Well Pippen Peoples as you know the season for the Bulls is now over losing 75-69 in Game five of the first round matchup of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Before the series started Pippen Ain’t Easy went over all of the matchups from the centers to the backcourt to the forwards. Now that the series is over, we will compare data to see what happened from game to game. In honor of the Floyd “Money” Mayweather fight on Saturday, we will use the boxing analogy. Instead of analyzing game by game, we’ll analyze it round by round. Let’s start with the centers.
For the Pippen Peoples and Chicago Bulls fans all around the world…Let’s get ready to have a jump baaaaaallll!!! Okay that was terrible. The Washington Wizards brought out Marcin Gortat aka “The Polish Hammer” to man the middle. The Chicago Bulls countered with the Defensive Player of the Year in Joakim Noah. Coming into this series I thought that with Joakim Noah coming in with the award and MVP talk that went on for a week gave the advantage to the Bulls. Let’s see if that happened.
Marcin Gortat had a monster game for the Wizards scoring a career playoff high 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Combined with Nene huge impact on the game, Gortat and the Wizards frontline put a beat down on the frontline of the Bulls. Coming into the game, most people covering this series (myself included) thought that the Bulls should have the advantage and would use it to win this series. In the fourth quarter when the Bulls were outscored 30-18 including holding the Bulls to six points in the last six minutes, Gortat started the ball rolling when it was winning time down the stretch. Gortat started the run with a layup. Then he hit another layup knocked down a couple of free throws. Gortat finished the Bulls off with 34 seconds left with a jumper to put things away.
Stat Line: In 37 minutes Gortat scored 15 points grabbed 13 rebounds (five offensive) and a block. He shot 6-10 from the field and 3-4 from the line.
After a subpar game two that had Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman sit him down in favor of Trevor Booker in Game two. Gortat had a solid Game three when Nene had an off night before turning into the NBA’s version of Rampage Jackson. Marcin Gortat had a double-double scoring 13 points grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking three shots. He thoroughly help contain Noah in this game holding him to only six points but the bigger issue for Chicago was that Noah only took four shots. Even though the Wizards lost this game they were really on control throughout. If Mike Dunleavy doesn’t go for 35 points on the strength of eight three pointers, this series is a sweep. Gortat and friends dominated Game three.
In Game four with Nene being suspended, Gortat was more aggressive on the offensive end putting up 18 shots. He ended up scoring 17 points with six rebounds and five assists. But it was the defense that was more important. The Bulls were still in DC traffic while the Wizards scored their first 14 points. He anchored a defensive shutdown inside that would compare with the Republicans every time Mister Obama wants to make a move in the White House. It was this game where I think the media (myself included) knew that we had got it wrong when it was said the Bulls had the advantage inside.
In Game Five, Gortat didn’t score much. He scored only two points. But his play canceled out Noah’s who needed to score for the Bulls to extend the series. He will be remembered for the three offensive rebounds late that milked the clock late in the fourth quarter to seal in for the Wizards.
For Noah’s playoff recap I’m going to do things a little different. Let me take you back to March. On a Sunday afternoon the Chicago Bulls ran Miami off the United Center floor. Then they beat the Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers. All of a sudden you started hearing the chants…MVP! MVP! MVP! The interviews came. The MVP discussions started. Everyone started to talk about Noah and how he and Thibodeau was the NBA version of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. He began to be a triple double machine and SportsCenter anchors started to add funny quotes to their copy during Bulls highlights.
My father does not like LeBron James…at all. He might be the only one on the planet that dislikes King James more than Noah. He tells me all the time that LeBron James is a marketing push for the NBA. After this series, I started to think…Did we all do the same for Joakim Noah?
This is not a kick em while they’re down segment. What the Bulls did this year was amazing. I don’t care what the front office tells you, they were in tank mode. I’ve been in the media for 20 years and I will let all of you in on a secret. All news outlets needs a story. Trust me, it would have been a lot harder to give the Pippen Peoples entertaining stuff every day if the Bulls brought back the early 70’s and stunk up the place every night. Joakim Noah with his inspired play turned into one of the biggest stories of the year.
Joakim Noah turned the 2013-14 season into a Walt Disney movie script. Against all odds, Noah put it all on the line to will his team into the playoffs. You had the villains, Gar Forman and John Paxson who traded his closest friend that he called a brother Luol Deng to the Cavaliers. You had his trusted old mentor in Tom Thibodeau who guided him and kept him motivated. You had a sidekick that he found on the journey that helped immensely in DJ Augustin. Finally you had a quiet force behind him in Taj Gibson who did work under the radar. There’s only one problem…
This isn’t a Walt Disney movie, it’s the NBA playoffs.
Joakim Noah is known for two things. He has heart and he can play great defense. He verified that with an award at the end of the year. Sadly for the Bulls in this series, that don’t add up to points. Let’s be clear Pippen Peoples, you may be mad now but you will remember this in a couple of years. The Washington Wizards saw all of the weaknesses that Noah had and exploited them. Badly. Every game. What’s worse, he knew it and could do nothing about it. Now a ton of the blame can go to Thibodeau who did not make adjustments to help Noah out but here’s what the Wizards did.
1) They took Noah out of rhythm by crowding him out to nearly 20 feet.
With Noah running the point, the Bulls depended on him to read what the defense gave him and make the decisions accordingly. Crowding him threw him off. With the rhythm being off, the offense would stall into a bad jump shot or with no offensive spacing or both. The Wizards never let him go at his own space. Noah never could adjust. The Wizards pressure caused turnovers which did not help.
2) They offered him a case of beer to shoot the jumper.
Really like you guys thought Noah could shoot. Consistently. When the Bulls struggled to score during the regular season. You just knew they were going to throw Augustin in the closet and lock him away. That meant that Noah had to score. He didn’t shoot enough. I’ve always said that Noah had to put up 12-15 shots to be effective on the offensive end. That did not happen. He had a golden chance to score in Game four. When it didn’t happen then, I knew deep in my heart the series was over.
If you look at the stat lines for Noah and don’t watch the games, you can be easily fooled. Game one was one of those games. Joakim Noah did not play well in this game as well as the Bulls frontcourt of Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer. He did not come out with the energy that he would have if say, the Miami Heat was in town. It was almost if he thought the hype of the Bulls frontline would help. The Wizards frontline punched them in the mouth. It set the tone for the series.
With Noah, this series was about being exposed and the possible change in his demeanor when the Bulls went on their improbable run. The fight with the security manager was stupid. The “Roid Rage” comment was embarrassing. He basically told the world, the Bulls were in trouble. If you watched American Gangster with Denzel Washington, he said a line that applies here…”The loudest person in the room sometimes is the weakest.” After losing the last two games of the series, do you agree?
Round one: Washington Wizards
Joakim has to go into the off-season and do two things. One get healthy and two work on his post game on the block. He lacks a back to the basket game that centers need to be effective in the playoffs. Here’s where the Wizards took advantage and why the Bulls struggled to score in the fourth quarters of Games one and two.