Drink: NB Rob Roy (and not nearly enough of them)
Oh boy. The Toronto Raptors had one less win (15) than the Bulls had losses (16) going into this one. The Bulls are better at every starting position than the Raptors, save Bogans because, well, every NBA team is better in that position. The Bulls traded a player (James Johnson) to the Raptors who did not get any playing time with Chicago, and he started this game for the Raptors. The Raptors are a disaster of an organization right now. With that said, let’s see how this one went down. A blowout was a formality, right?
It was Joakim Noah’s first game back, and it was hardly expected that the big man was going to seamlessly fit back in after missing 30 games. Everything went as one might have predicted on that front. Noah was out of place in every aspect of the game, save rebounding. Noah and the Bulls played horrible defense in this one, particularly, their rotation defense was wretched. While Noah was in there, much of this could be blamed on his prolonged absence and a lack of familiarity on rotation. However, when he was not in there, another problem reared its head.
My biggest worry with Noah coming back had little to do with the man himself. Joakim Noah is a high energy, hard hitting player. Little of his game has to do with touch. As such, I have no doubt he will be back to his best after he gets some reps under his belt.
My larger concern had to do with how Tom Thibodeau was going to handle the backup center spot during games. Omer Asik and Kurt Thomas are both defensive big men with limited offensive abilities. Yet, their defensive strengths are much different. Thomas is a stationary defender, well situated at defending a traditional post-up center. Aisk is a much more athletic defender, who is great on help or rotation defense.
Thibs loves to stick to veterans and is not one to tinker much with line-ups (Exhibit A: Keith Bogans). This made me very concerned that with Danny Glover starting in Noah’s stead, he would then become the default center to sub in, regardless of the match-up against the opposing team. Wella, wella, guess who came in against a Raptors’ team that has nothing representing a true center? None other than one Kurt “I’m too old for this shit” Thomas! Andrea Bargnani played just under 42 minutes at the center position in this game. Bargnani is a called a “center” because you have to call the biggest player you start on the court a “center.” In reality, Bargnani would much rather shoot jumpers than post up and would really not like to have much to do with rebounding.
Omer Asik did not play a single minute in this game. A game he was tailor made to play. Kurt Thomas was completely lost in this game. He served no purpose at all. In a game where Noah looked slow and was out of place due to the slashing offense Toronto was running, Thibs subbed in a healthy version who played the same way.
This whole conundrum defined much of the game. The Raptors had their way with the lane. In addition to this, Toronto shot very well tonight (58% from the field). The Bulls played horrible rotation defense, which made the interior a mess for the Raptors to take advantage of. Rose attempted to take the game on his shoulders in the fourth, but his effort came up short. All in all, it was a spectacularly ugly display of ugly ugliness that was rather ugly.
The Bulls have played to the level of their competition often this season. Hopefully this is the case with this effort, as tomorrow the Bulls host the Miami Heat. And what do you know, the Heat also lack a traditional center. Will the ignorance of Thibs have him continuing to go with a lead-footed KT or will he wise-up and give the young Turk some playing time?