Preview and chat: The Chicago Bulls

Kurt —  December 19, 2006

Hit the road, Jack. Six game road swing for the Lakers through the Midwest and East, starting tonight in Chicago. I’d say 3-3 is passable for this trip, 4-2 a good goal to shoot for.

About Kobe and Gil. Kobe got a lot of attention after saying Arenas’ 60-point performance against the Lakers was a player playing without a conscious. Bethlehem Shoals at Free Darko had a great post on all this.

As Brett’s noted, there’s a surface irony to Kobe questioning anyone else’s “conscience.” This supposes, however, that it was intended as a swipe at Gil. I think we can all agree that part of what makes Arenas such a joy to watch is that he does lack a basketball conscience. But rather than come off as stubborn or malicious, it’s responsible for his rapturous innocence.

On a personal note. I’m proud and honored to be Time Magazine’s man of the year.

The last meeting. The bad news: Odom led the Lakers with 23 points and used 25 possessions, more than any other Laker in their 10-point win. The Lakers are going to have to pick up that production from somewhere.

Bynum had a great game, sending back a Big Bad Ben Wallace shot early, he was an offensive and defensive force all night, finishing with 17 points and an offensive rating for the game of 103.5 (points per 100 possessions). But the Lakers also got a big game from Kwame Brown, who finished a team best +17 and played all the key minutes down the stretch.

Also, the Lakers pulled away with a fourth quarter run when the subs were on the floor (Odom, Kwame, VladRad, Evans and Shammond Williams back when he was getting minutes). Getting good play from the bench will again be key for the Lakers tonight, and on the road trip.

Defense. Last time these two played was one of the better defensive games for the Lakers as no Bull gave then trouble (save Nocioni, who was the only Bull with an offensive rating over 100 at 118.5).

But in the last three games the Lakers have let opponents shoot 55.7% (eFG%) and 42.3% from three. If they don’t start playing better defense, this is going to be a long road trip, simple as that. That last Bulls win is a model for how the Lakers need to play, both better defense on the perimeter and good defensive rotations in the middle with Bynum/Brown creating a strong inside presence. (That said, it’s easier to do that against the offensively-challenged Bulls.)

The Bulls are hot. They’ve won 11 of 12. How are they doing that? I went straight to the source out in Bears-crazy Chicago to see what has happened, and if anybody stopped complaining about Rex Grossman long enough to notice. Here’s what the always great Matt at Blog-a-Bull had to say:

I wish I could tell you what the difference has been, I’ve never been so unenthused over 11 wins out of 12 games before. It’s a hard thing to figure out, since the schedule has been so soft during that stretch: only 3 road games in that whole stretch, and the only win over a now-over-.500 team was Washington.

So yes, they’re playing better. Wallace has been incredible the past week, getting 62 rebounds in the 3 games. The scoring load has been coming from all places, most times from Deng and Nocioni, and Ben Gordon has been consistent and getting to the line. In case you missed my post last week, their defense has been transformed into a more aggressive one, yet still remains among the elite in the league ( http://blogabull.com/story/2006/12/15/111621/37)

But I can’t shake the feeling that they’re just playing better because of the schedule. I always thought that this team would absolutely beat up on the weaker teams in the league, since they’re deep, they always bring a defensive effort, and don’t play down to competition as a result. Especially when they play bad defensive teams, their movement and sharing within the offense is deadly, and their defense augments that by creating transition opportunities. However it’s still a question whether they can be effective against a team that challenges them defensively. One bright spot in that department is that lately Luol Deng has been a go-to guy late in games, complementing the every-so-often Gordon heroics.

AND, Wallace is a far better offensive player than Tyson Chandler. I’ve been pretty impressed with his passing ability. And even though he still bricks free-throws, fouling him still gets the other team in the penalty, which is nice for the usually FTA-deficient Bulls.

Things to look for. Last meeting the Lakers did a great job of pounding the ball in the paint and working inside on the Bulls and they need to do that again.

Last meeting the Lakers also had good perimeter defense, although the big guys blocking shots was a big part of that (and not so much against Washington). Smush, Evans and Kobe did a good job: Hinrich was in foul trouble and finished with 3 points and -1, Duhon was 0 points and -12, and Gordon had 9 points and +9. The Lakers need another night like that.

Phil Jackson rightly wants fewer threes taken. Look for the Lakers to pound the ball inside more.

Kurt

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17 responses to Preview and chat: The Chicago Bulls

  1. I think Big Ben is really going to carve us up inside. I forsee a lot of blocks on the laker bigs.

    Also I’m guessing Kobe goes for at least 40.

  2. AI on a George Karl team? I can’t wait to see this.

  3. what concerns me the most about our play of late is this tendency to wait until late in the game and turn it on, this feels too much like an overconfident team, and we are not there yet. we need to play hard from the opening tip and not rely on last minute heroics.
    but…I’m sure the zen master has also brought that to their attention.

  4. Damn, they get AI, and dont have to give up J.R. Smith or Camby, they’ll be good when Melo and Smith get back, if AI is in a passing mood they could be legit

  5. The more I think about AI in that uptempo style Karl has going in Denver, if they mesh in time they may be very, very good.

  6. You are of course assuming that AI and Furious George don’t get into some kind of death feud.

    But naturaly, AI will be incredibly well behaved for the rest of the season and kill himself to make denver win.

  7. Did anyone read the ESPN AI trade article. They say that no two teammates have ever finished the season with both scoring over 30ppg. Have they ever heard of Baylor and West – two pretty good players that did that in the 60’s.

    Well I guess ESPN doesn’t consider anything earlier than 1985 to be valid.

  8. I seriously doubt Kobe’s comments were meant to insult Arenas.

    Can’t believe people aren’t over this. Kobe could score 300 and it wouldn’t matter with some people.

  9. (1) Proof that I know nothing about basketball

    (9) Tell me about it! People are calling Gilbert’s game “one for the ages” Since when is 60 in OT all time great? People so quickly forget 62 in 3 quarters not to mention 81. Even Kobe’s 52 against Utah was better, that was basically in 3 quarters because it was a blow out in the 4th.

    I’m not saying Gilbert wasn’t impressive, but there was no reason for Kobe to sound awestruck and humble when talking about it after the game as many authors are suggesting.

  10. I keep getting the feeling this team is more like the 96-97/97-98 Lakers. Feisty and exciting a lot of the time but just not mentally strong enough to take to the next level. If Phil can age this team 2 or 3 years in the time of the rest of the season…well it’ll be nice. But we’re one or two pieces away and one or two years away from really being there.

    Three things kill the Lakers, rebounds, free-throws and turnovers. If they can learn to capitalize and improve those things the we will have arrived. Until then….no such luck.

    BTW….I can only imagine that Kobe’s night and that Kobe chant at the end absolutely killed him in the house that Jordan built.

  11. I didn’t see the game tonight, but could someone please explain to me how with Odom out, Bynum only plays 12 minutes (not in foul trouble) and Turiaf doesn’t even get off the bench?

  12. 12. Check Kwame’s line

  13. The Lakers came to play and led at the first quarter. They led by more at the half. They pulled away further in the third and then . . . .the Bulls racheted up their D.

    The Lakers began to take on the personality of the Smusher at his best–a brilliant offensive play followed by bozo defense–a brilliant defensive play followed by a bozo offensive move (maybe more bozo defense than offense). Frustrating, but fun to watch for Smushaholics.

    Kobe found his heroics muted against a good defensive team; Kwame almost felt like Yao Ming against the bonzai sized Bulls.

    It’s like Phil has reassembled a hand made sports car that was in a crash. It runs like a dream for a bit, begins to shimmy and shake on the turns, loses a few parts, and blows a head gasket on the run to the finish line

  14. Second half we lost our defensive intensity, we only gave up 42 pts in the first half. I’d say the low-point was when Kwame was out to begin the fourth quarter and the Bulls ran their offense through Mike Sweetney. Bynum looked completely lost, they got out ahead by 7 before Kobe could come back in and we never saw the lead again. At some point they have to put Andrew on the pine for his defensive lapses, it’ll let Ronny play and show Andrew that defense and defensive rotations are just as important as post touches

  15. Defense. Turnovers. Rebounding. They have to make stops. If they don’t, it’s gonna get ugly. You have to turnover your opponents and limit your own. If you don’t, you’re in trouble. Once you’ve played good defense, hounded your opponent, made him take a tough shot, THEN you rebound. You have to WANT to rebound. You have to WANT the ball. PUT A BODY ON SOMEONE!!! DO THEY TEACH THAT ANYMORE? Real rebounders assume that every shot is a miss and every rebound is theirs. Turiaf is the only one. He’s a real rebounder. Everyone else just gets rebounds that kind of just bounce their way.

  16. Well……despite Kwame’s great line Turiaf still should have had time at the 4. One minute or something.