On the opening weekend of the 2014 NBA Playoffs five out of eight teams lost game one on their home court. The only teams to take care of business at home are the league's only true title contenders -- the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
One team in particular is showered with praise due to their grit and tough defense but is clearly not ready for prime time – the Chicago Bulls.
Chicago does deserve praise for soldiering on for the second straight season without its best player, Derrick Rose, in addition to losing its second best player for many years, Luol Deng, in a salary dump.
For a team with one true All-Star on its current roster (Joakim Noah) to be the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference is admirable and a testament to the brilliant coaching of Tom Thibodeau.
However, Coach Thibodeau is not without fault. The Bulls squandered a 13-point lead in the second half of game one and wound up falling to the Wizards 102-93 at the United Center.
"Our defense wasn't very good,” Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau said. "102 points, 48 percent [shooting], out-rebounded. It's hard to win like that."
It sure is, coach.
The Bulls’ defense was very un-Bulls like. In the regular season Chicago had the stingiest defense in the entire league, allowing an average of 91.8 points per game. To give up 102 to the Washington Wizards is unacceptable.
While Chicago’s defense does need to tighten up, its offense need help and fast. The Bulls were the worst scoring team in the NBA all season long scoring 93.7 points per contest. Tom Thibodeau has a habit of benching his better offensive players in the fourth quarter when points are needed most in favor of defensive players that can get stops.
Reserve forward Taj Gibson leads the entire NBA in fourth quarter minutes played, much to the chagrin of starting power forward Carlos Boozer.
Boozer’s offense was much needed against the Wizards late in game 1 -- the team just couldn’t score. An often-used lineup of D.J. Augustin, Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah played the entire fourth quarter for Chicago. Augustin is the only offensive option in that quintet and he was ice cold.
The slight Augustin was a miserable 3-15 from the floor and was thoroughly abused by Wizards back up point guard Andre Miller.
Why wouldn’t Thibodeau put the defensive-minded Hinrich on Miller? It may have made the outcome different in game one.
The Bulls are a team that has been prone to scoring lapses all season, so their anemic output in game one was not surprising. However, late in the fourth quarter with 34 seconds remaining and the team down six points Thibodeau trotted out the same lineup that struggled to score for the entire quarter.
Tom Thibodeau only trusts certain players and that’s who you’ll see on the court at the end of games. It doesn’t matter if they’re offensively inept, if they can play defense they’ll be out there in crunch time.
This philosophy is why four years ago Keith Bogans was awarded the starting job as shooting guard next to Derrick Rose. One has to wonder if Carlos Boozer would even play at all if he weren’t being paid such a hefty contract.
I realize that Thibodeau likes defensive players but it wasn’t like the team on the court was playing lock down D. The Bulls needed scoring and some of their best scorers were riding the pine with the game on the line. Playing guys who can’t score is okay in the regular season, not in the playoffs, Tom.