Wednesday, November 7, 2007

11/6/07 Bulls vs. Clippers

Last night the Bulls tried to get their first victory of the season when they hosted the undefeated Los Angeles Clippers. My thoughts before, during, and after the game:

-Early on, it looked like it would be the night for the Bulls to get their first win. On the first possesion, Luol Deng passed it into to Tyrus Thomas for a dunk. On the other end, Deng blocked a short jumper by Corey Maggette and then hit a midrange shot to give the Bulls a quick lead. Deng, Gordon, and Hinrich all looked good from the start and it appeared the Bulls would get the win. Unfortunately, Cuttino Mobley did not miss a shot in the first half (10-10) and the Bulls were down five points at halftime.

-I think the Bulls need to change up their starting lineup, if for nothing else, just to give a different look. I would pull Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas from the starting lineup and go with Thabo Sefolosha and Joe Smith. In the last two games, Smith has played 51 minutes, scored 31 points, and grabbed 17 rebounds. He has arguably been the best player on the team thus far. In Sefolosha, the Bulls would have more size in the backcourt, so that Hinrich does not have to defend the other team's best guard. It would allow Hinrich to avoid early foul trouble and get his offensive game back on track. Moving Thomas to the bench would allow them to bring more athleticism into the game later on and simply give another look. Gordon actually had a higher scoring average last season when coming off the bench, so clearly it is a role he is accustomed to. This is probably not a long-term solution, but with Detroit and Toronto coming up later this week and then a six game road trip, the Bulls need to turn around their November fortunes quickly.

-By my estimation, a majority of the Bulls problems have been on the offensive end, but as I have said, some of that is fueled by the defense. Hinrich has picked up the third most fouls in the league with 19, first among guards. This foul trouble has clearly affected him on the offensive end.

-In their four games, the Bulls have played a variety of different guards, but in nearly each case, they have had a better than average game. Part of this scoring efficiency for the opponents guards has been a great number of free throw attempts. If the Bulls want to start winning games, they need to limit the production of the opposing teams' guards. Below I posted a table I put together showing that only Mo Williams of the Bucks has not exceeded his 2006-07 averages when playing the Bulls this year:

(The italics show that the opponent's averages were tied in their game against the Bulls.)

-One of the bright spots last night was a great game by Luol Deng. Deng played almost 45 minutes and scored 22 points on 17 shots from the field. He went four for four from the free throw line, had eight rebounds, three steals, two assists, and two blocked shots. When Deng plays like this, it is understandable why Kobe Bryant has an interest in playing on the team with him.

-I'm not sure why the Bulls commentators didn't make a bigger deal out of this, but in the final four minutes of the game, the Bulls did not make a single field goal. Their only points in the last four minutes came on two free throws from Ben Gordon.

Other NBA thoughts from last night:

-It appears that Anderson Varejao is not willing to accept a one year deal for $5,000,000 from Cleveland. Reports have said that even if Varejao signed a contract today, he would not be ready to play as he has not maintained proper conditioning. The team has been getting good rebounding from Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, and LeBron James, but Varejao brings much needed post defense. Even if Varejao is not ready until midseason, they will need him for the playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph, Boris Diaw, and Al Harrington have all had big games so far this year against Cleveland. With Varejao apart of the squad, Cleveland would have another big body to provide defensive resistance.

-The Nets look like they will contend for the Eastern Conference title this year. Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter, and Jason Kidd continue to make a great trio, and Antoine Wright looks like he has really developed into an effective scorer off the bench. In a playoff series though, I still doubt they have enough inside, but for the regular season, I like their chances of finishing in the top four.

-The Heat are most likely going to force Dwyane Wade back early. After three games, they have not come away with a win, losing to Detroit, Indiana, and Charlote. Without Ricky Davis' 16 points per game, it really would be ugly thus far for the Heat. With the Spurs and Suns up next for the Heat, an 0-5 start is certainly likely. Shaquille O'Neal has picked up a great deal of fouls, Smush Parker looks like a mistake already, Anfernee Hardaway has not provided the scoring punch they hoped for, and Jason Williams has struggled mightily from the field.

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