Game 22 Results: We Used to Dream of Mustard and Onions for Dessert
December 7, 2010
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Final Score: Bulls 99, Thunder 90
Points: Boozer with 29, Durant with 29
Rebounds: Boozer, Noah with 12, Sefolosha with 8
Assists: Rose with 9, Westbrook with 8
The Key Stats:
- Bulls win the rebounding edge – 53-39 (16-12 offensive)
- Bulls win points in the paint battle – 58-32
My thoughts on the loss to the Bulls fall into three categories:
- The Bulls are well assembled. With the exception possibly of not quite enough outside shooting (Rose, Bogans suspect; Korver the only dedicated shooter), they are a highly competent team. Rose can fade into the background and just worry about distribution and defense. The offense can flow through Boozer and Deng. Noah will be there to happily clean up any mess that gets made. They play good defense. They rebound. They are sound fundamentally and have a coach (Tom Thibodeau) who is committed to The Process (he was the Celtics’ defensive architect previously). They’re going to surge forward in the next 20 games before the all-star break. Right now I’d probably place them as the 3rd best team in the East (Celtics, Magic).The addition of Boozer is huge. I’ve always liked the way he has been able to finish around the rim, dating all the way back to when he was at Duke. He is undersized, but you can clearly see the influence playing in the Utah system has had on Boozer’s offensive game. He is fundamentally sound, takes good shots, and unless he’s going up against a bigger guy (he is only 6’8″), he can get his points in a variety of ways.
- The Thunder almost matched my blueprint, but not quite. If you recall, my basic blueprint for winning on the road goes thus:
- Endure the opening surge by the home team/crowd.
- Keep the 1st quarter final deficit under 10.
- Win the 2nd quarter by a small margin.
- Play the 3rd quarter even.
- Now that the home team has spent its energy, pull forward in the 4th.
The Thunder were right on track, only behind by five at the break. However, instead of playing the Bulls even in the 3rd, Coach Brooks made what is now the well-known decision to pull both Green and Durant from the starting line-up for the last nine minutes of the quarter. The lead went from a six point deficit to a 16 point deficit, and the game was effectively over. Coaches try different things to find a spark for their team, but this one was odd because the Thunder up to that point were not playing terrible. They were keeping pace despite the fact that they weren’t shooting well and the Bulls were killing them on the inside. It could have been an energy thing and it could have been a line-up thing (because by going small, they certainly weren’t hurting themselves anymore then they already were on the boards). But when the lead dropped down into that eight-10 point range, it seemed like the experiment should have been over. On the road, unless you’re blowing the other team out, it’s all about just keeping the game close until the 4th.
- The Thunder have a serious problem with defending the post. This problem will manifest itself most clearly in the playoffs, when the Thunder will be looking at the likes of Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and David West. For now, they have 60 games to figure out what they’re going to do about it. It needs to be addressed though; let’s take a tally:
- Millsap (UT) – 30 and 16 (L)
- Griffin (LAC) – 18 and 9 (L)
- Aldridge (POR) – 22 and 4
- Millsap (UT) – 20 and 6
- Love, Darko(!) (MIN)- 24 and 17, 21 and 4 respectively
- Nowitzki, Chandler (DAL) – 34 and 4, 17 and 18 respectively (L)
- West (NOR) – 20 and 7
- Lopez (NJ) – 28 and 11
- Bargnani (TOR) – 26 and 12 (L)
- Boozer (CHI) – 29 and 12 (L)
Inability to defend the post is the biggest factor that is driving up opponents’ shooting percentages. Easy baskets close to the rim beget defensive breakdowns, additional free throws, and open jumpers. You have to be able to defend the paint.
I hope the team takes this loss into the test lab and breaks it down, because it stems not just from a lack of energy, but a lack of process. This is the type of thing for which the team can find answers, but they first must be willing to address the questions.
Next game: Wed. night at Minnesota at 8:00PM EST