Archives For Chicago Bulls

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves

How bad a team is — in linear terms — is relatively easy to measure. The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers are the sine qua non of awful by most standard measurements; their 9-73 win-loss record earned them the nickname the “Nine and 73ers” (which is pretty good, as far as nicknames go). But although their season was shortened by the lockout, the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats were demonstrably worse than those Sixers with a winning percentage of .106 to Philly’s .110.

But Charlotte that year was awful by design. Whether or not you want to label it tanking, the roster was not built to win games, having lost its best players from the previous season in Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson and leaning heavily on Kemba Walker in his rookie year. So they were terrible, but were they disappointing? Continue Reading…

LoveMath

There was a point early on in the Wolves’ win over the Chicago Bulls in which Kevin Love was struggling. He wasn’t playing poorly but he was having trouble finding his way to the free throw line against Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed. The struggles against Taj Gibson aren’t anything new for Love, or anybody around the league really. Gibson is one of the top defensive players in the NBA and rarely gets his national due because he’s a role player off the bench.

Taj is familiar with Love’s game too. They’ve played against each other on every level of play — high school, college, and in the NBA. Along with his defensive prowess, his familiarity with Love may be a big reason he’s had such great success defending the Wolves’ big man throughout their respective careers. Before Monday night, Love was 0-5 against Gibson at the NBA level. Love’s had three pretty awful games against the Bulls in this time, one decent game, and one Kevin Love game.

Overall, he was shooting 40% in these match-ups and attempted just 19 free throws in five losses. The Bulls have been a great defensive team during this run (analysis!) and part of the reason they’re so good is they know the angles to take, when to take them, and use their incredible frontcourt to slow guys down. Even Carlos Boozer is a plus-defender in Tom Thibodeau’s system, or at least enough of a plus-defender to hold the fort as Joakim Noah and Gibson protect his back.

So what changed for Love during Monday’s game to finally give him a big advantage against Gibson, Boozer, and Thibodeau’s system?  Continue Reading…

WolfBull

“A broken clock is right twice a day.”

This is one of those sayings that is supposed to be clever and profound, but all it does is make me irate when people use it as a crutch for a terrible argument. Sure, a broken clock is correct twice a day, unless you’re in the military — then it’s correct only once a day. And the rest of the 1,439 minutes, you’re left looking at a time holder that is incorrect and you start wondering how you can get this clock fixed. Or maybe you’re wondering if you need to get a new clock altogether.

The point is a broken clock needs to be fixed. Depending on the type of clock, it could just need new batteries or it could need to be wound up. Or maybe there is a gear that’s completely disconnected. Regardless, if you want that same clock to work then you need to figure out what’s wrong with it and how to get it back to keeping the intended time.  Continue Reading…

This was the first real test of the Wolves’ banged up season.

Yes, the Brooklyn game was fun and the Pacers were a really good measuring stick for whether or not this team could execute against one of the better defenses in the league. Not nobody know defense like the Bulls know defense. There are defensive systems and units in the NBA that can bully you and take away key components of the game for your offense. And then there’s the Chicago Bulls defense.

You have a slight chance against the Bulls, offensively. They’re going to give you jumpers, and some of those will be open. But like a pack of wild dogs in a Snausage factory, they’re going to be swarming you. They contest nearly everything and any time you get an open look against them, you have to make them pay. If you don’t, you’re wasting a modicum of good scoring opportunities. The way they pressure you is impressive.  Continue Reading…

Welcome to the NBA everybody. You gut out a thrilling victory in a grueling game against one of the league’s most intense, physical teams. You expend copious energy, both physical and emotional. Then you get on a plane and do it all again the next night. Of course, while the Pacers are a well-coached, defensively oriented team, they don’t hold a candle to Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls.

The Bulls are, as is their custom are sitting atop the league in defensive efficiency, allowing a cruel .93 points per possession. Yes, they’re missing a certain famous former MVP, but they still boast some guys who really like to get after it: namely, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, among others. The Bulls’ ability to pressure the ball and then recover to all five positions should you change sides of the floor is unmatched by any team the Wolves have played this year. Unless of course you count the drubbing these very Bulls put on the Wolves in the preseason.

And yes, I realize that a) that was a preseason game and so b) who cares and also that c) the Wolves were without both Nikola Pekovic and Luke Ridnour. Nevertheless, the Wolves have only intermittently been able to create offensive continuity with their guard play. Their best offensive moments have come either when the team is fluidly executing Rick Adelman’s sets or when a guard, be it Brandon Roy, J.J. Barea or Alexey Shved, has taken it upon himself to break down the opposing defense. Unfortunately, nobody disrupts offensive continuity and atomizes the five opposing offensive players as well as Chicago. And should Luke Ridnour or Shved or Roy–remember, JJ Barea will miss the game with his foot injury–attempt to attack the Bulls by himself, well that just plays into the hands of the Bulls’ swarming defense.

Adding to the problem is that the Bulls have real matchup advantages in the frontcourt, which has been the Wolves’ strength. Luol Deng vs. Andrei Kirilenko is essentially a wash; both players are long, elite defenders and crafty, efficient scorers, although Deng is asked to shoulder a much greater share of his team’s load, both on offense and in terms of minutes, than AK. But then the real problems begin. Joakim Noah is the kind of long, active center that gives Pekovic fits (observe the way that Hibbert disrupted Pek’s offensive game last night). And, recent defensive improvement notwithstanding, Derrick Williams showed very little ability to stay with Carlos Boozer in their preseason matchup.

The Wolves’ great hope here, as it has been before, just may be their bench. Dante Cunningham and Greg Stiemsma seem to me to be well equipped to take on Boozer and Noah defensively. And whether or not Cunningham can actually match Taj Gibson’s intensity (very hard to do, but I bet he can) that matchup should be pretty furious stuff, particularly if the game is close. Still, while matchups circumstances seem stacked against the Wolves, they surely seem to be oceans ahead of where they were two weeks ago. Tonight will be a great test of just how far they’ve come.

I’ve made the case before that Derrick Williams’ development–either in becoming a consistent three or being traded for one–is essential to the Wolves’ coherence. With a consistent, dynamic wing scorer, the Wolves’ newly acquired white boy stew actually makes sense; without it, the team still feels to me haphazard and misshapen, an oblong collection of Stiemsmas and Shveds and Budingers and Kirilenkos.

I still hold to that notion, but if you want a genuine picture of incoherence, you should try that same collection of players without Kevin Love at its center. Because the Wolves’ lineup that showed up in Chicago on Friday night was about as wayward and rudderless as a team could be. Of course, in terms of sheer gloomy apathy this crew doesn’t hold a candle to last season’s daydreamy Wes Johnson/bored Anthony Randolph nadir. But when it comes to not-an-actual-NBA-team lineup collage, its pretty hard to beat the Wolves’ Barea/Roy/Kirilenko/Cunningham/Stiemsma starting five. Or how about this one: Conroy/Shved/Budinger/Williams/Amundson? I don’t even know what those words mean but those dudes did actually share the floor during Friday night’s third quarter.  Anyway.

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I wish I had something to add to last night’s affair against the Pacers, but I sadly didn’t get to watch the game. It looks like the Wolves let Derrick Williams be the man and sat the majority of the main guys to give them some rest. This is to be expected during the preseason. Maybe the key the rest of the preseason is to see if guys like Amundson, Cunningham, Derrick, Chase, and even Shved, Barea or Conroy can develop any chemistry as a second unit of sorts.

These guys need to learn how to play together, as much as they need to learn how to play in the system. Especially in an offense that is so reliant on feel of what the defense is giving you and how you’re going to exploit it away from the ball, the Wolves’ bench guys will need to learn the mannerisms of their teammates when a backdoor cut is coming or it’s better to pop or roll after the pick.

I’m very interested to see if we see any progression throughout the preseason with the second unit.

For today’s 3-on-3, I’ve grabbed Matt McHale of Bulls By The Horns and Basketbawful fame. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Matt before and I can tell you he’s a very funny guy, a smart basketball mind, and someone that literally just throws drinks on the floor in an effort to announce his presence with authority. Ben Polk is also joining us for the 3-on-3, and while I’ve never watched him throw drinks at people, I’m confident he can acquire this skill.  Continue Reading…

Photo by Diane Hammond

A special kind of lethargy sets in when two feet of snow fall on your city. Everything seems wrapped in gauze. The world gets still and hushed. Wearing sweaters and looking out the window become important activities. This is a totally appropriate mood for things like melancholy contemplation and drinking dark beer. But when it comes to playing professional basketball, as the Wolves demonstrated on Saturday, this luxurious inertia is somewhat less useful.

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