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Where’d the Bulls Go? C’s 106, Bulls 80

Picture 6ESPN RecapBlog-a-BullBy the Horns

Pace: 97 possessions (fast)

Offensive Efficiency: 109.75 points/100 possessions (top 10)

Defensive Efficiency: 82.75 points allowed/100 possessions (off the charts)

Some bullets to add to Brendan’s recap:

• The number that should jump out to all of us, I think, is this: The C’s committed just nine turnovers last night. This from a team that turned the ball over more than almost anyone over the last two seasons. 

You know what? They’re better this year. The C’s are turning over the ball on 14.4 percent of their possessions, which ranks 19th in the league, according to Basketball Reference. It’s not really much of an improvement—the C’s ranked 29th in both 2008 and 2009, but their turnover percentages were 15.0 and 14.8 in those seasons. Turns out the league is a bit more turnover prone this season, so the C’s, by turning the ball over about one fewer time per game, have jumped 10 spots in the rankings. 

Still, every possessions helps, and when the C’s take care of the ball like they did last night, they are practically unbeatable. 

How unbeatable? 

Over the two prior seasons, the C’s record when they turned the ball over 12 or fewer times: 41-7 (.872). When they turn the ball over 10 or fewer times? 19-1 (.950)

By the way, you know which Celtic (among the regulars) has cut his turnover rate the most? Perk. He’s turning the ball over on about 19.4 percent of the possessions on which he tries to do something with it, down from 23 percent last season—when Perk had the worst turnover rate in the league among player who logged at least 500 minutes, according to John Hollinger.

• Rajon Rondo committed five of the C’s 10 turnovers tonight, but that’s not a catastrophe given the (very fast) pace of the game and the way he dominated the ball. He was obviously fantastic on both ends, and it’s wonderful for his development that he is beginning to show more aggressiveness as a scorer even when confronted with larger defenders (like Derrick Rose). 

Rajon was 3-of-6 on jumpers last night, according to ESPN.com’s shot charts. If this improvement continues over the next 60 games, the ceiling for Celtics gets nudged up just a bit.

• Tony Allen continues to be a train wreck with the basketball. Two turnovers in 11 minutes, and you could see both of them coming before they happened. He can help this team, but he needs to play under control at all times. And yes, this sentence would have applied just as much in freaking 2005. 

• Sheed once again went to the post when the match-ups dictated that he should, and the results were once again positive for the team.

 

Four free throws in 22 minutes for Sheed, which is the equivalent of like 20 for Chris Bosh. I watched this game with a Bulls fan who rates the NBA somewhere between World Cup soccer and Olympic curling on his favorite sports list, and he took a lot of joy out of watching Sheed over the course of a full game. He was unfamiliar with “Ball Don’t Lie!” and was genuinely startled when some indecipherable scream came from the television during a run-of-the-mill free throw attempt. I explained the origin of the scream, and he couldn’t stop laughing. And then, of course, Sheed screamed it again two minutes later. 

Sheed is becoming like your old wacky uncle who comes over for Christmas dinner, tells bad jokes all night and begins to repeat them after a glass or two of wine. At first, the bit is funny, but his lack of discipline eventually ruins it. “Ball Don’t Lie!” and “And-1” should be special treats, and Sheed is slowly ruining them.

• What can you say about the C’s defense at this point? They defend the screen/roll better than anyone in the league, their rotations are pitch-perfect and every look within 15 feet is just a bit harder against the C’s than it would be against any other team. 

It’s strange to say, but as Luol Deng (and Brad Miller) rained in contested and semi-contested 20-footers in the first half, I knew the C’s would win easily. You can’t depend on shots like that, and yet those are the only kinds of shots an offensively incompetent team like Chicago is going to get against a defensive team like Boston. 

The Bulls obviously stink on offense, and they have the personnel to at least not stink. I mean, they have a point guard who should be deadly running the screen/roll and creating for his teammates. Sure, none of those teammates are very adept at rolling to the hoop and finishing, and none of them can serve as the three-point shooter who becomes the second screen/roll option when wing defenders sag down to help on the roll man. 

But they just shouldn’t be this bad. The team is just totally undisciplined in their shot selection. John Salmons launched shots in this game that are just unacceptable NBA shots unless you’re Kobe. And he was just 2-of-7! 

• Sixteen offensive rebounds for Chicago sounds horrible, but it’s not as bad as you’d think. This is why you have to look at percentages and play-by-play logs and not raw rebound totals. The pace of this game plus Chicago’s horrible shooting added up to 55 total rebounding chances at that end of the floor. That’s a ton. The C’s grabbed 71 percent of those rebounds. A defensive rebounding rate of 71 percent ranks about 26th in the league. So the C’s didn’t do a good job on the offensive glass, but it wasn’t catastrophically bad for a single game. 

Also of note: According to ESPN’s play-by-play, the Bulls grabbed 11 of their 16 offensive rebounds in the 4th quarter, including five on what appears to be one possession. So these weren’t exactly relevant offensive boards. When the game was in the balance—to the degree that it ever was—the C’s controlled the defensive glass.

That’s it. Onto Memphis tomorrow, where we get our first look at the revamped and dangerous Grizz, one of the most interesting teams in the league.

  • Jason

    The Bulls announcers were horrible. Just one of many examples, they were saying Deng was torching Pierce. I’m thinking these are all long, contested twos. Congrats on making a few, Luol. Please keep taking that shot. It was frustrating that it was keeping the Bulls in it early, but I too was saying to myself, that’s not going to last and this won’t be much of a game.

  • @Jason: That was driving me nuts early in the game.

  • Tom

    I said this last year. Bulls were able to keep up with the Cs last year because Ben Gordon/Rose’s prayers kept going in. Not so lucky this time…..

    Also anyone enjoy Noah getting torched by Sheed :)