The Bulls entered the fourth quarter of last night’s game with the score tied. That’s no cushion at all, and obviously not enough for what’s become perhaps the worst 4th quarter team in the league. They’ve been bad during the final period all season, and last night the scoring margin was -10, as they shot 7/24 from the field for 20 points.
The Bulls are definitely the worst shooting fourth quarter team, with an eFG% of 41%, far worse than even the team closest to them in that category (Orlando).
I had thought that some of these issues may have been alleviated by simply not playing Bobby Portis and Isaiah Canaan to start the final period. But even when facing a Scott Brooks special (where he sat Beal and Wall at the same time to start the fourth) the Bulls were -6 in that time with Jerian Grant producing somewhat but being bested by Trey Burke.
And when the starters filtered back in for the Bulls to join Dwyane Wade and Taj Gibson, things didn’t get much better. More than likely because there’s no shooters on the floor, so not only was it far-fetched to see the deficit shrunk by a three-pointer it meant no space on the floor for Jimmy Butler and others to operate.
Butler was 0-4 with four FTs in the final period. If you look at his fourth quarter attempts they weren’t too bad, but the season-long trend remains that the Bulls offense devolves. Dwyane Wade was 2-6 himself, and offered a long thoughtful description of the Bulls woes via Cody Westerlund of CBSChicago:
“It doesn’t matter if a guy knows who it’s going to,” Wade said. “If the paint is packed because you’re running one action, it’s going to be tough. A guy has to make an unbelievable shot. That’s putting a lot of pressure on Jimmy. Let’s call it what it is: We’re putting a lot of pressure on Jimmy in the fourth quarter to make a lot of plays because we’re running just one action. So we got to get more action, more body movement.”
Wade put the onus on coach Fred Hoiberg, his staff and the players on the floor around Butler, believing the team’s movement has stagnated as many watch Butler go to work. In Wednesday’s loss, the Butler-Wade-Rajon Rondo trio combined to shoot just 14-of-50 on field goals, and the Bulls went with a fair share of isolation basketball.
“It’s got to come from us as players too,” Wade said. “Obviously, some of it is play-calling as well. Some of it is we got to get out the way, we got to move, we got to keep them honest. We’re asking a young guy to make extra shot he takes with bodies in front of him, step-backs, all these things. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do.”
As Westerlund posits, one try at a fix could be to simply get Rajon Rondo the heck out of the game. Rondo was especially bad last night (1-10 shooting, but he did have 10 assists that’s a pure point guard right there fellas), and Hoiberg pointed to a single good game earlier in the week as reason he stuck with Rondo in this one.
But through the whole season there’s examples of opponents simply not guarding Rondo, and for good reason. And that jams up everything for the offense. Him missing two layups and an open court turnover leading to a Wizards layup didn’t help either.
Would putting in Doug McDermott instead, to let Wade and Butler handle the ball, fix everything? Probably not, as he’s still just Doug McDermott. Getting Mirotic in for Lopez could may help too, especially on a night when Lopez was struggling to come over and help (as Rondo was blown by). But the solution to be had here isn’t clear-cut, it’s more just trying to find a solution in the first place, instead of sticking with the starters to their bitter ends.