All right. I've calmed down. I am now capable of discussing last night's game in a rational and coherent manner. Here goes nothing.
A win's a win, I guess, but I kinda want to punch something anyway.— Bulls 101 (@Bulls_101) November 15, 2012
With 24 hours between me and the end of the game, I've come to realize that my problem was not with the collapse itself, but rather how and why it happened.
The Chicago Bulls opened the fourth quarter up 14, with Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah on the floor. I would just as soon see Jimmy Butler instead of Belinelli, but I can't quibble too much with that lineup. Noah and Robinson exited with 8:52 left in the game and the Bulls up 10. Less than two minutes later, it was a four point game.
Eventually, of course, the Phoenix Suns would tie it. But the only lineup to hold their own in the fourth quarter? Robinson/Rip Hamilton/Deng/Carlos Boozer/Noah. Or, as you would know them, the starting five if Hinrich hadn't come back from his injury before he was actually ready to do so.
That's my problem with this team. It's not that Derrick Rose is hurt, although that certainly doesn't help matters. It's that the bench, once a strength — and really a delight to watch — has morphed into a weakness that is really hard to watch at times.
As the comeback/collapse unfolded, it was easy to see why the Suns were gaining ground. They were following the Bulls own playbook of crashing the hell out of the boards and relying on overwhelming hustle to do what talent could not. Sure, they didn't play defense like the Bulls do, but they hardly needed to. Taj had a rare bad game, Belinelli never seems to anything but struggle — yet his stats are bizarrely and inexplicably solid — Hinrich was obviously hampered by his hip injury and basically sucked, and for some reason Jimmy Butler played just two minutes in the fourth quarter despite basically manufacturing a 9-0 run by himself in the first half. It's easy to look good defensively when your opponent has virtually no ability to score.
Ask yourself this: Would the Bench Mob have self-destructed like that? Would they ever get outworked on the glass? Would they ever get outworked period?
Since the answer to all three questions is probably no, you now know why that performance galled me so much. The Bulls built themselves on a foundation of hustle, rebounding and defense, and to see Phoenix flip the script was infuriating. After a summer of "basketball decisions" and having Adidas dangle Rose's return dangled in front of us, Bulls fans at least thought they could rely on that equation of defense+rebounding+hustle=wins. And then last night happened.
I sincerely want to apologize for last night's recap shenanigans. As frustrated as I was with the game, I took it out on you, the reader, and that is unacceptable. It will never happen again.
The Bulls get the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. The Clippers just finished blowing the doors off the Miami Heat and something tells me they will be slightly less forgiving of the Bulls mistakes than the Suns.
But hey, at least we're not rooting for the Detroit Pistons, I guess.
Player o' the Game: Joakim Noah 21 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists.
Yes, Boozer had one of his rare good games, slapping up a 28/14 in 40 minutes, but even when he's scoring he's still awful defensively and he basically disappeared down the stretch. Noah, meanwhile, stepped up down the stretch, keeping the travesty that was the fourth quarter from turning into an outright tragedy. He was solid throughout, and while a concrete pillar would look solid defensively next to Boozer, Noah did limit his defensive assignment, which was Marcin Gortat for most of the night. Noah's playing at an all-star level and is earning every penny of his contract.
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