My Tivo flipped out Friday night so I missed the Warriors game (some kind of running Clipperblog theme it seems) - judging from the box score this was for the best, and naturally I was concerned.  Would we continue our charity drive for the league’s hapless by donating a W to the 1-6 Bulls?  

In our previous meeting, we looked sharp and closed them out nicely in crunch time.  While the lead that night was Mobley’s beastly game, and Kaman’s finish, Maggette was huge for us on both ends of the floor (ominous foreshadowing).  We also held Gordon and Hinrich to a combined 10-28 from the floor.  At the time we considered this a “quality road win against a good team”.   Despite showing some signs of life against PHX, Skiles must be going out of his mind and his team is in disarray.   We are sputtering and need this one.

Down 1 Maggette (hamstring) and 1 Thornton (ankle), here we go…

Q1 - Yikes

  • Lolz… oh yeah, right! It’s still early and records are meaningless – so these are the guys everyone was picking to at least get to the Conference Finals.  Gordon looks incredibly sharp. 
  • Clipper Post Game – in absentia.  Bulls doing a nice job of clogging up the middle and throwing double teams at Kaman.  The few times we move Mobley to the post, Hinrich does a good job against him or gets help.
  • Clipper Running Game – looks like our feet are in mud.
  • We’re really missing both Maggette and Thornton to an extent (who hit some big 3s for us in the last meeting) on both ends of the floor.  Without them, we have zero athleticism on the floor save…
  • Ruben Patterson – I was higher on the Ruben signing than Kevin… but I’m starting to think he’s a showy defender who gambles too much, and also, clearly, has no offensive game in the half court or transition.  If he gets the ball on the low block, holds it, and starts dribbling there is a 99% chance the result is a turnover or blocked shot.  Ditto him leading a fast-break.  Oh, and he is just an awful interior passer.
  • If Chicago makes more free throws we’re down by 30 or so… this was an ugly quarter – 29-16 in favor of the Bulls.

And, to me, that was all she wrote. 

Despite a flurry of Tim Thomas 3s to close the 2nd half (bringing us to within 9), and a nice offensive surge to close the 3rd (11-0 run bringing us to 7) the Bulls responded and stayed within themselves.  What we did right to get the game close was not “Clipper basketball”, it was a combination of sloppy Bulls play and a shooting aberration.  We couldn’t solve the Bulls defensive game plan (basically clog the middle), and with Mobley contained, our only consistent offensive threats are Chris and Cassell.  This was a game, undermanned against a young athletic team, we needed to control pace and limit possessions - we gave up too many offensive boards to a decrepit Ben Wallace, and they just ran us off the floor.

If Kirk Hinrich hadn’t magically forgotten how to shoot the ball, we would never have been in this game.

Couple other points: 

  • Maggette – his absence is especially noticeable tonight.  We needed his athleticism (he had 10 boards last time we met), his ability to slash, create lanes and looks, and his perimeter shooting.  And both he and Thornton are key components to any semblance of a successful “Clipper running game”.
  • Kaman – if it’s not obvious by now, we have an All-Star center on this team.  The difference from last year to now is striking.  (This was a man, on this blog, I labeled a “a total headcase” largely due to his inexplicable spaz outs on the offense, or his blowing rotations on the defense.)  Tonight wasn't his best game, but watching him emerge is truly a joy.  My favorite moment was with a couple minutes left in the 3rd quarter- Kaman grabs an offensive board in traffic, doesn’t hesitate and puts it right back up, soft left hook shot, swish.  Last year, Chris either puts it on the floor and gets stripped, or throws it back out.
  • Flagrant Fouls – Clipperblog does not approve of the “if they hit me, I hit back” mindset during a professional basketball game.