Observations from the Bulls’ 118-111 loss to the Dallas Mavericks
Execution, where are you?: The games are adding up where the late-game execution, or lack thereof, has been glaringly absent for a veteran Bulls’ team. The most shocking was a five-second call on an inbound play with 11 seconds left and the Bulls trying to tie the game with a 3-pointer. Whether it was a slow-developing play or the Mavericks jumped every conceivable option to leave Derrick Rose without a lane to pass, it falls on the ledger as another failure for all involved.
Rose had another jump-pass turnover, a no-no under traditional standards, with 59 seconds left and the Bulls trailing by two. It’s a habit the Bulls will have to live with considering it’s a staple for Rose, and he’s had varying degrees of success with it.
But the breakdowns for a team that’s been together for so long and a coach who’s been noted for offensive creativity leaves many to shake their heads in amazement.
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
Backup’s paradise: Perhaps the Bulls would’ve been better off playing against starter Deron Williams, who was out with a hamstring injury, as opposed to backup J.J. Barea burning the Bulls all night.
The generously-listed 6-foot guard made a career-high seven triples against the Bulls, giving them fits on the pick and roll with his herky-jerky play and ability to negotiate whatever coverages the Bulls threw his way, finishing with 26 points in 33 minutes.
The Mavericks kept the game plan simple for Barea, which was a heavy dose of pick and roll basketball. He only committed one turnover and had a team-high tying five assists as the Mavs went to three guards in the starting lineup, putting Barea alongside Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews.
Resurgence: Before Rose’s jump-pass turnover, one could argue he played his most efficient game of the season, scoring 25 points with five rebounds and four assists.
One could also argue the official went from “four” to “five” seconds rather quickly on Rose’s inbound pass with 11 seconds left, but they will be attached to his name nonetheless.
In 37 minutes, though, Rose went to the basket under control and finished that way, not throwing up wild and awkward attempts at the basket that indicated he didn’t have leg strength, confidence or balance.
He took only one triple in his 20 shots, and although he didn’t get to the foul line, Rose has had four games that should be characterized as “positive” in the last six, with the two middle stinkers being against the Knicks and Nets—as one could attribute those performances to a hangover after the four-overtime affair against the Pistons a week before Christmas.
And let’s not forget Nikola Mirotic, who had his best game in over a month with 23 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. It was his first double-figure scoring game since Dec. 14 against the 76ers, which considering the opponent has a demerit attached.
Mirotic has improved defensively and is a good rebounder, but his bread and butter is his shooting, as he’s yet to put together any form of consistent stretch in that department this season.
Hitting four triples for the third time this season illustrates he’s capable of being a streak shooter but the numbers say the inconsistency is maddening. With Jimmy Butler struggling with his shot, they needed every bit of Mirotic’s production and his offense is no longer a luxury, if it ever was.
Bench disappearance: With Joakim Noah on the floor, the bench has been at times a game-changing unit. But without him anchoring things on both ends, it fell apart Saturday, and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg had little patience for the group as a whole with their struggles.
Bobby Portis looked like…a rookie with four turnovers in 10 minutes and while Doug McDermott went 3-4, he’s again become a target for opposing offenses who want to take him out the game. Aaron Brooks missed six of his nine shots and Hoiberg kept Tony Snell on the bench for the entire night.
With a quick turnaround after Friday’s inspiring win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day, an emotional letdown was predictable. But with the jumble of teams in the East not looking to have any separation, games and finishes like this will have to disappear if the Bulls want to sit in the top-four come playoff time.