Rare blowout defeat has Bulls' full attention


Rare blowout defeat has Bulls' full attention

LOS ANGELESSaturday nights 21-point blowout defeat was an aberration for the Bulls. Very rarely during the Tom Thibodeau era are they on the losing end of such a thrashing, a contest in which it wasnt even a game after the first quarter and there was nothing they could do about it.

The lopsided affair started out innocently enough, with the Bulls aiming to make it one of their patented defensive struggles. But very quickly, sloppy play with the ball allowed the Clippers to break out their Lob City routine and with arguably the deepest team in the NBA, the Bulls, putting out a defensive effort far below their usual standards, with an inefficient offensive performance to boot, were getting run out of the building.

The second quarter was the difference in the game. The first quarter was pretty good. We gave up 35 points in the second quarter. The tone of the game changed. We put them in the open floor. I think we had 12 turnovers in the first half and many of those ended up being layups, dunks and then, the second half, not much better. Our turnovers and their blocked shots got us, Thibodeau explained. They were quicker to the ball and thats a big part of the game, your reaction to the ball. Your turnovers that lead to their fast breaks and their second shots, even though in the first half, they only had five, but they had five for 11 points, so when you add that on to what they got off the turnovers, youre just digging too big of a hole, particularly on the road and we could never get it back inside 10. So, we really gave ourselves no chance.

Said Joakim Noah: We got out-scrapped tonight. We got out-competed. Thats disappointing. I think we took a couple steps back today. They were denying everything with their switching and we just didnt finish well around the rim. We know were capable of playing a lot better basketball.

Chimed in Carlos Boozer, who had a solid night in a losing effort: It was tough, man. This ones hard to let go. We felt like we didnt have enough juice. We didnt do our stuff hard enough to make it a better game.

Theyre a very good team. They use each other very well. They protect the rim very well. They share the ball. A lot of isolations, a lot of pick-and-roll. Give them credit, man. They played a great game tonight, he continued. Our concentration wasnt as good as it could have been. What I mean by that is their guys got to what they wanted to get to and usually, we take stuff away that they like to do and make them play to their weaknesses. Again, give them credit, man. They played well.

A familiar face, ex-Bull Jamal Crawford, was the Clippers catalyst, scoring 22 points off the bench the former Sixth Man of the Year, an early-season favorite to win the award again, is the teams leading scorer after signing as a free agent over the summer and confounding his former team with an array of shots, both difficult and uncontested.

Observed Thibodeau: Hes a tough cover and youve got to give him credit, but you cant allow a guy to play his strengths. If hes beating you, its got to be doing something that he doesnt want to do and I thought we let him get to what he wanted. We played him with a cushion, which you cant do and when you do that, when he gets going, hes got a lot of confidence. Now, its a lot harder to slow him down. We didnt play well, so thats something that has to be corrected.

Concurred Boozer: Crawford had a hell of a game, man. He came in and was very aggressive. He hit some amazing shots. I thought we played good defense on a few of his shots, but he got them to go in, like that bank shot in the second half. He had a leaner in the first half. Hes a tough cover, though. Hes got a lot of handles. Hes got a good package on him. We didnt do a good enough job of shutting him down, didnt do a good enough job of helping, trying to make other guys score. But give him credit. He played a great game.

But the most worrisome aspect of the game was the Bulls turnovers, which totaled 16 Thibodeau has said on several occasions that their nightly goal is 13 or fewer miscues an evening which is significant for not just the number, but how they occurred. On a team lacking a dynamic shot creator, great outside shooting and a bench that has been hit-and-miss thus far, the Bulls cant afford to beat themselves, especially against a team with the high-flying firepower of the Clippers.

We turned the ball over too much and you cant turn the ball over against a team like this. Theyre too athletic and they get on the break, and thats their strength. Theyre probably the best at getting out on the break in the NBA, so turnovers hurt us, Joakim Noah said. I think its definitely us. They gamble a lot, but its not an excuse. We didnt play good basketball that night.

Deadpanned Thibodeau: We prefer not to turn it over.

It was probably a compilation of a lot of things. Chris Paul is very good at making plays on the ball, Eric Bledsoe is a very good pressure guy. If you turn your back on them, theyre always going to make a play on the ball, if the balls exposed at all. Theyre going to get it. You have to execute. The start of the game was okay not great, but okay and then, the next three quarters, weve got to do a lot better.

Added Boozer: I thought the second half, we did a better job, but the first half they pressured us. We didnt use our press releases very good. They got their hands on a lot of tipped balls, loose balls. Honestly, it seemed like they got every loose ball. Thats what it felt like. They did a good job of being in the passing lanes.

Just be a lot little smarter. I think we can take care of the ball better obviously. We usually dont turn the ball over like that. But at the same time, weve got to make their guys miss shots. Were a good rebounding team when we make them miss. They hit some crazy shots, though, again. Jamal hit some crazy shots, but well be better Sunday night, I think.

And thats the silver lining for the Bulls. A team that doesnt lose many back-to-back affairs, Sunday night they play in Portland, a place theyve struggled in recent seasons, against a young Trail Blazers squad that doesnt have the size, talent or title hopes of the Clippers, but does possess talent.

The truth is, the only good thing about this game is weve got one Sunday night to play better, Boozer said. Sunday is going to be a big game for us. Portlands a good team. Theyre scoring a lot of points. Theyve got a really good rookie point guard. Theyve got an All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge and a lot of good guys around those two. And the kid Nicolas Batum I heard is putting up a lot of crazy numbers, so he may be our big matchup Sunday, try to do a good job of shutting him down. But hes playing well, their team is playing well. Obviously they play well in the Rose Garden and its a big game for us Sunday night.

Thibodeau expressed a similar sentiment: Youve got to learn from it youve got to understand why you win or why you lose learn from it, move on, get ready for Portland. Youve got to approach it youre on the road things should never change, your attitude or your approach to how you prepare never changes, but we know weve got to go in there. Theyre a team that can score a ton on you. You have to have a defensive mindset, so we know the things that we have to do. We just have to be ready to go.

Concluded Noah: Its disappointing, but weve got to bounce back, you know? We dont have any time to mope or anything like that. Weve got to come ready to go. Im ready to play tomorrow. Theres no question about that.

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series Game 3 coverage on CSN

Naperville North vs. Lyons Township Friday on CSN

Why Cubs won’t risk playing Kyle Schwarber in the outfield during World Series

Dwyane Wade's 'perfect storm' makes his debut a dramatic one in Bulls' win

Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks ready for the next biggest start of his career

John Fox: 'No truth' to reports he’s done with Jay Cutler

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

How Kyle Schwarber is such a ‘baseball rat’ that Cubs used him in their draft war room

Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

Cubs 'can't imagine' what Wrigley Field atmosphere will be like for World Series

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.