Deng gets smacked by his own teammate - Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Two playoff bound teams face off each other without their respective point guard MVPs (regular season for Rose and Finals for Parker) in a close game that was decided late in the 3rd quarter. Good games from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard paced the Spurs to their third straight win.
Derrick Rose, the MVP of the Chicago Bulls, has been out all season, ever since suffering a knee injury, tearing his ACL in his left knee in the first round of the playoffs last year. The Bulls lost that round, becoming the third 1st seed in the past 10 years to drop out of the playoffs in the opening round. Unfortunately, the NBA playoffs aren't like the NFL, where the top seeds get bye weeks and can avoid these massive upsets. Fortunately for NBA fans, the NBA IS more likely to crown the best team of the year the champion because every team must survive four rounds of basketball, meaning it is extremely difficult to win a championship without amazing performances from star players or extremely good teamwork on the defensive end. The Bulls, as good as they were on defense (3rd place in the league in points per game allowed and 4th in defensive efficiency), were not prepared to lose their offensive facilitator, and pretty much the only player who could create his own shot. Chicago lost the series to the 76ers in 6 games, who in their own right weren't bad for an eighth seed at all, even taking their next series (against the Celtics) to 7 games.
There has been a lot of discussion about Derrick Rose's manager/brother speaking out on the lack of activity and player acquisitions that the Bulls have made during Rose's time spent injured and rehabbing. He says that that the Bulls should have been rebuilding or remodeling the roster in order to give Rose more of an incentive to come back and play. They aren't the first seed any longer (as they were the past two years), but they are in the thick of locking up home court advantage in the first round if they can get the 4th seed (as of last night, they tied with the Nets for 4th/5th at 34-26). This led to me (and everyone in Chicago) to the question:
Should Derrick Rose rush back this season? It's unlikely that they'll get to the Finals this year, but may have a better shot next year, as they can (unlikely) amnesty Boozer and maybe sign a decent free agent or two. I highly doubt that Rose is going to be 100% this year, as the type of knee injury he suffered tends to take about 2 years to fully recover. If he comes back too early and re-aggravates his knee, that could set him back even further. Chicago should be patient and let him get back to MVP form, which is the only way that I can see the Bulls getting past the Heat. They've got the defense to slow them down (Noah on Bosh, Deng on James and maybe Butler on Wade), but don't have near the offense to win the games. You can maybe slow LeBron down, but you're not going to stop him. Not this year, at least.
The Bulls have a great defense this year, allowing the third fewest points in the league, at 91.3 per game. They also rebound at a high rate, 43.4 a game, good for 6th in league. AND they distribute the ball, clocking in at 23 assists a game, in the top 8. Where they lack is their offense. They score the 28th fewest points per game, at 92.7, making their average margin of victory only 1.4 points per game. This is good enough for fourth in the East, but still far away from the 'elite' in that conference, as the Knicks, Pacers and Heat all boast a differential of over 3 points per game. 6 teams in the West have a better differential than 3, starting with Houston (+3.4) and ending up at OKC (+9.6). The built in excuse for the Bulls is that they play the 4th slowest pace in the league (92 possessions per game), using nearly 7 fewer possessions than the Rockets, tops in the league. (The Spurs are 7th, with 96.6 possessions per game.) But compare the Bulls to the New Orleans Hornets(strikethrough) Pelicans, who play the second slowest pace in the league. They score nearly 95 points per game and have an offensive efficiency rating in the top half of the league. Chicago is tied with Orlando for 24th in offensive efficiency, a good ten spots below the Pelicans. In this day and age, you can't do it all with defense, as the Spurs PATFO have learned. Teams need to have potent offensive weapons, capable of taking over games at crucial moments. Until the Bulls have that, they won't get past the Heat (or the Pacers) in the playoffs.
Jon Barry Quote of the Game
"Curtis Joseph? That was a rapper wasn't it?"
- Barry not knowing who Cory Joseph was.
Joakim Noah Post-Game Quote
That's a championship team right there.
- Joakim Noah on the Spurs. According to the Associated Press, Noah was slumped in his chair in visible despair.
Quick Game Hash
On Noche Latina, the Spurs' Latinos had a pretty tight connection throughout the game, with Manu connecting on a third of his assists to Tiago. He seemed to thread the ball through a needle and even Tiago was superb, catching the fast passes even though I bet he was surprised at least one of those times. Los Spurs faced Los Bulls, who were bound to lose the game due to their lack of a Latino player. Gotta love the Spurs' international flavor.
After a sloppy first half, the Spurs tightened up their game, becoming more energetic on the defensive side, and moving the ball around much faster and better. After committing an un-Spurs like amount of turnovers in the first half, they only had one in the third quarter, which allowed them to win that frame to the tune of 25-16, going up by 4 points heading into the 4th.
Manu looked great this game, and has strung up good lines in limited minutes after their last loss against the Suns. He had 18 points and 9 assists, after a 17 point effort against the Pistons and a career-high assist outburst (15) against the Kings. He looked like he had dipped into that Fountain of Youth that Tim Duncan has been using, This is the first game this season where I've seen Manu be Manu. He drove to the hoop at will, used his Euro Step very effectively and shot 3-5 from downtown. He handled the ball throughout most of the game, ceding the ball to only Patty Mills and Cory Joseph. It was a great sight to behold for those that have missed Manu's Euro Step and long steps to the hoop.
Kawhi was also great in this game, running the floor, being a defensive force, and throwing down some dunks. He really brings the athleticism that the Spurs mostly lack. Sure, Tony is quick and Manu can always get to the hoop, but San Antonio doesn't have anyone that can throw it down on a regular basis. If Kawhi can do that, he might have a few momentum-shifting points later in the season.
My Game Boss
Tim had another vintage Duncan game, with another double-double, adding to his lead over active players, and added 5 blocks. With Tony out, Tim and Manu are stepping up.
My Game Runt
He of the Air Yeezy shoes and the grandstanding after his 3 field goals (total) in the game, Nate shot the ball 13 times in 24 minutes, three fewer than his teammate, Marco Belinelli, who played 41. He should not be doing that unless he's feeling it, regardless of how bad the Bulls' offense has become.
The Thing Was Over When...
...the Spurs went on a 12-0 run connecting the third and fourth quarters. With the game tied 68-68 late in the 3rd, the Spurs played great defense, and Nate Robinson missed a few shots, allowing San Antonio to pull away and make this close game a win in the final frame.
Numbers of Note
- 47 - Rebounds by the Spurs
- 6 - Rebound differential. The Spurs won the rebounding battle against one of the best rebounding teams in the league.
- -9 - Offensive rebounding differential for the Spurs. They like their defensive rebounds.
- 36.7% - Chicago's FG percentage
- 54.1% - Spurs' FG percentage, 17.4 percentage points higher than the Bulls. They also shot the ball sixteen fewer times than Chicago. This stat really turned around in the second half.
- +20 - Boris Diaw's plus-minus against the Bulls, a team high. The game really turned around when he was on the court. He only played 12 minutes, but he showed how effective he is, and how well he's been doing since being relegated to the bench.
- 5 - Blocks by Tim Duncan, and the entire Bulls team. He's blocking at nearly a career high level, with 2.7 per game. Only Larry Sanders and Serge Ibaka block more shots per game, but Timmy does so while fouling much less than those two and averaging more points and rebounds.
- 23 - Points the Spurs' outscored the Bulls by in the second half, 54 to 31.
- 0 - Games that Manu has started this season, the only Spur (other than Aron Baynes) that hasn't started a game as of yet.
Odds & Ends
- Danny Green didn't put up a shot in the first half, and scored 7 in the game. His box score doesn't show how well he played, but he did the small things and even had a couple of assists.
- Manu has been passing the ball very well this year, but is sometimes a bit careless. He had 9 assists, to go with 4 turnovers. If he reins that TO rate a bit rate down, he'll be the next point guard to start.
- Kawhi and Timmy had ferocious dunks this game. Tim looked really spry and was running up and down the court, while Kawhi seemed to have a little more elevation going to the hoop. I loved every bit of it.
- The Spurs dominated the paint, scoring 46 in the area, compared to 22 by the Bulls. Tiago and Timmy each had 10 rebounds and Kawhi had 7 himself. Cory Joseph and Stephen Jackson had 5, helping out the big men against the energetic Bulls.
- Coach Thibs really plays his starters heavily. He ran Marco Belinelli for 41 minutes and Luol Deng for 39. Joakim Noah had 34 minutes. In comparison, Tim Duncan had the minutes high for the Spurs, clocking in at 33. Kawhi and Tiago had the second most with 32. No one else on the Spurs broke 26. Pop is a wizard in managing minutes.
- The only Spur with a negative plus-minus was Matt Bonner, with -9.
Going into the Next Game, the Spurs need to...
...Keep playing well without Tony. They've shown they can beat bad teams (Sacramento and Detroit) without TP, in addition to great defensive teams (Chicago). Let's see if they can take on the Portland Trail Blazers, who burned them the last time they visited the Rose Garden. Damian Lillard was a beast during that game. He was driving to the hoop and hitting threes whenever he pleased, showing why he was (and still is) the front-runner for Rookie of the Year. In order to defeat the Blazers, at least one of their starters needs to be neutralized, due to their ineffective bench.
stats from espn.com