Paxson-backed head coach Jim Boylen has trotted out this line of analysis lately when it comes to his team’s crappy performances - counting the good minutes:
I thought we had maybe 28 minutes of really good basketball tonight. That’s not enough.
::checks NBA rule book:: indeed, not enough!
The first half was OK, but Boylen’s Bulls were outscored 62-46 in the second half ending in a meek final few minutes down 15+ and finishing with a 117-103 loss.
They even lost their spirit at the end.
It was a real difference in the two halves, even someone who plays with seemingly no perception of game flow in Kris Dunn saw it:
In the first half, we had great pace on the offensive end. Defensive end we were getting stops. In the second half, they came in with that spirit and more aggressiveness. They punched us in the mouth and we didn’t respond.
Indeed, the Bulls had a first-half pace of 107 and second-half that was sub-93. In the first quarter - which Dunn played nearly every second and shot abysmally - he still led them to 10 fast-break points in that opening period, but the rest of the game had only 4.
Some of the ‘competitiveness’ was seeing the Heat miss their three-pointers. They were 3-15 in the first half from beyond distance, and credit the Bulls for keeping up with the attempts, matching with 15 of their own and hitting double what Miami did. Bobby Portis had a 9-point scoring binge to give the Bulls an actual decent lead in the second quarter, however the similarly-chucking Dion Waiters answered with 13 first-half points of his own to keep Miami close.
The Heat got on track in the 2nd half in making more threes, and the Bulls refused to open up the offense to try and keep up. Also they’re bad.
The Bulls shot 3/6 from behind the arc in the 3rd quarter, but just 2/11 from 2-point range in the frame.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) January 20, 2019
Meanwhile, the Heat, led by a returning Josh Richardson, just started lighting it up.
Picking a slightly-arbitrary time period to make things look as bad as possible, if you look at around 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd to 4 minutes remaining in the 4th, the Bulls started tied but were then outscored by 21 points even shooting pretty well from the field (8/16, 24 points) because the Heat - who are struggling, on the road, and were on a back-to-back - went supernova.
In that time, Miami was 17/22 from the field, 8/12 from three, with only 3 turnovers to 14 assists. Even Dwyane Wade got in a couple final insults to Chicago.
Boylen, of course, attributed it to battling and physicality. (oh also missed assignments, so better analysis for once!)
We call them skirmish moments, the battle inside the battle and the battle inside the war. We’ve got to win those moments. Whether it’s an offensive rebound, a loose ball, maybe a transition play. Sometimes it’s a missed assignment and they make two threes and then they get a little separation, a little confidence. I thought that happened tonight. I just think we are struggling with the physicality of the game defensively. We have new guys playing, we’ve got guys playing who have been out, missed assignments.
It wasn’t just the 3s, as the Bulls actually were just one short in makes from there, and close on the Free Throws as well (for once...oh and Miami missed 9 freebies), but shot 68% from 2-point range.
The defense is cratering, to then where slowing things down looks to be only not allowing yourselves to try and keep pace.
Rewatching the Bulls game and the offense became so painful in the second half. Killing the clock over and over trying to enter into the post. LaVine got fed up in the fourth and started going straight iso. pic.twitter.com/GOt8kCqQ57— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) January 20, 2019
Richardson finished with a game-high 26, followed by Waiters with 21. For the Bulls, Markkanen was pretty good - again much better early than late - finishing with 20 points but on 7/19 shooting and 2 turnovers. LaVine had a similarly meh game with his 22 on 7-19 shooting. I already mentioned Portis’s early stint and he added a couple garbage time buckets (and an opposing bench stare-down after one make stopped a 12-0 Miami run, for chrissakes) to get to 21 himself.
Notably, Dunn was outright terrible for the 3rd straight game, finishing 3-14 from the field though only having 2 turnovers in 33 minutes.
After the game LaVine asked what can be interpreted as a rhetorical question:
Something’s obviously wrong. We weren’t losing (by) double-digits earlier in the season. We might have been losing, (but) we didn’t even have a full roster. So I don’t know. We’re a better team now and we’re getting blown out. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.