My trusty co-worker Patrick Flowers took last night’s game off my hands due to some prior engagements. I checked in and out of the action on my phone throughout the night, clearly noticing the cards failed to fall in the Bulls’ favor.
However, it wasn’t until I grabbed a good ole cup of joe, plopped on the couch, and turned on the film this morning that I saw just how rough the performance turned out to be. The Bulls actually did have the cards, but they called for the fold with a full house in hand.
• The Bulls set the ton for the night when they coughed up 7 turnovers in the first quarter. They tried to play a fast-paced game, but speed quickly turned to sloppiness as they struggled against the Heat’s 6th-ranked defense. We watched as a switchable and physical Miami team forced Chicago into a stagnant offense. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine also both played a frustrating role in the early turnover trouble, mistiming or misjudging a number of entry passes to big man Nikola Vucevic.
• The turnover trouble evened out as the game went on, but the ball continued to stick as the Bulls grew weary of the Heat’s crisp defense. Meanwhile, on the other side of the court, the Bulls’ own defensive attack was mushy at best. While they were able to put up a decent fight on the glass, they fell behind a lot of the action as Eric Spoelstra’s crew did the kind of cutting and moving we want to see from this more athletic Bulls squad.
“I think we were just rushing it,” DeRozan said after the game. “I told guys just take your time, don’t rush it. Understand what they are doing defensively, how they’re trying to speed us up, what they’re trying to take away. Little things like that. We haven’t played against a very active team like the Heat, where they’re aggressive, active hands everywhere, the way they rotate.”
• The Bulls were somehow able to finish the night with a 52-40 advantage in the paint on an overall 48.8 percent clip from the field, but the offensive inconsistencies really showed up behind the arc. While the Bulls may shoot the fewest 3-pointers of any team, they have gotten away with it thanks to a top-two shooting percentage in the league. In other words, they take the right shots and they hit their open looks. But, last night, they went just 7-29 from deep, which marked their 6th-worst shooting effort from downtown this season.
• What proved to be equally as frustrating was the fact they couldn’t make up for some of their clanked buckets at the charity stripe. Despite the Heat allowing opponents to shoot the 9th-most free-throw attempts per game, the Bulls shot just 15 freebies and made 10. It was only their second time this month shooting 15 or fewer free throws. Part of that may have been due to some annoying missed calls, but the team also didn’t respond to the Heat’s physicality in the way they needed to.
• Yes, it’s hard not to think the Bulls’ static offense would be quickly improved by the energetic presence of Alex Caruso (whose 1.53 points per possession on cuts to the basket ranks in the 91st percentile, per NBA Stats). And, mhm, it’s also not hard to think the 42.3 percent 3-point shooting stroke of Lonzo Ball would make it a lot harder for teams to send the double-team in certain situations. But we can’t continue to blame everything on the absence of these two players. While we all know what they bring on both ends of the floor, we need to see a more concerted effort across the board. Defensive rotations need to be tighter. Decision-making needs to be savvier. Physicality needs to be greater. Pick-and-roll coverage needs to be more disciplined. Not all that ails the Bulls will be solved when these two return.
• The Bulls’ lack of bench scoring was another area Miami exposed. It was a game where the Bulls desperately needed Coby White to step up, but the third-year guard shot just 3-13 from the field with 9 points. Meanwhile, Max Strus and Tyler Herro combined for 33 points to help the Heat bench outscore the Bulls 49-23. Yikes. I don’t consider this as big of an issue as some of the other things – rotations will shrink come playoff time – but it’s still noteworthy, especially when three key players remain on the injury report.
• Speaking of that injury report, head coach Billy Donovan did provide a brief update before last night’s game. We know Caruso is now out of his brace and trying to regain strength, which is a process that could take a couple of weeks. This also seems to be the process Patrick Williams is in right now. As for Lonzo Ball, he is progressing on his normal 6-8 week timeframe, and the next step will be for him to begin “change of direction running.”
Billy Donovan says Alex Caruso will continue non-contact drills as he regains strength in his wrist for the next 1-2 weeks until he's cleared: “He can’t really even pass with that (arm), he doesn’t feel comfortable shooting with it. It’s not pain. It’s just stiff and it’s weak.”
— Julia Poe (@byjuliapoe) February 28, 2022
Patrick Williams needs to go through a pretty extensive ramp-up of strengthening his injured wrist, Billy Donovan says.
It sounds like that process is a matter of a couple weeks too. There are no exact dates in play the Bulls are publicly sharing in regards to that.
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) February 28, 2022
Lonzo Ball continues to do straight-ahead running as he rehabs knee, per Billy Donovan. Next steps: Change of direction running + ramp up intensity of sprints
On Friday, Ball will be 5 weeks into 6-8 week recovery timeline. Donovan: "Nothing has changed with his time schedule"
— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) February 28, 2022
• MORE CARUSO CONTENT!?
announcing our other newest OM3 correspondent. Joining Tyrese, Sue and Mikal. everybody wish him a happy late birthday. first appearance next week! pic.twitter.com/CPhEHo0d40
— TheOldMan&TheThree (@OldManAndThree) March 1, 2022
• Seriously … I can’t believe some of the things Ja Morant can do.
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) March 1, 2022
• Please give me a fully-healthy season of David Montgomery.
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) March 1, 2022