Derrick Rose’s off-the-ball defense has been a source of consternation for Chicago for several years now. On Saturday, his inattention to defensive detail was showcased in inglorious fashion.
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Take a look:
That’s Rose, Chicago’s late-game offensive hero during the team’s Game 4 performance against the Milwaukee Bucks, giving up the game-winning layup to Bucks veteran Jerryd Bayless at the final buzzer. Rose lost Bayless as Chicago’s eyes were drawn elsewhere (mostly as Rose spied lights-out MKE shooter Khris Middleton), and Milwaukee extended its season with a 92-90 win. Chicago still owns the 3-1 series advantage, but the group is no doubt exasperated at its inability to run a consistent, series-clinching formation on either end.
Had Chicago won the perpetually injury-plagued Bulls could have soaked in a week off in anticipation of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but instead the team will have to schlep back to Chicago to attempt a Game 5 win over the defensive-minded Bucks. Milwaukee rode its ability to cause turnovers and delay possessions into an impressive victory that elongated what has already been a remarkable season for the team that ended 2013-14 with the NBA’s worst record.
Chicago looked a step slow all night as Milwaukee communicated expertly on the defensive end and forced the Bulls into an astounding 28 turnovers. Rose contributed eight of those miscues, but the Bulls still managed a halftime tie on the back of Jimmy Butler’s 23 first-half points.
Butler cooled off somewhat in the second half, scoring ten points as Milwaukee continued to take Chicago out of its hoped-for spots offensively. The Chicago Bulls coaching staff seemed to have no answer as Milwaukee disrupted the Bulls’ sets, as second-year Bucks coach Jason Kidd turned in a fantastic performance that left the Chicago Bulls coaching staff relying on isolation play and desperate late-game makes just to stay competitive. The fact that Chicago was beaten on an expert out-of-bounds call by Kidd (with Bulls 34-year-old reserve Kirk Hinrich oddly put into the game by the Chicago Bulls coaching staff after sitting out the game’s first 47 minutes) was telling.
The Bulls coaching staff ignored scads of data telling the team that forward Nikola Mirotic (who returned after a one game injury absence) plays far better at power forward, forcing him into a swingman position against a quicker Bucks lineup that turned the rookie into a turnover and miss machine. Joakim Noah was once again revealed to be a shell of his former self due to injury, and yet he still logged 30 minutes and a team-worst -23 plus/minus. The Bulls again walked into their offensive sets, with the team’s coaching staff again failing to realize that initiating an offensive possession with 10 seconds left on the shot clock plays directly into the hands of what was the second-best defensive team in the NBA this season.
The Milwaukee coaching staff countered these missteps by making the swift and somewhat severe decision to bench recent addition Michael Carter-Williams down the stretch of Game 4. The second-year guard lost minutes to Bayless, who played solid enough defense and moved enough offensively to turn his teammates into off-the-ball threats – the opposite of what Chicago was working within the staid and predictable offense as encouraged by the Chicago Bulls coaching staff.
O.J. Mayo emerged off of the Milwaukee pine to drop in 18 points on just 11 shots, Jared Dudley was allowed to roam both offensively (for quick, efficient scoring hits) and defensively (off of Joakim Noah, who is not an offensive threat) as the Chicago Bulls coaching staff whiffed on its chances to sustain Jimmy Butler’s ability to remain an offensive threat of his own following a knockout first half.
Of course, this loss wasn’t the fault of the Chicago Bulls’ coaching staff.
Milwaukee has acted as a forward-thinking, knockout defensive team all season. Despite several Game 3 meltdowns in Chicago’s comeback win, Jason Kidd has done an excellent job with his rotations, minutes allotment, play calling, and overall composure as he metes out his complaints with officials while mixing sound direction with trusting confidence in the five he’s fielding. Chicago was one Derrick Rose misstep …
… away from heading into overtime with the dials moved back to “tie” and a five-minute window to win, and the team will have two more chances at home and one more chance in front of a nearly pro-Chicago crowd in Milwaukee to end the Bucks’ season.
Downing Milwaukee in the first round is not the point, however. This Bulls team was constructed to play better than the sum of its parts, and for the entirety of 2014-15 (for reasons that go beyond bad luck and injury) it has failed to. Chicago could and should move on in a few days, but that’s cold comfort in the face of what has been 86 mostly-wasted games of preparation, as the team readies to face a LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers squad that they knew back in July would be standing in its championship way.
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