Monday, May 14, 2007

Staying Alive

Well, that was a stupid title. Now I'm going to have a disco song stuck in my head the rest of the day. If you do too, I apologize. Nevertheless, it is what the Bulls were doing on Sunday. The Bulls are still almost certain to lose the series, probably in game five in Detroit. Still, it was nice to get a win.

The Bulls once again built a big lead, more than 20 points this time, but unlike Thursday, they held on to win yesterday. I can identify three differences between Thursday's game and yesterday's. First, Skiles actually called a time out early enough to slow Detroit's roll at a crucial moment. Second, Skiles inserted a fresh Tyrus Thomas into the line-up at a key time, and the rookie brought energy and fearlessness to the floor. And, third, the Red Head stayed awake. The Red Head, Official Wife of the Fan Club, fell asleep Thursday with the Bulls up by 19. Yesterday, she made it through the game. You tell me if you see the difference.

Anyway, a correction from my post about game three. The Official Father of the Fan Club -- it's family week here, apparently -- reminded me that it was Greg Anthony, and not Anderson Hunt, who had the testicular fortitude to keep taking shots against Duke in 1991. Hunt froze up as bad as Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon. That's why it was so devastating when Anthony fouled out. Also, my friend Eisy would like me to clarify that Grant Hill wasn't really a bust as a pro, he was just injury prone. The point remains, however, that he was a better college player than pro player. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Chicago Sports Blog.

Hubie Brown yesterday, in a rare moment of lucidity, called the Bulls' guards out for over-passing, leading to too many turnovers. He mentioned it while Detroit was making a run, and I pointed to the same problem as a big part of the reason why the Bulls blew their lead in game three. The Bulls are a ball movement team, so it's tough for Skiles to criticize his players for passing too much. However, all series the Bulls, especially Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon, have been prone to take tough passes over easy shots. It shows in the turnover numbers, and it cost the team game three.

Luol Deng has been the one fearless guy this series, and has reinforced my belief that he is on the verge of joining the league's elite. For everyone clamoring for a post scorer who can demand a double team, Deng will be that guy soon. Keep in mind that Michael Jordan was that guy when the Bulls won six titles. It doesn't have to be a power forward or center, it just has to be a guy who creates a mismatch. Deng, with his long arms and increasing strength and knowledge of how to use his body, is becoming a mismatch for small forwards on the block. And he's too quick for a power forward. Throw in smart passing out of double teams, and you have your mismatch guy. Starting next season, the Bulls offense in the half court should probably flow through Deng first and foremost. And when they need to create a good, quality shot, the ball should go to Deng on the block.

Anyway, he got some help finally last night in the form of Tyrus Thomas. Thomas had 8 points, 4 rebounds and a block in 9 fourth quarter minutes. He actually led the team in 4th quarter shot attempts. Thomas has actually been the Bulls' most aggressive player this post-season. Usage measures the number of possessions a player "uses" per 40 minutes. A player "uses" a possession if he attempts a shot or free throws, or makes an assist or turnover. Thomas's 26.3 per 40 minutes leads the Bulls. Deng and Gordon are next at 23.0 and 22.8 respectively. Obviously, usage isn't necessarily a good thing. Missed shots and turnovers are uses of a possession. But in a series in which the Bulls have been too passive, Thomas's aggressiveness serves a purpose. I hope he gets more minutes in game five. Skiles should put him in whenever the Bulls show signs of being scared or passive.

One final note: my friend Purd thinks Hinrich intentionally punched Flip Murray in the ball-sackal region on Murray's facial of Captain Kirk. To examine the evidence, go here. I think he flailed wildly and happened to "pick a peach," as Purd put it. Purd believes the most damning evidence is around the 20 second mark of the footage. What do you guys think?


Blogger Phil said...

I'm pretty sure it's a punch, but I'm not ready to call it a ball-shot.

9:18 PM  

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