Derrick Rose has struggled to start the season, and he faced a punishing Pacers defense on Wednesday.
The Chicago Bulls squared off with the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, because that's what you do in a field house. After a mutual showcase of tough defense and terrible offense from both sides, the Pacers came away with a gritty 97-80 victory. They remained the league's only unbeaten team, and it's the first time since joining the NBA that they have started 5-0.
Meanwhile, Chicago plummeted to 1-3.
The Bulls went running in the second quarter, outscoring the Pacers 14-2 in the first six-and-a-half minutes with Indy shooting 1-of-12 from the field. Then the Pacers "erupted" for 10 more points and trailed 43-37 at the break. Jimmy Butler was held without a field goal in the first half, and Joakim Noah never found the bottom of the net.
The offensive woes transferred teams at the half, and the Bulls got an awful start to the third quarter. Indy opened up a 19-8 run as Chicago missed 12 of its first 14 shots in that frame. The Bulls pulled closer and even managed a 69-67 lead with under seven minutes remaining in the game.
That's when the Pacers, who struggled from the field all night long, busted out a devastating 10-0 run courtesy of Lance Stephenson and Luis Scola of all people. Things got completely out of hand for Chicago from there, as they fell by 17.
The savvy veteran Scola left his imprint on the game with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. George Hill did not dress for Indiana due to a sore hip, so former Bull C.J. Watson started at point guard and scored 11 points. Roy Hibbert blocked five shots in the game as Chicago could not solve Indy's D, finishing with a 35.6 shooting percentage.
The Bulls also got out-rebounded 52-40 and outscored 28-14 in the paint, not to mention their 17 turnovers.
Read on for grades and analysis on the entire Bulls rotation.
Derrick Rose has been on the schneid to start the year. Through three games, he was shooting 28.8 percent and had committed 17 turnovers. Obviously, his shooting touch and decision making did not heal as quickly as his knee.
He got off to a fast start on Wednesday night, draining his first three shots for seven points in the first four minutes. He totaled a dozen points by halftime on 5-of-9 shooting, which was pretty encouraging. Shockingly, though, he was held without an assist until the fourth quarter.
D-Rose finished with 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting, meaning he missed nine of his final 12 field-goal attempts. He tallied just two assists and coughed up four turnovers as his struggles continued.
This was a decent showing for Rose, but he is still miles away from his MVP-caliber form. His uncanny vision and ability to improvise on the fly are visibly rusty, and he will need a couple of weeks to acclimate himself.
I've finally figured out what Jimmy Butler's hair will look like if he grows it out: Sideshow Cecil's from The Simpsons.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks. Butler failed to make much of an offensive impact and didn't have a field goal until the third quarter. He scored seven points on the night, plus four boards, one assist, one steal, one block and three turnovers.
In his defense, the Pacers are pretty tough to play against, so don't fret just yet. While Butler still has some recognition issues and could work on his passing, among other things, he possesses sky-high potential and could make a big step this season.
Luol Deng scored 10 points in the first half and was one of the few Bulls starters to make an impact on offense. But Deng struggled mightily to find his shooting touch, as did almost every player on the floor.
The Pacers are diligent about contesting virtually every jump shot, and nothing came easy for Chicago. Though Deng finished with 17 points, tied for a team high with Derrick Rose, he shot poorly on the evening, going 6-of-18 from the floor. He managed just three rebounds and lost a turnover.
Though Deng was one of the better players for the Bulls in this tough contest, they needed so much more from him. Deng looked overmatched inside against the stout Pacers.
Carlos Boozer was like a ghost for much of the game. He collected his fair share of defensive rebounds, but he failed to leave his mark on any other facet of the contest. In fact, he had his shot blocked a stunning four times on Wednesday night. Where's the hops?
Boozer finished with six points on 3-of-10 shooting, plus nine rebounds and an assist. It was a precipitous drop-off for the Booze Cruise, who had been averaging 22.3 points on 65.9 percent shooting through three games.
Every time I see Boozer shoot a jumper, I wonder how any of them ever go in. This was one of those nights where I didn't have to wonder very often.
In Chicago's first three games, Joakim Noah averaged six points a night on 7-of-22 from the field, a dismal start as he returns from a groin injury. He didn't look much better on offense Wednesday, facing Indiana's bruising frontcourt.
Noah was held without a field goal for the entire game but still brought his familiar brand of feisty defense and rebounding. He anchored a defense that held Indiana to 41.9 percent shooting, but things completely unraveled for Chicago over the final seven minutes.
Noah ended up with four points on 4-of-4 from the foul line and missed both his shot attempts. He corralled eight rebounds (four offensive) and even dished four assists. Noah added a steal and a block, but countered those with a pair of turnovers. He is another player who looks to be shy of 100 percent, but hopefully the Bulls' woes will get ironed out over the next couple of weeks as key players continue to heal.
Taj Gibson is awesome!
The Bulls bench actually played fairly well and contributed 29 points in total.
Kirk Hinrich was called upon for big minutes and was quietly effective, as usual. In just over a half-hour on the court, Hinrich tallied 12 points on 3-of-5 from the floor, plus five dimes, three rebounds and a block.
Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed were summoned off the bench to help match the Pacers' physicality. Mohammed contributed nothing of note stat-wise, but Gibson turned in an efficient all-around night. He finished with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting, plus six boards (three offensive), an assist and two blocked shots.
Mike Dunleavy is a significant downgrade from Jimmy Butler, but they did about equally well on Wednesday night due to a disappointing showing from Jimmy Buckets. Dunleavy had six points on 2-of-6 shooting with three rebounds. The Bulls will need his perimeter shooting all season long.
Mike James, Marquis Teague, Tony Snell and Erik Murphy saw about a minute of action each to close out the disappointing loss.
The Bulls will look to get healthy at home when they take on the Utah Jazz on Friday night.