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Fred Hoiberg's Lineups Killed The Bulls Again

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Hoiberg put out some very poor combinations to close the 3rd quarter and start the 4th. The Clippers took advantage and ballooned a 3 point lead into an 18 point edge.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The thing that's going to get lost from the Clippers game is that the Bulls played a really good 1st half.

For one of the first times all season, the Bulls were punishing a good team in the paint when they tried to go small.

The Clippers started to pull away though at the end of the 3rd quarter, then really slammed the door shut in the beginning of the fourth. What happened?

Here's the lineup data from popcornmachine.net. That line on the bottom of the picture shows the score. The huge dip in the blue box? That's where the Clippers ran away with the game:

I hated Hoiberg's lineup choices in that period. Hoiberg blamed a lack of mental toughness, which was a massive cop-out in my opinion. In reality, there are a number of reasons why the combination of players he put out there were destined to fail. He chose to go with Hinrich/Brooks/Butler/Portis/Gasol for most of that stretch. Let's detail why that was never going to work:

1. Butler and Pau are not Wolverine

For whatever reason, Hoiberg's minute management has not been under nearly as much scrutiny as Tom Thibodeau. Why, I have no idea. Butler is leading the league in minutes again and playing through injuries. Pau is also playing hurt and averaging 32 MPG (although he is down 2.7 mpg from last year).

But onto this 3rd quarter stint. Hoiberg played Butler 18:33 straight minutes dating back to the 1st half and including the entire 3rd quarter. He also played Pau 17:43 and the entire 3rd quarter.

That's not a great idea for obvious reasons. He shouldn't be playing those guys entire quarters when they both have nagging injuries, and he especially shouldn't be playing them such long consecutive stretches through quarters, even given a break for halftime. He certainly shouldn't be doing it to both of them at the same time.

It's predictable that both guys played poorly and looked very tired out there.

Pau started off the quarter strong, but ran out of gas quickly. In the last 6 minutes of the quarter, Pau failed to get a shot up and committed two turnovers. Jimmy went 1/3 in that same stretch and got to the line twice for 5 points. Not good, but not terrible either. Unfortunately, the Bulls needed Jimmy to carry the team through that stretch because the rest of the guys were playing like garbage.

2. Nobody could play defense

Bobby Portis is a great young rookie, but he's a rookie and he doesn't know how to play NBA defense yet. Over and over, the Clippers got whatever they wanted. If you think a freshly-rested Gasol is bad on defense, Gasol on 18 straight minutes of playing time was really not doing anything defensively to bail Portis out.

Meanwhile, Aaron Brooks is probably the worst defender on the team. Couple that with Hinrich, who just came back from his own injury and looked fairly limited out there, and the Bulls were a total trainwreck defensively.

In the last 6 minutes of that 3rd quarter, the Clippers shot 63% from the field, 1/1 on 3 pointers, and 6/8 at the line. They posted a 125.7 Offensive Rating (the Warriors lead the league at 113), while the Bulls put up a paltry 79.3 on their own end.

3. Hack-a-DeAndre was executed very poorly

Another note - if you're going to resort to Hack a DeAndre to close the 3rd quarter, why the hell don't you put McDermott in? For all of his shortcomings, McDermott is one of the Bulls' best offensive weapons. He's unplayable because of his defense. And McDermott is far superior offensively to Kirk Hinrich, who the Bulls used to foul Jordan.

Rather than use McDermott when the Bulls were only playing on offense anyway, Hoiberg opted to save him instead for the entire 4th quarter. The team got thoroughly routed in that time frame in large part because of McDermott's defense.

That slowdown period would have also been a great time to get Gasol and Butler off the floor and let them sit down for a bit. Free throws eat up a lot of real time and sitting on the bench for that game-time minute of hacking would have bought them a couple of real-time minutes of rest. Gasol is also a poor rebounder and the Clippers are usually good at rebounding DeAndre FT misses, so that would have been a good spot for Gibson to come in. Alas, Hoiberg kept his stars in for the important task of watching DeAndre shoot free throws.

4. Defensive Disaster Lineup Continued into the 4th

Onto that 4th quarter, where Jamal Crawford caught fire and the Clippers scored a ridiculous 11 points on their first four possessions. The Clippers ran some action to get Brooks to switch onto Crawford, then immediately went to attack him. Brooks promptly gave up an and 1 jumper. Crawford drew another and 1 with Moore on him and Portis doing his best Pau statue impression, then schooled McDermott when for some reason McDermott decided to switch unprompted. McDermott gave up a corner 3 on the next possession and the Bulls found themselves down 18 in what had been a 3 point game before Hoiberg's bad lineups.

The Clippers' offensive strategy was pretty simple throughout that stretch - go at the Bulls' weakest defenders. The Bulls couldn't hide McDermott and Brooks together, especially with Portis giving absolutely no help on PnR, and the game turned into a blowout as a result.

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If this were one bad lineup decision in the season, it would not be such a big deal. But on a regular basis, I'm left scratching my head wondering what in god's name Hoiberg is doing. He has an awful tendency to pair his worst defenders together for long stretches, and that doesn't make sense on any level.