So That Was Some Ugly Defense (and Other Bulls Bullets)

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So That Was Some Ugly Defense (and Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

Thoughts on last night’s game, coach?

“I think when you’re scoring 122 points, you have to play good enough defense that that’s enough points to be able to win.”

How about you, DeMar?

“We scored 122 points. That’s more than enough points to win. We can’t give up a 131 points, that’s just unacceptable.”

Cool. Cool. Zach?

“Terrible. We couldn’t stop in any coverage or any scheme that we had. It didn’t matter what we were in, we couldn’t stop the ball. We got to figure out how to stop having teams score so much.”

I sense a theme happening here. 

•   The Chicago Bulls shot 52.3 percent from the field. Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan combined for 62 points (Nikola Vucevic and Coby White added 18 apiece!), and the team went 22-26 from the free-throw line. The Bulls outscored the Spurs 22-9 in the fastbreak, and they committed just a total of six turnovers, tying their fewest in any game this season. And the Bulls still lost to the 12th-ranked team in the Western Conference.

•   In San Antonio, Chicago looked exactly like the squad many questioned in the offseason. While no one could deny they had the offensive fortitude to be one of the NBA’s elite scoring teams, no one knew if they had enough to stop anyone on the other end. Fortunately, those fears were put to rest thanks to the grounding presence of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso that sparked high-end effort from role players and stars alike. Remove those two from the equation – along with a physically imposing Patrick Williams and lengthy help defender in Derrick Jones Jr. – and we all knew the Bulls defense was bound to struggle. But does that make it acceptable to hand 131 points to a team that came into the night with just 18 wins? No, and everyone who sat down for a postgame press conference last night was quick to admit it.

•   The lack of Caruso’s defensive communication last night was felt in a painful way. The Bulls were constantly late on their rotations, handing an active off-ball Spurs team plenty of good looks from behind the arc (where they shot 43.2 percent). Likewise, pick-and-roll coverage was abysmal, as Nikola Vucevic was attacked relentlessly throughout the second half. Dejounte Murray stormed into the paint and took full advantage of the Bulls’ slow reaction time, he ended the night with 29 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds. To be sure, this loss shouldn’t land exclusively in Vucevic’s lap. He had another solid game considering the circumstances, and defense is 100 percent a five-man job. The Bulls either found themselves behind the point of action multiple times or late on assignments, leaving Vucevic in a vulnerable spot. Don’t get me wrong, he has to be better, but so does this entire Bulls team.

•   All things considered, the Bulls have a somewhat generous stretch to try to iron out the kinks on that side of the ball. The team’s next four matchups will come against the Trail Blazers, Magic, Raptors, and Pacers. None fielding an offense that ranks inside the league’s top-14, let’s hope the Bulls can build some level of defensive confidence and understanding against these struggling groups before the 76ers, Suns, Hornets, and Timberwolves present a difficult four-game stretch.

•   Zach LaVine had a chance to comment on his All-Star starter snubbing after the game, and he was open about where he thinks he stands:

“Every year is going to be someone in and out, LaVine told reporters. “I just do wish the criteria stayed the same each year because last year I had a really good year, where I had really good stats, but we were on a losing team. I wasn’t in that same position or the narrative wasn’t the same, but it is what it is. I’m going to keep my head down and keep working.”

•   LaVine was slapped on the wrist for years over his team’s standing, yet he is beaten out for a starting spot by a guy who currently sits outside the play-in tournament? No one is going to disagree with Young being an All-Star, but LaVine is not wrong to bring up what feels like some inconsistencies in the voting process. Anyway, he’ll make the game next week, and he spoke about that with NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. Give it a read:

•   DeMar DeRozan was hidden in San Antonio for a few years, but he remained just as impactful as ever. Not only did the Spurs show everyone how much he meant to the organization before tip, but several of his former teammates sang his praises after the game:


•   The coaching staff is coming together.

•   To trade or not to trade …

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.