Friday, April 27, 2007

The Bulls, Too, Are Who We Thought They Were

As the Bulls and Heat gear up for game three tonight in Miami, I've been hearing a lot of people talk about why the Bulls can't sustain what they've been doing. Some of these arguments are wishcasting. The last time the Heat were down 2-0 they came back to beat the Mavs for the NBA title. Who cares? Among many other variables, Dwayne Wade was healthy then. The last time the Bulls were up 2-0 they blew the series to the Washington Wizards. And, all of four players from that team will suit up tonight. These arguments tell us nothing more than that, yes, teams do sometimes overcome 2-0 deficits.

Some of the other arguments have more of a ring of truth. Except they're wrong. The most common argument is that the Bulls are too perimeter oriented to remain consistent on offense. Over the course of the year, the Bulls took 68% of their attempts as jump shots. In comparison, their opponents took a minuscule 66% of their attempts as jump shots. Wait a second. That's almost exactly the same. Yeah, but the heat only took 63% of their attempts as jump shots. Oh, that's almost the same too. I hate when facts interfere with a perfectly good rationalization. Based on the rate the two teams play at, and their turnover percentages, we can expect each team to take about 77 shot attempts a game. For the Heat, 48 of those 77 can expected to be jump shots. For the Bulls, 52 of those 77 attempts can be expected to be jump shots. In other words, the perimeter oriented team takes on average one more jump shot per quarter than its opponent. The Bulls have been a little more perimeter oriented so far in this series, but don't let two games fool you Heat fans, they're taking jumpers because its working, not because they have to.

Well, say Heat apologists, perimeter oriented or not, there's no way the Bulls stay as hot as they have been. Well, this is interesting. The Bulls have been "hot" in the playoffs. In reality, the Bulls won one game in which they shot poorly, and torched Miami in one game when they got hot. But to give the argument the benefit of the doubt, we'll instead pretend that the Bulls have been consistently hot. So far in the playoffs, the Bulls have .531 effective field goal percentage (e%) from the floor, including .513 e% on jump shots. That is a step up from the team's .493 e% in the regular season (.462 e% on jumpers). But this is not blind luck. The Bulls have been getting more open shots in the postseason than they did in the regular season because their ball movement has improved. 60% of the team's regular season baskets were assisted, 65% of its made jumpers. In the postseason, a shocking 71% of its made baskets have been assisted, 74% of its outside jumpers. Yes, the Bulls are making a lot of baskets, but they're doing so because they're moving the ball around and getting wide open looks. If the Heat continue to look a step slow getting to jump shooters, and the Bulls continue getting the ball to guys when they're open, there's no reason the Bulls can't continue to light Miami up.

I'm not saying the Bulls will beat Miami in game three the way they did in game two. I wouldn't be surprised if Miami wins tonight. I wouldn't be surprised if the series comes back to Chicago. Given the chance involved in a short series, I wouldn't even be shocked if the Heat come all the way back to win it. But the Bulls aren't up 2-0 because they've been lucky. The Bulls have merely done what they've done all year: move the ball, get good looks, knock them down. They made a lot of jumpers all year, most of which were assisted. They're doing the same thing in the playoffs. The Bulls are who we thought they were, and that's a better team than this year's Miami Heat.


Anonymous JD said...

Good luck tonight! Should be a great game!

3:28 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

I tend to agree Ron Karkovice fan club Prez. I think the supposed conventional wisdom is going to be blown out of the water. The Bulls are deeper and their players are tough. I think they're gonna win this one, the Heat will win 4 and then the Bulls will win Game 5. But I could be wrong......

3:34 PM  
Blogger The Whiskey Bowler said...

Good stuff. I say we take Detroit to seven games, I really do. Go Bulls.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Drone said...

Short series? It's best of seven. Otherwise, I agree.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Dat RoRo Kid said...

FUCK YOU. You're going down and so are your sorry ass Bulls.


I wish I was there to see your sorry ass pouty face when you fuckin' LOSE tonight.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Criminal Appeal said...

drone, I mean short series only in that a seven game series doesn't weed out chance to the same extent that an 82 game regular season does. believe me, i'm not advocating for longer NBA playoff series--especially if the league insists on playing one game every 4 days or so.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous iowa city hakeem said...

no witty comment, other than saying i just drunkenly stumbled across the column--great stuff, even post game 3

5:52 AM  
Blogger Todd said...

Called it. Stick a fork in the Heat. As Laker fan, I still love Shaq, but this has nothing to do with love. They're done. Stick a fork in 'em and eat 'em as a turkey dinner.

9:21 AM  

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