Monday, November 12, 2012

Game 7 Recap: Hot and Cold

United Center
Is a place I should visit
I need file photos

Bulls 95 (4-3), Celtics 101 (4-3)

Apologies for no preview/recap for Saturday's thrilling game against the Timberwolves; I decided not to do them because college football. 

Anyway, the Bulls took on the Celtics at the United Center, the last home contest before the Bulls embark on a 5-game road trip. The Celtics jumped out to an early lead; a 10-2 run put them up 19-10 a little over halfway through the first quarter. Rajon Rondo made the Bulls (i.e. Nate Robinson) look silly on the break a couple times early, which is obviously your primary concern when facing this Celtics team. Of course, this is the NBA, where 10-point leads are the equivalent of being down only one or two scores in the college game. 

Luckily, Carlos Boozer came alive early after four straight games of frankly terrible performances from the field. He made five of his first six shots, scoring 10 in the first quarter despite being checked by Kevin Garnett. Boozer converted a nice shot off the glass falling away, and when Garnett went out he successfully made a move and attacked Chris Wilcox for a nice bucket. 

Defensively, the Bulls gave up 33 in the first quarter, something which probably didn't make Coach Thibodeau too happy. The Bulls had more than a few breakdowns, in both transition and the half court. As expected, Garnett, Pierce and Rondo carried the day for Boston early, scoring a combined 23 points in the first quarter. 

With the second quarter underway, the Bulls were forced to play the rookie Marquis Teague, who would lead the second unit (what with Kirk Hinrich out of commission). He launched a long two on his first possession and missed. I was admittedly pretty excited about him when the Bulls were able to grab in the the draft, but it's pretty obvious that he'll need quite a bit of time before he's truly ready for the show. 

However, Teague did slip a nice pass in to Deng for an assist (and technically got credit for an "assist" on a Belinelli 27-foot three). Otherwise, he didn't do much, good or bad. He was clearly hesitant to do much of anything with the ball, which is kind of amazing if you watched him play at Kentucky last season. On one possession with the shot clock ticking down, he had the opportunity to either launch a perimeter shot or take his defender off the dribble. Instead, he shimmied, dribbled to the free throw line, and dished to Belinelli with about 2.5 seconds on the clock. Oh Derrick Rose, how we miss you so. 

After three straight buckets from Leandro Barbosa (who hurt the Bulls a bit in the second quarter), Brandon Bass and Pierce, the Bulls were down 47-38 with just under four minutes to go. Boozer then got his shot blocked by Bass, who then finished the play on the other end for two. To make matters worse, Nate Robinson turned the ball over trying to split a double team, which lead to a pair of free throws for Bass. It was a disastrous sequence for the Bulls, now down 38-51. 

The Celtics' 58 first half points was the most given up in a first half all year by the Bulls (the most since the Atlanta game in January, per Stacey King). Needless to say, allowing an opponent to shoot 60% from the field generally doesn't result in nice things. 

Halftime stats
Celtics: PPP (points per possession)-->1.26 
  • Pierce: 4/7, 10 points, 5 rebounds
  • Rondo: 5/6, 10 points, 5 assists
  • Garnett: 3/8, 9 points 

Bulls: PPP-->0.99
  • Boozer: 6/9, 12 points, 4 rebounds
  • Robinson: 1/3, 4 points, 5 assists
  • Deng: 5/12, 11 points

The game just sort of dragged along, with the Bulls down by 10-14 points throughout most of it. The Celtics continued to shoot it well and the Bulls continued to mostly live and die by the outside shot, which resulted in all sorts of air balls, shots off the side of the glass (ahem, Boozer), etc. The Bulls really never get the transition game going, where Noah held an advantage on Garnett vis a vis general mobility. Alas, Noah was only 2/6 with 6 points well into the third quarter. 

Naturally, there was a sense that Boozer's 5/6 start from the field was an ephemeral thing, and it was; he went 2/8 from the end of that 5/6 start until the end of his third quarter floor time. Boozer gonna Booze(r). 

The third quarter was a purgatorial time of the Bulls being down 10-14 points, the Celtics seemingly not interested in putting the game away and the Bulls too incompetent to get any closer. The Bulls finally pulled within nine with under a minute to go, but former Buckeye Jared Sullinger knocked in a trey with 0.7 seconds to go in the third quarter. 

So, the third quarter was essentially like watching a hamster running in his wheel for 12 minutes. However, the Bulls showed life early in the third. As if on cue, Noah put in a quick five points, and Deng then posted up Barbosa and flipped one up from the elbow (he then converted at the line for the 3-point play). With Rondo on the bench, the Bulls went on a 7-0 run (Boozer was also on the bench during this time, in case you were wondering). 

After Noah hit a pair of FTs, the Bulls were down only three for the first time in seemingly forever. The Bulls defense seemed to pick up the intensity, forcing Garnett to pull the trigger on an outside shot that he airballed. 

Marquis Teague made an aggressive move off the dribble from the top of the key but fended Garnett off with his arm while in the air, spoiling what would have been a very nice play otherwise. On the other hand, the Celtics had fallen completely cold, having shot 2/10 through the first half of the 4th quarter. The C's were shooting "only" 50% now from the field. 

A Deng layup with under a minute to go brought the Bulls to within 2, but Garnett slammed an alley oop home on the other end to bring the deficit back to 4. Just like the Thunder game last week, the Bulls just couldn't come through when they needed to on the offensive end. Gibson missed a pair of free throws and Rondo dropped his 10th assist on the night, resulting in a Bass dunk. Game blouses. 

BULLets, Sponsored by "I See What You Did There, Inc."
  • Marquis Teague. I won't belabor the point re: not being ready, but he seems to be his own worst enemy at this point. This isn't saying much, but he is easily one of only a couple Bulls' who can occasionally break a defender down. Teague was very tentative, particularly late in the shot clock. On two separate occasions, he dished it to Belinelli with very little time left on the clock. Especially with Hinrich out, Teague needs to trust his best asset--his ability to break people down--and just play ball. 
  • Adventures in Carlos Boozer shooting. He did start off hot, having a good stretch of shooting for the first time since the Cleveland game. However, all good things must come to an end, especially when it comes to Carlos Boozer's outside shooting. I don't need to tell you that he wasn't on the floor when the Bulls made their big 4th quarter push. 
  • Captain Kirk. Hinrich is hurt all the time these days, which is kind of annoying, but it's clear that he is more valuable than we might realize. He plays good D and has led the charge in the transition game more than capably through the Bulls' first 6 games. 
  • Sometimes I get a bad feeling. The Bulls enter their 5-game circus trip with a 4-3 record and a palpable sense that the Bulls underperformed against NOLA and let one get away against OKC. In any case, the Bulls start their road tour in Phoenix Wednesday night and continue with LAC, Portland, Houston and Milwaukee. If they can go 3-2 or better there, gold stars for everyone. 
  • The 100+ point rule strikes again. Just saying, it is ironclad. The Bulls give up 100+, they lose. 

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