Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Since no one else is going to say it, I will. The Chicago Bulls are in a ton of trouble. I know it. Basketball purists know it. Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal know it. Bill Simmons predicted it. This bunch cannot beat the Washington Wizards if things go the way Game 1 of this Eastern Conference matchup went on Sunday. The Chicago Bulls lost home court advantage losing 102-93. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that this is the fourth straight home playoff loss for the Bulls. The Chicago Bulls frontline got their behinds handed to them by Nene and Marcin Gortat. Nene, who got the starting nod over Trevor Booker after coming back from a knee injury led the Wizards with 24 points. Marcin Gortat scored a career playoff high 15 points while grabbing 13 rebounds to helm a very strong Wizards front line performance that outscored Chicago 57-32. John Wall finished with 16 points and Bradley Beal had 13 points. Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin both finished with 16 points and Jimmy Butler finished with 15. The Bulls were leading by 13 in the third quarter before the bottom fell out. This game was another example of the flaws the Chicago Bulls have that were exposed playing the Charlotte Bobcats in the last game of the season. Pippen Ain’t Easy went over them in detail leading up to the playoffs. The Bulls are down to three losses and their season is over. It might come sooner than you think. Here’s why.
The Chicago Bulls depend too much on their defense.
I’m sure that most of you watched the NBA documentary on the Detroit Pistons, also known as the Bad Boys last Thursday night on ESPN. They are known for their great defense and relied on it to AN EXTENT to win back to back titles. I think teams try to emulate the dominant defense without looking at the total team philosophy. Those Pistons teams had guys that could score the basketball. They had players who could get their own shot. Guys like Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Adrian Dantley, Mark Aguirre. I could go on all night. The Chicago Bulls to this point just don’t get it. They just don’t score enough points. They have this almost arrogant idea that they can shut down anybody at any time. In Game 1 they did not. Coach Tom Thibodeau had issues with the defensive performance. He should. The Bulls are now 4-13 when they give up 100 points or more to an opponent. In their last four home losses they average 86 points per game. They were outscored by 11 points in those games. In the playoffs, 86 points is not a lot of points. The Bulls can get away with these performances against the Milwaukee Bucks or the Philadelphia 76ers. Why? Because they stink. The Washington Wizards were just as hot as the Bulls were in the second half of the season. So it’s not like this is a surprise. After scoring 54 points in the first half. The Bulls scored a putrid 39 points in the second half. Joakim Noah said that the Bulls let up. No they didn’t. They stopped SCORING. They scored 21 points in the third quarter and 18 points in the 4th quarter. If you don’t pay attention to anything else, pay attention to this…The game ended on a 18-6 run in the last six minutes. This is so bad considering that…
The Chicago Bulls have no set half court offense to go to in crunch time.
When you score six points in winning time, that tends to be a problem. Here’s why. The Chicago Bulls have a very predictable offense that everyone including you reading this will be able to sniff out by game three. In the playoffs, teams need a player that can get on the block do one of three things…
1) Score the basketball.
2) Draw a foul.
3) Command a double team and open up a scoring opportunity for a teammate.
In the fourth quarter, that player did not exist. Joakim Noah does not the ability to go to the blocks and make an impact with his back to the basket. Plus with the offense set up the way it is, Noah is always at the high post anyway so that is a moot point anyway. Taj Gibson has a face up game. He does not have a back to the basket game. The only front line player that does have a back to the basket game is Carlos Boozer (I mean you have to know The Legion of Booz will have a statement coming shortly.) The Bulls offensive execution at the end of the 4th quarter was inexcusable. They looked out of sync, lost and almost unprepared. This high post motion offense that depends on Noah to make reads is not reliable in crunch time. The Wizards defense is better than that and they made adjustments to stop the Bulls in the second half. I mean John Wall jumped a screen and took the ball from Noah and dunked it on the other end. I’m on the phone calling 911 watching what Nene did to him later in the game. Speaking of Nene…
Nene gave Joakim Noah and the rest of the Bulls frontline the business in this game.
Look Pippen Peoples, you can call it luck or Noah having a bad game if you want to. But I have never sugar-coated anything since I got to Pippen Ain’t Easy and I am not going to start now. Nene dominated Joakim Noah and Noah could do nothing about it. I think the defining moment between these two was when Nene just took the ball away from Noah in the middle of the floor and took it the other way for a lay up. Come to think of it, that play turned the game around in the Wizards favor. The Bulls never really recovered. Yeah, I know some of you are just itching to bring up how Nene dunked on Carlos Boozer head to start the game, but it was because Noah lost him in the pick and roll. Along with the 24 points Nene scored he also grabbed eight rebounds, had three assists, two steals and one block. He probably would have had more if he hadn’t fouled out. Noah wasn’t the only one that got a whipping. Taj Gibson is totally overmatched guarding Nene on the blocks. There’s a saying that I like to use. There’s no substitute for mass. Trust me this phrase is cleaned up for the little Pippen Peoples. Gibson looked soft against this guy in the playoff opener. As for Nazr Mohammed, who I have no idea why he gets in the game at this point had three fouls in two minutes trying to guard this guy. Plus if you close your eyes you will see how much he scored in the game. UGH! Let’s be clear here Pippen Peoples, Nene can play. His only problem is he gets hurt all of the time. He spent his early years getting coached by George Karl in Denver. If you know George Karl’s work, you know he got in Nene’s grill about how to play basketball in the post. Looks like he hasn’t forgotten it yet.
Hey D.J.! How does it feel to be at the upper part of the scouting report?
Sure if you look at the ticker at the bottom of a TV screen or read a recap, you would see that D.J. Augustin led the Bulls in scoring with 16 points. But he had a bad game and I know he is sore. The Washington Wizards put a beating on him and he wore down in the fourth quarter. Augustin shot 3-15 from the floor in this game and the defense made him earn every single point he scored. The bulk of his points came from the free throw line where he knocked down all ten. The Wizards put the pressure on him that led to three turnovers and shooting 0-4 from the land of three. Here’s where I noticed the impact. Andre Miller was killing him at the end of the game scoring eight of his ten points in the final frame. If you noticed his body language, he looked frustrated from the constant contact. Well he’d better get used to it. The Bulls do not have any real structure in their offense so it’s easy for Washington to adjust and defend especially with a team that’s struggles to score. Think for a second, Pippen Peoples. John Wall had a sub par game. Bradley Beal had a sub par game. The two combined to shoot 7-25 from the field. If you let Andre Miller kill you, what are you going to do with these two when they get untracked?
This was ugly everyone. But don’t think we here at Pippen Ain’t Easy didn’t see it coming. If you don’t believe, check out some of the pieces on the website over the last five or six days. Then read this again.
Game two is Tuesday night in Chicago. A must win for the Bulls. Keep it locked for full continuing coverage of this series on Pippen Ain’t Easy, your best choice for Bulls news previews and reviews.