Bulls' offense stagnates in fourth quarter in loss to Wizards

Bulls' offense stagnates in fourth quarter in loss to Wizards

Dwyane Wade saw an open lane and was on his way to a fourth-quarter layup before three Washington Wizards converged on him, altering his path and forcing an awkward miss.

The speedy Wizards got out on the break as they had all game, with Bradley Beal feeding John Wall for a layup, capsulizing the last 36 minutes for both sides.

The Wizards scored fast and the Bulls slogged their way to miss after miss, particularly in the fourth as their habits came back to bite them where it hurt the most.

The Bulls lost an early 13-point lead and only mustered 41 second-half points in their 107-97 loss to the Wizards at the United Center, erasing all those temporary feel-good holiday vibes provided on Monday by the dysfunctional Detroit Pistons.

Going 7-for-24 in the final stanza showed the Bulls haven’t gotten over their fourth-quarter reputation, and the Wizards’ getting out for 32 fast-break points again displayed the book on the Bulls other teams are sure to follow: run them out of the building.

“The more we missed, the more we tried to go get it,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They got 32 fast-break (points) on us in transition. They got 19 off our 15 turnovers. That’s what cost us the game.”

Jimmy Butler scored 20 and Wade had 19, but neither was efficient from the field, combining to shoot 13-for-40 as the Bulls shot 40 percent and were 6-for-21 from the 3-point line.

Butler went 0-for-4 and Wade was 2-for-6 in the final 12 minutes, with each tallying one assist.

Wade conceded the Bulls’ offense gets predictable in the fourth quarter, especially with the lack of consistent shooting to make things easier.

“That’s putting a lot of pressure on Jimmy,” Wade said. “Let’s call it what it is: putting a lot of pressure on Jimmy to make plays in the fourth quarter because we’re running just one action, so we gotta get more body movement.

“It’s gotta come from us as players too. Some of it is playcalling as well but some of it, we gotta get out the way, we gotta move. We’re asking a young guy to make every shot he takes with bodies in front of him and step backs (jumpers).”

In fourth quarters this season, Butler is shooting 37.9 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from 3-point range, compared to shooting 48.7 in the third and 45.2 overall.

“I guess I gotta be a better playmaker, give the ball up earlier,” Butler said. “I’ll watch it, see what I see (on film). As a game goes along, teams are gonna key in on me and D-Wade. Now, we gotta put other guys in great positions as well. We’re not guarding anybody either.”

Butler tried to take a different road than Wade, a more diplomatic one, but he admitted things get tougher as the game goes along and the team loses something on both ends.

The Wizards’ field-goal percentage raised every quarter, topping off at 61 percent in the fourth when they outscored the Bulls, 30-20.

“We were doing stuff all game long and it carried over to the fourth quarter,” Butler said. “You can’t say the fourth is that big of a problem because if we’re doing everything we’re supposed to be doing all night long, we wouldn’t be in that situation. That’s how I see it.”

It wasn’t that way early, as Taj Gibson continued his streak of consecutive made baskets to 13 by hitting his first five shots on the way to a 17-point, 11-rebound evening, while Wade and Butler attacked the Wizards from the start, going to the rim.

Having Kelly Oubre and Sheldon McClellan on them plenty enough, Wade and Butler were definitive, calling for the ball then abusing and confusing the inexperienced defenders.

The efficiency continued in the first quarter as the Bulls shot 63 percent and outrebounded the Wizards 18-3, crashing the offensive glass and on the other end, Rajon Rondo grabbed rebounds to start the fast break.

“Kind of took off where we left off against Detroit,” Hoiberg said. “I thought we played the right way. The ball was moving, guys were sharing. Then we allowed them to get the momentum before the half. We lost our pace and didn’t get it back.”

But before the fourth-quarter bugboos reappeared, the Wizards hung around just enough to stay within striking distance, even when their set offense wasn’t clicking as the Bulls protected the rim.

But that famed “Wall” Hoiberg talked about building was named “John” and he was a one-man fast break, returning the favor by getting out and using his speed to beat the Bulls downcourt for layups.

“Wall, we talked about before the game, is as fast as any guard end line to end line and obviously showed it tonight,” Hoiberg said.

They couldn’t track him or get ahold of him to prevent Wall from breaking down the Bulls’ defense, as he got most of his 23 points in the fast break and added nine assists with six rebounds on nine of 14 shooting.

Beal aided him with 21 points and five assists, while Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris helped get ahold of the glass as the Bulls only outrebounded the Wizards by five by night’s end.

Starting out fast, then regressing to the mean, these are the Chicago Bulls.

Wendell Carter Jr. making a name for himself as top defender in 2018 class

Wendell Carter Jr. making a name for himself as top defender in 2018 class

Wendell Carter Jr. has been one of the few bright spots in a tough stretch for the Bulls. 

Speculation around the time of the 2018 NBA Draft was that Mohammed Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr. or even DeAndre Ayton could end up being better defenders than Carter due to their athleticism. And while time will tell if this is true, so far in 2018-19, Carter has shown that he is ahead of his peers in terms of breaking down what is happening in front of him and assessing what his responsibility is. One of the main thing holding back the Bulls on defense is ball-watching.

To be effective against an opponent that swings the ball around on offense—generating good shots from the strong and weakside—your defense needs to have all five players on the floor with their head on a swivel, keeping an eye on the ball and their man. Carter has done a lot of leading by example in this specific area. 

Carter's defensive numbers have been head-and-shoulders above his fellow rookie big men and with Hoiberg trusting him with 25+ minutes a night, the gap between he and his peers is likely to grow.

Heading into Wednesday's game, opponent's attacked him frequently within 6 feet of the basket. When Carter defends shot within 6 feet of the basket he makes opponent's shoot 9.3 percent worse, the best mark on the Bulls if you consider sample size. 

As of now, Carter is still on pace to be the only teenager in NBA history to average at least 2 blocks per game. And if he keeps this up, his case for Rookie of the Year will only get stronger.

And with all of the injuries and struggles of this young team, Carter's impressive defensive IQ continues to bring hope.

The Bulls upcoming back-to-back will see them take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard respectively. 

These matchups will likely show just how far away the Bulls are from being a competitive team. But with Chicago’s perimeter defense lacking sufficient wing defenders, these two games will also showcase Carter’s ability to be the last line of defense, on a team that could use a first one.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jimmy Butler makes debut for Philly


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jimmy Butler makes debut for Philly

Patrick Finley and Anthony Herron join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00 - Mark Schanowski drops by to talk about Zach LaVine’s minutes load, Lauri Markkanen’s rehab and Jimmy Butler’s debut for Philly. Plus, they discuss if Draymond Green might have just pushed Kevin Durant out the door in Golden State when this season is over?

13:00 - The guys dissect Mitch Trubisky’s NFC Offensive Player of the Week award and Cody Parkey travelling to Soldier Field to practice kicking.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast