Friday, April 17, 2009

Obligatory Bulls Playoff Post

Not sure if we have any readers left since I've been treating this poor blog like a leprous, red-headed stepchild, but seeing as the Bulls summoned the energy to make the postseason, I should summon enough to make some comments/observations/predictions. So in no particular order, here are some jumbled thoughts.

1) I've got to say, there's a part of me that likes what the Bulls have done over the past month or so, aside from the fact that they went 12-6 in their last 18 games. Rather than accept their status as a middling offensive team (they finished 19th in the NBA in Offensive Efficency) and a middling defensive team (they finished 18th in Defensive Efficiency), the Bulls went to the extremes in their last 18 games. By my calculations, during that span, their Offensive Efficiency shot up to 109.5 pts. per 100 possessions, which, over the course of the full season, would've ranked them 5th in the NBA, between Cleveland and Dallas. (Before the last two sub-par offensive games, they'd reached as high as 110.7, which would've ranked them second in the league.) In other words, they became an elite offensive squad, which, y'know, is exciting and fun to watch.

At the same time, though, they became one of the worst defensive teams in the league, allowing their opponents to score at a clip (again, by my perhaps-dodgy calculations) of 109.9 pts. per 100 possessions, which would've ranked them fourth-to-last in the NBA, not quite as porous as Golden State, but not as staunch and lockdown as the fearsome Minnesota Timberwolves.

On just a cursory examination, what accounts for much of this (on both ends) is another statistical extremity: offensive rebounding. Again, the Bulls are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league, ranking 6th overall. But as good as they are on the offensive boards, they're equally bad at rebounding on the defensive end.

None of this portends well against Boston, which is third in the league in defensive rebounding and just behind the Bulls (tied for 7th) in offensive rebounding. Garnett's absence will definitely help the Bulls' offensive rebounding (he's one of the best defensive rebounders in the league) but defensively, the Bulls are really going to have to keep an eye on Leon Powe, who, with all apologies to Kendrick Perkins, is in fact the the true beast on the boards. (Although Perk is no slouch himself, on either end.) On the plus side, at least we don't have to worry about Dwight Howard.

2) It's probably been talked about a bunch already in a bunch of places, but the thought of a gimpy John Salmons trying to stop Paul Pierce is pretty terrifying. What's worse, you know the absence of KG is going to motivate Pierce to prove he can put the team on his back, and I just don't see the Bulls having any answer for him. (By the way, with all the Deng-hating going on in this city, I'll note it would be very helpful to have him healthy right about now.) I give Salmons props for gutting it out the past month, but I fear he's going to be completely overmatched against Pierce. It might be interesting to see what Tyrus could do on him, but if he wasn't doing so while playing on a frontline alongside Miller and Noah, that switch would cause all sorts of other problems down low. And that would leave no room at the inn for Tim Thomas, which might just about break poor Vinny's heart.

3) I heard on the radio today that Big Baby had been playing real well for Boston lately, so I was a bit surprised to see Matt pooh-pooh him in this post. I looked into it a little more, and it turns out Matt is pretty much correct. Yeah, his minutes have gone up and his shooting % has improved somewhat, but he's still a terrible overall rebounder (though pretty good on the offensive boards), a sub-par free throw shooter, and a non-entity as a shot blocker. But what shocked me was when I compared him with Tyrus. At first glance, nothing's too surprising, but check out their career minutes per game: 17.8 for Big Baby vs. 19.9 for Tyrus. (And that factors in Tyrus' 27.5 mpg this season.) In other words, a team that starts Kevin Garnett has somehow found a way to get almost equal minutes for a young, early 2nd-round player as the team that has started Drew Gooden, Joe Smith and P.J. Brown has managed to get for the second overall pick in the draft. I know, I know, it's crying over spilled milk, but my God, what a fucking waste.

4) Anyway, the only hope I see for the Bulls in this series lies in three possibilities: 1) Ben Gordon shoots the lights out; 2) Tyrus, seeing no KG, goes bonkers; and c) Derrick Rose says, "Fuck it, I'm winning this series." It's that last possibility I'm most intrigued by. Defensively, Derrick could have plenty of trouble with Rondo, but potentially, there's nothing this kid can't do. Bouncing the defending champs almost single-handedly is certainly too much to ask of a rookie (any rookie), but at times, Rose makes me think anything is possible.

So fuck it: Bulls in 6.

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