Chicago Bulls: What Went Right and Wrong in Their First NBA Game of 2011

Bob Bajek@bobbajekAnalyst IIIDecember 26, 2011

Chicago Bulls: What Went Right and Wrong in Their First NBA Game of 2011

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    The Chicago Bulls beat the Los Angeles Lakers 88-87 Christmas Day in a game that had some things go right and some go wrong in their opening contest of the abbreviated NBA season.

    While the Bulls had a nice come-from-behind victory, they could have avoided that situation in the first place.

    An analysis of the good and bad is just a few clicks away.

What Went Right: Chicago Bulls SF Luol Deng

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    The Chicago Bulls need small forward Luol Deng to deliver if they are to win a championship.

    What Deng did against the Los Angeles Lakers was play like a boss in the fourth quarter.

    Deng—who had 21 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists—had nine points in the final minutes.

    When the Bulls were down 87-81 with less than a minute left, Deng drove to the basket and scored a three-point play. Deng then got a defensive rebound and was fouled by Kobe Bryant.

    Deng hit both free throws and stole the ball from Bryant off a trap.

    After Derrick Rose hit the go-ahead jumper, Deng finished off Bryant with a blocked shot as time expired.

What Went Wrong: Chicago Bulls' Post Defense

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    While the Bulls allowed 87 points to the Lakers, they did not have good post defense.

    The Lakers were able to bypass the Bulls' zone defense in the paint for most of the game, shooting 17-of-22 in the paint.

    The Bulls also were slow in recognizing when the Lakers were sending cutters to the basket, resulting in easy dunks for LA.

    Kobe Bryant was 4-of-5 in the paint while Pau Gasol was 5-of-6.

What Went Right: Chicago Bulls' Bench Mob Produced

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    Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn't take long to dip into the reserves against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    He had Derrick Rose rest significant minutes in the first half to keep him fresh for the stretch.

    Shooting guard Richard Hamilton struggled with foul trouble all night, including committing two quick fouls into the opening minutes.

    So C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer stepped onto the court and produced. Overall, the Bench Mob had 18 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and four steals.

    Watson provided six points, two steals and two assists in 13 minutes while providing better ball movement that was lacking early on. He was instrumental in leading the Bulls on a 12-2 first-quarter run that ended with Chicago up 22-20.

    Brewer collected six points and grabbed three rebounds.

    Backup center Omer Asik did not shoot well (1-of-5), but he provided solid post defense while nabbing eight rebounds.

What Went Wrong: Chicago Bulls' Rebounding

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    Rebounding should be a strength for the Chicago Bulls this season as Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah each could average over 10 boards a night.

    However, the Los Angeles Lakers did a better job on the glass than the Bulls even without center Andrew Bynum.

    The Lakers out-rebounded the Bulls 42-41 as no Bull had double figures.

    Early in the contest, the Bulls could not get loose balls even though Chicago players could tip the ball. The loose ball landed into the Lakers' hands and they had many possessions with two or more chances to score.

    The Lakers on one second-quarter possession had two offensive rebounds and eventually scored on a Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) layup.

    On the offensive side, the Bulls did have 16 offensive boards to the Lakers' 12, but the they didn't get more rebounds until the fourth quarter.

What Went Right: Chicago Bulls' 3-Point Shooting

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    The Chicago Bulls did a good job beyond the arc by draining 7-of-15 three-pointers against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Derrick Rose, who shot 33.2 percent from three last year, worked on his shot very hard during the offseason to make that a strength. Rose hit 4-of-5 threes, both on catch-and-shoots and off screens.

    C.J. Watson was 2-of-3 while Luol Deng also hit one.

    When the Bulls are on from downtown, they are really hard to beat.

What Went Wrong: Chicago Bulls Had Sloppy Ball-Handling/Passing

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    The Chicago Bulls did have 21 assists against the Los Angeles Lakers, but they also had some sloppy turnovers and missed offensive opportunities.

    In the first 14 minutes, the Bulls already had six turnovers with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah both having off-the-ball fouls. The Bulls ended up with 14 total.

    Derrick Rose charged the Lakers' Derek Fisher on a fast break instead of passing back to an open Luol Deng. The Bulls had other fast-break opportunities where they were trying to quickly push the ball up court and over-passed their teammates.

    The worst turnover came in the fourth quarter with 1:11 remaining. The Lakers' Josh McRoberts missed both free throws as the Lakers led 85-81 and Noah went after the ball. However, the ball hit Noah on his knee and the Lakers maintained possession.

    Omer Asik also turned the ball over in the post in the first quarter instead of driving to the basket.

What Went Right: Chicago Bulls Didn't Lose Composure After Falling Behind

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    The Los Angeles Lakers jumped ahead of the Chicago Bulls 18-10 in the first quarter as Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were shredding the Bulls both inside and outside.

    The Bulls promptly went on a 12-2 run to claim the lead and maintained most of it until the fourth quarter.

    The Lakers then outscored the Bulls on a 13-2 run to make it 82-70 Los Angeles with less than four minutes left.

    At this point, it appeared as if the Lakers had this one in the bag. The Bulls and Derrick Rose had something else to say about it.

    Rose told his teammates that they have been in this situation before and the Bulls began to calmly chip away at the Lakers' lead.

    Even when Carlos Boozer missed 3-of-4 free throws and Joakim Noah turned the ball over during the stretch, the Bulls never panicked.

    Deng stole the ball and Rose then cut up top and nailed a right hook with 4.8 seconds left to take an 88-87 lead. Then, three Bulls swarmed Kobe Bryant on his last shot and successfully stopped him.

    The ability to come back and win a game will be something these Bulls are capable of doing to any opponent.

What Went Wrong: Chicago Bulls Shot Poorly in Second Half

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    The Chicago Bulls had a 56-49 halftime lead and appeared poised to easily handle the Los Angeles Lakers.

    But the Bulls didn't count on their smooth shooting to disappear on them.

    The Bulls were out-shot by the Lakers 40-18 percent during the initial 18 minutes of the second half. This poor shooting allowed the Lakers to outscore the Bulls 33-14.

    Chicago could not hit a shot for its life as the team bricked nine straight baskets before Carlos Boozer hit a fade-away jumper to make it 78-70 Lakers.

    A couple possessions later, the Bulls missed three inside shots after Boozer missed consecutive free throws. The Bulls eventually kicked it out to Richard Hamilton, but the shooting guard clanked another shot.

    While the Bulls won, they should be concerned with their cold stretch, as similar bad shooting streaks cost them in last year's playoffs.

    Bob Bajek is a Featured Columnist for the Chicago Bulls. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed at and Twitter.