Chicago Bulls vs. OKC Thunder: Postgame Grades and Analysis for Chicago

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2013

Chicago Bulls vs. OKC Thunder: Postgame Grades and Analysis for Chicago

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    The Chicago Bulls apparently forgot to bring their offense with them to face the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the result was a brutal 102-72 drubbing in OKC.

    The Bulls shot a season-low 29 percent from the floor and had just two players, Luol Deng and Nate Robinson, crack double figures. Combined with a minus-eight deficit on the boards and 17 turnovers, Chicago was essentially buried by halftime.

    Nate Robinson failed as a facilitator and the frontcourt trio of Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah combined to make just five of their combined 25 field-goal attempts.

    The loss was Chicago's seventh in its last 11 games, and it was an ugly one.

    With Derrick Rose seen warming up (and dunking) in a pregame workout, his possible return represents a faint ray of hope in an otherwise totally depressing showing.

    Brace yourselves, folks, the grades are going to be harsh.

Point Guard

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    Nate Robinson: F

    Starting at the point yet again, Nate Robinson showed why he's been relegated to a bench role for most of his career. Chicago's high-energy guard displayed his usual aggression against OKC, but a serious lack of accuracy led to an altogether forgettable night.

    Derrick Rose can't come back soon enough. For that matter, neither can Kirk Hinrich.

    The Bulls offense almost never looks smooth, but with Robinson making the decisions, their scoring ground to a halt. Ball movement disappeared and ugly jumpers abounded.

    It's not exactly fair to single out Robinson, whose 2-of-14 shooting night fit right in alongside his teammates' horrendous offensive marks. But as the point guard, he's not only responsible for generating his own good looks, he's also charged with creating them for others.

    Because Robinson failed miserably on both counts, there's only one grade that fits.

Shooting Guard

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    Richard Hamilton: F

    Following such a negative assessment for Robinson, maybe it's necessary to start by mentioning the positives in Richard Hamilton's game. Ready? Here goes:

    Hamilton pulled down as many rebounds in the first quarter as he had in his last three games combined. Sure, that number is just three, but seriously, would you rather hear about Hamilton's fifth straight game of sub-43 percent shooting?

    Or maybe you're more interested in his skills as a facilitator. Oh wait, he has none.

    On the night, Chicago's masked man was probably glad of the plastic that partially concealed his identity.  He finished with an embarrassing five points and four rebounds on 2-of-7 shooting in 18 minutes.

    Look, Hamilton's a shell of what he was in his days as a Detroit Piston, which were a very long time ago. Right now, he's got to hit at least half of his shots to have any value at all.

    He came nowhere close against the Thunder.

Small Forward

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    Luol Deng: B

    As a general matter, it's easy to feel bad for Luol Deng.

    He's one of the league's most ignored two-way stars, and nobody seems to appreciate his workmanlike approach to the game. The guy leads the NBA in minutes, always guards the opposing team's best wing player and still manages to lead his team in scoring.

    And against the Thunder, Deng was on an island in more ways than one.

    Chicago's only starter to post respectable efficiency numbers, Deng registered 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting to go along with four rebounds (all offensive), an assist, a steal and a block. But Deng's relative decency wasn't the most notable aspect of his evening.

    He also held Durant to 6-of-19 shooting.

    Considering the stress involved in trying to guard Durant, it's amazing the Deng has played so well against OKC this year. In Chicago's other meeting with the Thunder this season, he scored 27 points and held Durant to 24. The Bulls came away from that game with a loss, so Deng's solid performance in this one made it two straight fruitless efforts against OKC.

    The Bulls played a horrendous game on Sunday night, but Deng was one of the only players in a red jersey who isn't deserving of blame.

Power Forward

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    Carlos Boozer: F

    You're reading this right; the Bulls have their third starter with a failing grade. But there's no point in taking it easy on a team that got so thoroughly manhandled. Consider this tough love.

    Anyway, back to Boozer.

    Coming into the game against Oklahoma City, Carlos Boozer had recorded four consecutive double-doubles. After about 10 minutes against the Thunder, it was clear that the streak was over.

    Boozer finished with only two points on 1-of-5 shooting and looked consistently outclassed by the much more active Serge Ibaka underneath. More than once, OKC's power forward sent away Boozer's shot attempts inside.

    And if that weren't enough, Ibaka out-rebounded, outscored and out-hustled Boozer. That's a lot of "outs."

    Toss in three turnovers and zero free-throw attempts in 24 minutes, and you've got an epic failure of a night. If it's any consolation to Boozer, at least he's not alone.

Center

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    Joakim Noah: D+

    Over his past five games, Chicago's All-Star center had been averaging 10.6 points, 12.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists. But like Boozer, Joakim Noah saw his excellent streak of recent play come to an abrupt end against the Thunder.

    There were a few nice aspects to Noah's night—he pulled down a team-high nine rebounds, including four on the offensive glass—and hustled like he always does. Unfortunately, those few pockets of positivity were overshadowed by horrible shooting performances from the field (2-of-9) and the foul line (4-of-8).

    If Derrick Rose can't return this year, Noah will continue to be the Bulls' most important player. He's their defensive anchor and offensive facilitator. More than that, he's the team's emotional leader.

    The effort never wanes with Noah, he just had a rough night right along with the rest of his club.

Sixth Man

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    Taj Gibson: D-

    Man, talking about Chicago's forwards, whether starting or coming off the bench, sure sounds like a broken record.

    Taj Gibson played 18 minutes off the bench for the Bulls, and he was every bit as bad as the guys in the first unit. in fact, he might have been even worse.

    After scoring 17 points against the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday, Chicago's bruising reserve totaled just eight points on 2-of-11 shooting against OKC.

    His jumpers weren't close and he couldn't get anything to go against the long arms of the Thunder's interior defense. In short, nothing was working for Gibson.

    As if his awful statistical night weren't enough, Gibson sprained his knee early in the fourth quarter, causing him to miss the rest of the game. In a way, maybe that's actually a positive; it put him out of his misery.

Bench

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    Bench Grade: D

    As has been the case all year, coach Tom Thibodeau rode his starters for big minutes, apparently unconcerned by the fact that this game was essentially over at halftime. In light of that, it's particularly difficult to evaluate the Bulls bench because they entered the game in the fourth quarter long after the result was determined.

    In other words, grading players on how they perform in garbage time is usually a misleading exercise.

    Fortunately, nobody put up any dubious scoring numbers against OKC's relaxed defense in the final period. Instead, Chicago's reserves stumbled along at the same pace as the starters.

    Jimmy Butler, who once appeared to be a dynamic member of the rotation, scored two points in 18 minutes of action,  and only Marco Belinelli had even a half-decent night scoring (nine points on 4-of-8 shooting).

    Of course, whatever production the Bulls' Italian import put up was obscured by a bush-league flagrant foul against Jeremy Lamb on a breakaway.

    It was a cheap shot, but it was also one of the only shots the Bulls connected on all night.

    Yuck.