Well it has come to this, the Bulls head into Game 5 at the United Center down 3-1 to the Wizards. This year’s team has struggled offensively since Derrick Rose went down early this year in Portland. In this series, the Bulls have not been able to find a person that an carry the team to a victory outside of Mike Dunleavy’s game 3 scoring outburst. Since the series is all but over, the question is was the 2013 team better suited for the playoffs than this year’s version.
Last year’s starting line up for game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets had something that the current Bulls roster lacks, multiple scoring options. Nate Robinson had an amazing playoff run that including a spectacular game 4, when he scored 34 points with four assist. Marco Belinelli was able to score 22 and 24 in the final two games of the series against the Nets. Those two players inserted into the starting lineup created offense, and prevented the Bulls from getting off to a slow start in games.
This year the Bulls have scored 22, 20, 28, and 18 in each of the first quarters. In each game the Bulls were behind, and playing from behind is not the strength of this team. Robinson and Belinelli would have been instant offense for the Bulls. Both players can score on their own, and get others involved by driving in the lane and kicking the ball out to open shooters. Despite the fact that Robinson would shoot pull up threes without hesitation, the ball movement was better last year. The offense often slows down when Kirk Hinrich get the ball at the top of the key.
The other area where last year’s team was superior was perimeter defense. Luol Deng was injured most of the playoffs, but his defense is still needed for this version of the Bulls. Deng would be able to guard John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Trevor Ariza. His on the ball pressure would have forced anyone he was matched up against to drive in the lane. The combination of Deng, Jimmy Butler, and Robinson would have frustrated the Wizards perimeter players.
Coach Thibodeau is being forced to play Butler heavy minutes. This has affected Butler’s play a great deal his field goal percentage is down, and he is struggling to make consistent defensive stops. Due to the lack of depth, Thibs cannot afford to put anyone in that is trustworthy to replace Butler.
This Bulls team is flawed, and has taken a step backwards on both sides of the ball from the team that upset the Nets last year. Unless NBA Commissioner Adam Silver makes another big decision by allowing the Bulls to reclaim Deng, Robinson, and Belinelli, The Bulls will be going on vacation sooner than expected.
The Atlanta Hawks are winning big over the Indiana Pacers in Game 5. The series is tied 2-2 in the No. 1 seed vs. No. 8 matchup.
— Sean Ward (@spward9) April 29, 2014
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 29, 2014
Like what you saw in the first half? Get your Game 6 tickets here: http://t.co/w2i1eeq4JV
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) April 29, 2014
Changing up the rotation, Vogel goes with Watson, Hill, George, Copeland and West.
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) April 29, 2014
It looks like the Hawks will be going back home to Atlanta up 3-2.
I was able to ask Daily Herald Bulls beat writer Mike McGraw a few questions about covering the Bulls, and journalism in general.
1. What goes into your daily preparation for covering the Bulls?
I guess I never really think about it as preparation, but the main thing is just staying on top of the news. It’s a good idea to spend time every day looking through the NBA news, even in the offseason because that’s when things can catch you by surprise.
2. How do you develop a relationship with the player so that they want to talk to you?
That part has changed over the years. With the rise of the Internet, it seems like there are more people crowding around these players, and it’s tough to talk to anyone one-on-one. The biggest thing is just being around, so they get to know you. I don’t think these guys pay much attention what the reporters write, so it’s not like you’re going to impress them with some great story.
3. What can you attribute your success to?
I don’t know. Persistence. Spent nearly 10 years covering high schools, and just tried to work hard while waiting for a chance.
4. How do you develop game stories?
It all happens so fast. Sometimes you get an idea while watching the game, sometimes while interviewing someone after it’s over. Typically in the newspaper world, you have to write as fast as you can type because of deadlines, so if it all makes sense in the end, you’re pretty happy.
5. What is your advice to young journalist?
With the newspaper world struggling, I think the best advice is to be versatile. You might be a good writer, but when searching for a job you’ll have better odds if you can construct web sites or produce for TV or be a competent broadcaster, etc.
6. What trait must all sports journalists have?
It could be a lot of things, but I’d say have thick skin. There will always be readers second-guessing or complaining about your stories, subjects that snap or get mad at you, competitors who annoy you. You’ve got to be able to shake all that off not let it get you down and just keep doing what you need to do. It also helps to be cordial to people, because friends can be very helpful in this field.
Well it has come to this. It is no longer can the Bulls make a comeback in the series, but how long will they survive in this match-up. Only three NBA teams have come back from down 0-3 to FORCE a game seven. All of those teams lose the following game. On the road the Bulls face an uphill battle. The Bulls have lost six playoff games in a row dating back to last season’s series against the Heat.
Jimmy Butler is feeling fatigue after a long season on high usage.
Joakim Noah gets in to a heated exchange with Wizards’ security.
The Bulls can still turn this series around by just applying a simple game plan.
Going into game three, the Wizards’ x-factor is Trevor Ariza.
Bradley Beal’s game two performance put him on the a list with some elite players.
Nene’s game has elevated since he has come into the league.
The Bulls are one day away from a true must win in game three of the first round. Being potentially down 0-3 in the first round is a big disappointment for the team that most experts were picking to beat Indiana (who is also trailing in their series). The failure to score in the clutch, along with the versatility of the Wizards is trouble for the Bulls.
Coach Thibodeau is being questioned about his rotations in the playoffs.
The Bulls weakness have been made public by the Wizards.
The Wizards have found consistency at the right time in the season.
Nene’s mid-range jumper is the key for the Wizards series lead over the Bulls.
Game three just as important to the Wizard as it is to the Bulls.
After a depressing lost in a must win at home in GAME TWO of the first round of the playoffs. The Bulls have two days off before they play in another must win at Washington D.C. I now understand what Nick Friedell meant when we said don’t cover your favorite team.
Recap of how the Bulls lost the game in overtime.
ESPN’s Michael Wilbon echoes the Bulls need for a scorer in crunch time.
The Bulls are in trouble if you count the statistics.
The Bulls were looking good until D.J. Augustin went cold from the field.
The Wizards are heading home in control of the series.
What Happened? In a back in forth game the Bulls failed again to score enough points in the end of the game to come away with the game two victory. Coach Thibodeau’s forth quarter line up on D.J. Augustine, Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Jokim Noah once again went through a huge scoring drought.
In a six minute span the Bulls blew a ten point lead. The Bulls forth quarter line up ran out of gas in the fourth and in overtime, now the Wizards go home up in a series 2-0 for the first time since 1982. The defense was not the reason for the lost. Blame can actually be giving to coach Thibs for his inability to make changes when his team was struggling in the fourth.
Game changer. D.J. Augustine in a negative and positive way. In the early part of the fourth, Augustine was able to create separation and hit shots to give the Bulls a lead. The offense was running through him, and he was able to create shots and opportunities for his teammates to score. The pick and roll between him and Noah was the vocal point of the Bulls comeback.
Augustine was exhausted as the game reached the critical moments. When the Bulls went on their drought late in the fourth, Augustine’s shots were shot and he could not run the offense. he played 41 minutes coming off the bench tonight.
Turning Point. Three straight possessions that the Bulls team was not able to execute because of fatigue. Uncharacteristic turnovers by Noah and Hinrich proved that the two were physically drained and that affected their play. Jiimmy Butler played every minute in a playoff game again and was limited to six points. The lack of flexibility in the critical parts of the game make a come back in the series seem unlikely to happen.
What’s next? Game three Friday April 25 in Washington D.C., The Bulls try to avoid going down 0-3 in the series. No team in NBA history has come back from down 0-3.
As we approach a game two must win for the Bulls tonight at the United Center, the playoff matchup is not the only thing that is putting the Bulls in the headlines.
Joakim Noah is awarded his first Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Tom Thibodeau finishes third in the Coach of the Year voting.
D.J. Augustine calls tonights game a “must win”.
Keys for the Bulls to win game three.
Mike Dunleavy is the key to swing the series in the Bulls favor.
Coach Thibodeau is upset with the defense effort in game one.
John Wall and Bradley Beal look to bounce back from a difficult game one.
The Bulls Game 1 loss Sunday to the Wizards unearthed several issues. With the loss, the Bulls now have a must win Game 2 at home on Tuesday. There are five areas of concern the Bulls have in this series.
1. Nene’s Domination.
Nene won the overall matchup against Joakim Noah. Nene missed two of the meetings this season, and the Bulls had no answer for him. The 11-17 night shooting does not do justice to the kind of night he had. A majority of his mid-range jumpers were uncontested as a result of John Wall’s penetration.
Nene was able to disrupt the pick and roll that the Bulls run with Noah. Twice Nene was able to strip Noah that lead to easy points for the Wizards. He also had a eight rebounds before fouling out.
2. John Wall’s Defense.
Wall is dominating the Bulls point guards on defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall has a 6-foot-9 wingspan. That reach gave the Bulls smaller point guards D.J. Augstin is 6-foot-1 and Kirk Hinrich is 6-foot-4 but has a shorter wingspan. The two guards could not drive when Wall was on the court.
Wall was able to force the guards into tough jumpers that helped contribute to the 21 missed field goals from the point guard position. Wall also added two steals, Coach Tom Thibodeau has to figure out how to run the offense with Noah and his two point-guards having difficult matchups.
3. The Bulls were out rebound
In my preview to the series. I wrote that the tandem of Taj Gibson and Noah would be able to outrebound Nene and Marcin Gortat. The Wizard’s frontcourt duo won the rebound matchup 21-16. That might not seem like a huge difference, but a majority of the Bulls’ game depends on getting rebounds to end possessions and to get easy points on offense.
4. The Bulls poor offense
The Bulls struggled the entire game running their offense. Hinrich (7-16), Augustin (3-15), and Mike Dunleavy (4-12) shot horriblly from the field. Dunleavy’s struggles are more alarming, because his offense is needed. Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer are the Bulls’ first quarter offensive options.
The Bulls rely heavy on Dunleavy to hit shots off of screens. Last night Dunleavy was able to get open, but the shots were not failing. Minus the three shots he made at the beginning of the second half, Dunleavy was never quite able to get into a good shooting rhythm.
5. The Wizards back court struggled
Wall and Bradley Beal looked like the playoffs spotlight was too much for them in Game 1. The two young guards combined for 7- for-25 from the field. The two did hit free throws hitting 15-for-17 from the charity stripe.
The Bulls can not rely on those two having more bad games especially when the series goes to Washington.The young Wizard guards will get shots to fall later in the series, that starts to happen combined with Nene’s dominance the Bulls do not have enough offensive power to keep the series competitive.
What happened? The Bulls struggled in their postseason opener. The playoff experience of the veteran Wizard players made up for the the shortcoming of the young back court. Andre Miller, Nene, and Marcin Gortat played well in key stretches to take the Game 1 victory. John Wall and Bradley Beal struggled from the field as the duo combined for 29 points on 7- for-25 shooting from the field.
The Bulls could not get the points towards the end of the game that they needed to keep up. The Bulls were 5-for-20 from 3-point range against the Wizard’s high pressure defense. John Wall’s length made it difficult for the Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin to be efficient from the field. The team struggled as a whole by shooting just 42 percent from the field.
Game changer. Nene dominated the game. He scored 24 points shooting 11-for-17. He also guarded the rim and won the individual matchup with Joakim Noah. Nene was too strong in the post and Noah was often pushed around. Nene also knocked down several mid-range jumpers that spread the Bulls defense.
Turning point. The Bulls extended their halftime lead to 13 points midway through the third quarter, but during a sloppy attempt to play up tempo the Wizards cut the lead to six. From that moment on the Bulls could not get steady offense. In the fourth Miller scored 10 points which was key because it allowed Wall to rest longer in a tight game.
What’s next? Game 2 is Tuesday night at the United Center. A loss will almost certainly mean the series is out of reach.