Coming off of an encouraging win against the Lakers on Sunday afternoon, the NBA scheduling gods were not kind to the Bulls.
The Bulls had the pleasure of facing the Clippers in the same building on Monday night, and the end result was not pretty. The Clippers won 124-112 in one of the most dominant offensive performances from a Bulls opponent all season.
Their defensive principle is based on preventing teams from getting to the rim. If they can cut off drives, they can prevent easy dunks and layups since the Bulls don’t have a traditional rim protector. In order to prevent those drives from happening, they bring extra help into the paint to deter drives. At times, that can leave them susceptible to open threes as a result of spray-out passes.
The Bulls allow the third highest percentage of opponent shots from three in the entire league and 27th in the NBA in location-adjusted field goal percentage — their opponents should be much more efficient scoring the ball relative to the shots the Bulls allow.
In other words, they are benefitting from some good luck when it comes to how well their opponents shoot the ball.
Despite giving up a lot of threes, the Bulls do a good job getting out to contest. They’re willing to bet on their ability to help, recover, rotate and scramble, and for the most part, they have hit on that gamble. They’re fifth in the NBA in defense after all.
That was not the case against the Clippers on Monday night.
The Clippers shot 20-for-40 from deep, and pushed the lead up to 25, completely demoralizing the Bulls.
Clippers forward Nic Batum had eight made three-pointers. The Bulls had nine.
Part of the reason the scoring got so out of hand is because of how well the Clippers pressured the rim. Whether it was off of makes, misses or steals, the Clippers got out in transition and got to the rim before the Bulls defense could get set. From there, they whipped passes out to the perimeter and the rest was history.
The Bulls’ formula to compensate by their lack of shooting by winning the free throw and turnover battle while preventing second-chance points on offensive rebounds.
Even though they scored the ball well, 112 points on 53.7 percent shooting, the three-point shot can overpower them all. And it’s why Arturas Karnisovas’ post-trade deadline argument that the Bulls shoot a high percentage on threes doesn’t carry water.
Watching the way the deep ball demoralized the Bulls, it’s clear the Bulls need to add that kind of variance to their offensive arsenal this offseason. As the Bulls’ deficit grew, they began shooting more threes to get back in the game, and because they lack the shooting firepower to get away with that, their scoring suffered.
As well as the Bulls have played of late, this game is a reminder that they are still an imperfect team.
Play In Update
Despite an ugly loss, the Bulls remain in the 10th seed, but are now a full game behind both the Hawks in ninth and the Raptors in eighth.
Bulls return home after going 2-1 on their three game road trip for a rematch against the Lakers on Wednesday