, 2012, Rose recorded at least three steals in a game. Also as another cool bit of trivia (with the assist from Blog-a-Bull commenter Mike from Illinois): Rose is just the tenth player since 1985-86 to record at least 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds in 28 or fewer minutes played, according to Basketball Reference. Far and away, the best thing to happen Saturday night was Derrick Rose and it's not even close.
3) Bulls In Transition
Pretty sure this is the first time we've discussed the Bulls' transition offense in Second Chance Points. Feels good, even though it was against the Sixers. Regardless, not only were the Bulls looking to run, but they also executed really well on Saturday. Jimmy Butler darted down the floor with a purpose on multiple instances, perhaps because he had confidence Rose would find him? Rose himself tried to go one-man-fast-break a few times with some success, but it was his outlet passes that were especially great. In addition, credit the big men -- Joakim Noah and Gasol -- for getting the ball out of their hands quickly after rebounds. Jo, and to more of an extent Pau, had their head up looking to get Rose the ball immediately upon grabbing a board. Overall, really good stuff.
4) Nikola Mirotic's Pocket-Passing
Something miniscule, but something I've wanted to bring up for quite some time now. Basically, when Thibodeau uses the jumbo lineup of Noah, Taj Gibson and Mirotic (spoiler: expect something more extensive on the jumbo lineup coming later in the week), eventually Mirotic will be put in a situation where he is the ball-handler in pick-and-roll. And Mirotic's pocket-passing / slip-passing ability is absolutely tremendous for a guy 6-foot-10. Truly a gift. People that tall are not supposed to be able to pass off-the-dribble with such touch.