December 12, 2009
If you're a Chicago fan, tonight's loss was a good chance to see just how, exactly, this game is supposed to be played.
The Celtics played a smarter, sounder, more expansive and better-studied brand of ball in Saturday night's win. Without ever appearing as if they were toying with Chicago, the Celtics just ran its offense to near-perfection, finding open men and options galore as the Bulls flailed away.
Chicago? It had no clue, defensively.
And after giving ball movement a try in the first quarter (10 assists on 11 made field goals), it largely abandoned what little often counts as a Chicago "set" by the midpoint of the third quarter. Lots of angry glares and one-on-one play for Chicago tonight.
Angry glares on both ends, we should point out. Chicago was often out of position after a Boston pass or two, they failed to recognize shooters both in the half court and transition, and they also showcased a solid ability to be beat by plain, ole one-on-one basketball. Really, the Celtics should have scored 120.
Lots of makeable shots for the C's tonight. Luol Deng(notes) played his typical brand of lights-out defense on Paul Pierce(notes) (who missed eight of 12 shots), but that was about it. Rajon Rondo(notes) ran another aggressive show (16 five turnovers, but he also hit double-digit assists for the sixth time in eight contests), Ray Allen(notes) (10 points in less than 30 minutes) and Kevin Garnett(notes) (12 points in less than 27 minutes) were allowed to coast by design, and the result is what you'd expect.
And offensively, it was almost as if the Bulls couldn't bothered to run anything more than a simple screen and roll for most of the contest. There was the usual flattened-out, Derrick Rose(notes)-heavy sets for a good chunk of the first half and out of timeouts in the second half, but this team was really trying to go for theirs and theirs alone for most of the night.
The Celtics had no such urgency. Though Rondo dominated the ball for stretches, the team had good spacing all night, it was allowed to dive into its motion offense and cuts without much reflex from Chicago, and as noted above, the team was a few missed open looks away from really putting a significant amount of points on the board.
As it was, 108.2 per 100 possessions for Boston, and everyone got a taste with Lester Hudson(notes), Tony Allen(notes), J.R. Giddens(notes) seeing a good chunk of playing time in the fourth quarter. The team managed 25 assists on its 38 field goals, with only Eddie House(notes) (missed seven of 10 three-pointers) and Rasheed Wallace's(notes) (missed three of four) uncharacteristic poor touch from long range keeping the score down.
Chicago ended up posting a pathetic 81.6 points per 100 possessions (for comparison's sake, the Nets are last in the league, averaging 95 points per 100 possessions), shooting 32.6 from the floor, and generally looking overmatched in every conceivable area.
Derrick Rose led the team with 19 points, but most of his work came during garbage time. Luol Deng actually had some good looks, and generally worked hard against the Boston D; but he missed 11 of 16 shots overall, and the 83.7 percent free throw shooter (entering this game) missed five of 12 freebies.
John Salmons(notes) had nine assists but played a miserable brand of defense, Kirk Hinrich(notes) had a -22 on the night and looked every bit the part (this is a coach's son?), and only an 11-point fourth quarter from Jannero Pargo(notes) kept the Bulls from coming in under the 70-point barrier. Trust me, those points weren't going to be picked up by anyone else during garbage time.
After the contest, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro credited Kevin Garnett's presence for clogging up the lane, changing shots, and generally keeping the Bulls on their heels. But it goes beyond that. And it goes beyond missing three-pointers, another one of VDN's post-game point-outs.
This team needs a complete offensive overhaul. In a semi-rebuilding year, and with a lot of inefficient parts, the Bulls aren't going to turn into a sterling offensive unit with just a tweak or 12, but they could (and should) be better than 32 percent shooting, and 28th in the NBA (where they'll fall too after this loss) in offensive efficiency. Even against a bunch of well-versed greyhounds like the Celtics.
Boston needs no such overhaul. As it was in the beginning of the season, now, and will be until the playoffs roll up - the C's are just trying to make it to spring in one piece.
The 19-4 start doesn't hurt, though.