Any Bulls fan (or other informed consumer of NBA action) who has watched the first four games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals will probably agree that there are at least three big reasons why Derrick and the Dominos have not looked like the NBA Champions. Yet. Because we all know that even in these same three tough wins over and one tough loss to the Pacers, we have witnessed three very similar reasons why the Bulls will still soon be getting fitted for a new set of rings.
The quality of team defense is tough to judge statistically, but the 2011 opponent field goal percentage mark against the Pacers is fifth in the league. That fits with four of six Bulls title-winners that were among the top five. There are plenty of metrics out there for the mathematically inclined, but watching the games it’s clear at least two things have to change in order to stop those long runs of jumper after jumper. First, the Bulls need to re-energize their pick and roll defense. Second, Carlos Boozer has to try.
But have Bulls fans (and MVP voters) turned a blind eye to a couple weaknesses in Derrick’s game? I have to say, the notion that the new Bulls will need to lose this year before conquering the Finals, a la most every recent champ, is supported by D Rose’s turnovers and shot selection.
Derrick’s three turnovers and the team’s 13 in Game 4 were series lows, but still too costly. The Bulls’ NBA-high turnover rate in the postseason is all the more troubling considering the bad shot selection, which effectively just causes more turnovers. In Game 4, the Bulls were three for 20 from three-point range. That’s pretty terrible. Derrick made one, but shot from deep nine times. Nine times? Nine times. Kyle Korver took only two. Whaddup with that?
The Bulls bench is carrying a collective -29 point differential over the first four. And they were actually +27 in the first game, meaning in the last three they are -56 as a group. Ouch.
That X-factor guy hasn’t turned up yet (Omer Asik hasn’t even scored in the playoffs yet!). Thibs made extensive use of his bench this season, and the fans have seen what the second unit can do. We can’t always lose ground when No. 1, No. 5, No. 9, and No. 13 dot the bench.
There has been one bright spot though: Kyle Korver, the only reserve to score in double figures. He’s also already made two huge late threes, including the heart-stopping game-winner in the opener. The sharpshooter is on point. His role-playing brethren need to step it up too.