It’s hard to think of the Chicago Bulls of a team that’s crippled by ego battles, but the Luol Deng contract situation is affecting him, making him try too hard when Jimmy Butler isn’t playing, leading to some catastrophic shooting and a 97-87 loss to the Denver Nuggets, as the Bulls’ road problems continue to hurt what could have been a promising start to this season.
Without Jimmy Butler playing (toe injury), Deng decided he’ll take the game on himself. Show the world that he’s the real star on the perimeter for Chicago, and that basing a future on him and not just the rising stock of Butler is the right way to go for Chicago.
Deng finished with 3-of-18 from the field, ruining transition attacks one after the other, and becoming the fifth player this season to shoot worse than 17% from the field while taking 15 shots or more. Right now, Damian Lillard’s 1-of-15 in Portland’s win over the Kings two weeks ago beats everyone else in “awful shooting nights”.
The big problem with Butler not playing was the Bulls’ defense. Not just the 97 points, but the softness on the perimeter, while their in-and-out game, which has been lacking all season, continued to hamper their style, along with Deng deciding his name is Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony.
Mike Dunleavy started instead of Butler, and despite his 15 points on 6-of-11 from the field, having him on the floor as a shooting guard just isn’t a very good idea. He did finish with a +3 on the +/- measurement, but mostly because he didn’t trash the Bulls’ game like Deng did time and time again.
Looking at the same position for the improving Nuggets, we see a very interesting case of what coming off the bench can do to a player. Wilson Chandler deserved stepping into the lineup and via that sending Jordan Hamilton to the bench. Chandler finished the game with 0 points in 24 minutes. Hamilton, playing 22 minutes off the bench, scored 17 points while shooting 6-of-12 from the field in what was probably his best game this season.
There’s no doubt the Nuggets are finding out who they are. Ty Lawson is running the floor, still waiting for the moment he has Danilo Gallinari on the wing and not someone else. Getting a real center instead of J.J. Hickson might help, but he makes do with what he has, scoring 10 points and adding 7 assists, enjoying the awful shooting from the Bulls (38.8% from the field), allowing Denver to run the floor, avoiding their confused looks when it’s half-court offense time.
Derrick Rose scored 19 points on 9-of-20 from the field. He’s clearly finding his rhythm, doing better than three weeks ago. Still, his tendency to go for the pull up jumper instead of constantly trying to push to the basket is hurting Chicago this season, especially in road games where they need a more reliable source of scoring than just pushing into the paint and hoping Boozer or Noah dominate under the basket.
Tom Thibodeau – You can’t let your guard down against them. I thought their bench hurt us. Hamilton had a big game for them, Nate had the two big shots to start the fourth. Mozgov hurt us in the paint. Lawson puts a lot of pressure on you, and Chandler puts a lot of pressure on you. You’ve got to use your team to slow them down. Our turnovers hurt us. but the big thing is we gave them easy scoring opportunities. We should have been able to count on our defense. Ninety-seven points, 46 percent, it’s too much.