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Bulls should have blown out Cavs in Game 4

The Bulls didn't get beat by a LeBron buzzer beater; they didn't finish their most efficient shots.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls failed to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Cavaliers with their 86-84 Game 4 loss in the United Center. A lot which was lost in this game was lost at and near the rim.

The Bulls had the chance to capitalize on stealing homecourt advantage in Game 1 in Cleveland and following through to keep it with their Game 3 win. They could have been in a situation to lose Game 5 and still have a shot to close out the series at home in Game 6.

Instead, the loss shifts the balance back to the Cavs. With the series tied at two, this is effectively now a three-game series with the Bulls having to win at least one more in Cleveland.

It did not have to be this way. And the reasons are not so arcane. It is as simple as:

The Bulls and Cavs were even at 32 points in the paint in Game 4, but being even in that counting stat is meaningless. The Bulls lost their shot at being overwhelming favorites to go the the Conference Finals in the painted area.

Here is how awful it was in the first three quarters, where the Bulls still outscored the Cavs 68-61:

bulls cavs chi shots 1q-3q

And it went from bad to worse in the fourth quarter, where the Bulls were outscored 25-16 for the loss:

bulls cavs chi shot 4q

The Bulls getting to the rim was at a rate way above the league average. Their 41.4% and 42.1% rates eclipse the league regular season rate of 28.8% of shots. But the Bulls' 35.1% shooting percentage at the rim for the game is so far below all playoff teams' 59.4% rate that it really is pretty embarrassing. Maybe more foul calls shift the rate up to a 40-45% rate, at best, so that apology is not worth accepting.

The Bulls, conservatively, left 20 points in the building on Sunday. This game should have been a blowout.

The Cavs have now allowed the second-worst FG% in the playoffs within five feet, but that rate is still 52.5%. The Bulls are now shooting 41.2% up close in the second round after 54.4% in the first. Even the Celtics shot 57.4% near the rim on the path toward getting swept by the Cavs in the first round.

Joakim Noah continued his stretch of bricking layups and tip-ins. Pau Gasol or no Gasol, Noah and his anemic offense was third only to LeBron James (101) and Derrick Rose (100) for the game with 99 touches. Props for the 15 rebounds and two steals, but that is still way too many other moments of freezing or killing the offense.

But Noah was not the only one who got it up without finishing, as the rest of the team was 11-for-29 (37.9%) near the rim. This is more of a sad reminder of the 2011 Derrick Rose & the Pips days where Rose scored almost 45% of the Bulls points when he was on the floor, as the non-Rose Bulls were 10-for-32 (31.3%) on these particular shots:

Game 4 Shooting Near the Rim
Joakim Noah 3-for-11
Derrick Rose 4-for-8
Jimmy Butler 2-for-7
Taj Gibson 2-for-5
Nikola Mirotic 0-for-3
Tony Snell 2-for-2
Aaron Brooks 1-for-2
Mike Dunleavy 0-for-2

On the brighter side, Bulls fans can call back to the high volume and the anomaly of only 12 trips to the free throw line. But not finishing at the rim is hard to excuse. This was not some ultra-elite defensive affair where good looks were scarce. The Bulls simply left a criminal amount of points on the floor.

Stats via