OAKLANDThe curse of Oracle Arena continued for the Bulls (1-1) against the Warriors (1-1) Monday night, as Chicago lost on the road to Golden State for the third consecutive time, 99-91.
Derrick Rose once again struggled in Oakland and the Bulls defense was uncharacteristically poor in the second game of the young season, as they failed to complete an improbable late comeback for the second straight night.
No defense, turned the ball over, put them into the open floor and gave them a lot of confidence early. You cant do that against a team like this, observed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team committed 20 turnovers on the evening.
Well, I think when youre on the road, you have to understand how difficult it is to win on the road, so you prepare yourself by being ready at the start of the game and you have to play defense, and you cant make it easy on them and youve got to take care of the ball. Youve got to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourself first and then you have to establish your defensive game first. You have to know who you are: defend, rebound, inside-out, share the ball, low turnovers.
A fast-paced start to the contest played to the home teams strengths, as the transition-loving Warriors played at their desired pace. David Lee got the upper hand in his matchup with power-forward counterpart Carlos Boozer, though the Alaska native was able to get a semblance of revenge as the first quarter went on. The visitors successfully got new acquisition Rip Hamilton (10 points, four assists) involved from the outset and the game was a close-knit affair.
Meanwhile, Golden States go-to scorer, Monta Ellis wreaked havoc on the Bulls defense with 13 points in the opening periodgetting buckets in a variety of methods, from posting up the taller Hamilton to fast-break layups and deep jumperspropelling the Warriors to an early advantage. Through one quarter of play, the Bulls trailed, 30-22.
Contributions from reserves Kwame Brown, Brandon Rush and Ekpe Udoh propelled the Warriors, guided by star point guard Stephen Currys stellar floor generalship, to a double-digit winning margin early in the second period. Chicagos vaunted defense failed them and sloppy play reigned on the offensive end, even after Thibodeau reinserted his regulars, as a rash of turnovers compounded matters.
Our defense was bad and theyre a very good pick-and-roll team. We kind of struggled all game keeping them out of the paint. From the start of the game, I thought our defense wasnt there. A team like that, after the first quarter, they got confidence and they played with the lead the whole game, said Luol Deng.
Youve got to play hard and I thought, for some reason, they played harder than us from the start of the game and we cant keep doing that. I know its only two games, but falling behind and fighting back, its never fun and thats not the kind of basketball we want to play. We dont want to get into scrambling and trying to catch up all game. It just takes us out of our game.
After trailing by as much as 19 points, Rose (13 points on 4-for-17 shooting and 1-for-8 from three-point range, eight assists) decided he had enough. Perhaps the shellacking they took on the same court a season ago, in which he committed a career-high nine turnovers, motivated him and began to put his own unique stamp on the game, aided by Hamiltons perimeter marksmanship, in an effort to chip away at the deficit. But continued unforced miscues, lapses in transition on both ends, the smaller Warriors ability to compete on the boards and plain old errant shooting from the Bulls put them in a 57-41 hole at halftime.
Things didnt get much better for the Bulls after the break, as the trio of Lee (22 points, seven rebounds), Curry (21 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, six steals) and Ellis (26 points, seven assists) continued to decimate the guests of raucous Oracle Arena with their scoring prowess. Deng (22 points, 10 rebounds) was one of the few bright spots, but his individual efforts werent enough to counter an overall poor shooting performance, surprising ineffectiveness on defense and a general lack of focus.
Usually, your turnovers are a result of one of two things: either the risky pass or its one-on-one. We had a combination of those two things, said Thibodeau. Ellis and Curry are hard to guard normally, so then, you put them into the open floor and theyre coming at you with a live ball, and then were not back on the raise of the shot, so were not protecting the basket. Youre giving them easy baskets. You give a team like that easy baskets, their confidence goes way up and theyre impossible to stop after that. We cant play like that. We have to play defense, we have to rebound and we have to take care of the ball.
Golden States up-tempo approach and improved defensive intensity were appreciated by their always-supportive fans and the arenas carnival-like atmosphere only grew rowdier as the Warriors maintained their wide winning margin. Thibodeau made adjustments, tinkered with his lineups and went deep into his playbook in an attempt sway the tide, but the Bulls couldnt do anything right in a third quarter that ended with them on the wrong end of a 78-61 score.
Early in the final stanza, Chicagos inadequacy could be summed up by Curry tossing his second half-court alley-oop of the gamethe first, early in the contest was to Lee; swingman Dorell Wright received the secondan occurrence almost never seen against the Bulls, let alone twice in the same contest. Currys blend of scoring and playmaking gave the visitors increasing trouble as the game wore on, but the determined Bulls, as usual, refused to give up hope in what appeared to be a blowout loss in the making.
Thibodeaus troops soldiered on in their usual dogged fashionto counter Golden States small-ball quintet and zone defense, Deng and Rose partnered with reserves Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver (11 points) and C.J. Watson (13 points); the latter, a former Warrior, provided one of his patented scoring bursts in his old stomping grounds.
The Bulls trimmed a 19-point deficit to single digits with under five minutes to play. The action was fast and furious as the game entered its stretch run, but the Bulls made little headway, despite Watsons scoring, Gibsons inspired interior defense and Korvers late three-point barrage, resulting in new Warriors head coach Mark Jacksons first win.
Well, thats their strength, is the way they push and we ended up getting in such a big hole that we felt like we had to try to do something to speed it up the other way, so we could get going a little bit. But youre playing in such a big hole and youre scrambling to get back, said Thibodeau.
We were just searching, to be honest with you. It was a flat game. We had to get some energy into the game and so, we went with the two point guards, Lu had been playing well the whole game and Kyle gives us the three, so we felt we could get it up quickly and maybe make up some ground with the three.
Added Joakim Noah: Weve just got to play better as a team. Its disappointing to lose like this, but weve got to bounce back. Weve got another one in a couple days.
We cant let teams score on us the way that theyve been scoring on us. Theres a lot of improvement to be made, he continued. Its frustrating to lose the way that we lost and theres definitely a lot of things that we need to do better to go to where we want to go.
Thibodeau just said it was expletive and hes right. Were not going to get to where we want to get to playing defense like that and its frustrating. We have to improve, the center, who grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, went on to say.
Theres a lot of areas where we have to improve. Even though we won against the Lakers Sunday, we played well in lapses, but theres definitely areas that we need to get better at to get to where we want to get to.
They scored a lot of points off our turnovers in transition, bad pick-and-roll defense, bad post defense, lack of communicationeverything. Our defense was just bad. It was better at the end.
A dejected Rose appeared to take the loss just as hard.
Defense, defense, defense, he said. Of course, I missed a lot of bunnies tonight, open shots I normally hit, along with some of the other people on the team, but defensively, I think our communication, thats a big thing, but we can always fix it. All these things, we can learn from. If anything, its going to make us a better team.
The biggest thing is how quick we can jell. I think thats everybodys concern right now, he continued. Well play this team again. For sure.
We just dont want one of these nights again, anytime soon. Just learn from it and try to keep it moving. But remember.