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The Bulls were a fourth quarter away from a 3-0 road trip

late lineups were the key

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s probably fair to say that the Bulls start to their six game circus trip has gone better than what most expected. To come out of their first three games against the Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers 2-1, having a great chance to be 3-0? I can live with that.

Saturday night’s loss to the Clippers was tough to digest. Up by 19 at one point, the Clippers made a (what seemed) inevitable climb into the game before half. Withering numerous mini spurts in the second half, the Bulls offense bogged down late in the fourth, and questionable rotation management led to Los Angeles’ Mo Speights providing game changing minutes. Yes, Mo Speights.

I’m not sure if you can call Saturday night’s loss a “good one” per se, but it’s not one I don’t think you can be upset or dwell on. Here are a couple takeaways from the nail biter.

Bulls need to take advantage of Jimmy Butler’s mismatches

At the end of the second quarter Clippers guard Austin Rivers was defending Butler. In no universe could Rivers possible defend Butler in any fashion. Given the matchup disparity, this is an example of a situation where the Bulls should’ve gotten Butler the ball on the block.

Over the past couple of years, Butler has shown to be effective out of the post when given the chance. However, the Bulls have never made a concerted effort to get him looks down low. On a night when Butler’s shot wasn’t falling from the outside, when a mismatch like that presents itself, the Bulls need to get him the ball on the block to try and get some easy points around the basket or at the free throw line.

Switching on defense needs to stop

This was noticeable from the first couple of games, and has continued since. Instead of fighting through screens and staying with their man, the Bulls take the easy way out by switching. It happens more times than not when Rajon Rondo is on the floor, so I’m sure you can put two and two together there.

Why is this bad? It’s leading to bad mismatches for the Bulls that teams like the Clippers, are taking advantage of. On multiple occasions through switching defensively, the Clippers were able to take advantage of and score. Butler ending up on Blake Griffin, Rondo on DeAndre Jordan and Taj Gibson on Chris Paul for example. It’s the one part of their defense I’d prefer them to get better at, because it is such a simple thing they can adjust, it’s just about effort and doing it.

Fourth Quarter Lineups

Ok, so Fred Hoiberg’s fourth quarter lineups have been questionable at best. For the entire fourth quarter outside of a couple of seconds, Hoiberg chose to play Bobby Portis over Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic. It’s something for whatever reason Fred just can’t get away from, but it’s hurt the Bulls in every instance.

The first such instance came early in the season against the Boston Celtics. Boston attacked Portis relentlessly in the pick-and-roll knowing he couldn’t defend it or provide any rim protection. In the end it came back to bite them in the ass.

Saturday night, Hoiberg chose to play him as a way of matching up with Speights, and Portis got absolutely worked the entire quarter. With Speights being a stretch four, it led to Hoiberg’s decision not to put in Lopez, knowing that would create a matchup issue. But this should’ve been a situation where Mirotic and Gibson should’ve been paired together.

Listen, yes Niko was bad last night, really bad. But at the very least he’s a competent defender and can provide more of a threat offensively (decision making pending). For Hoiberg to ride Portis the entire quarter as he continuously got beat time and time again by Speights is inexcusable. Yes there weren’t a lot of options to go to because of the matchups, but at some point you have to try and throw something else out there. As a coach you can’t sit there and be complacent and say “well, this is all we got.” No, you have to adjust, maybe even use some creativity.

Hopefully Hoiberg can use what happened last night as another learning experience and adjust in future games.