Coming into Toronto, the Chicago Bulls had won 6 in a row, including the last 2 games by an average of 25 points, they have the third best record in the East, and have one of the best defenses in the league, anchored by one of the league’s premier defensive big man. They are also the best rebounding team in the league. Oh, and they not only have on of the best PGs in the league, in Derrick Rose, but one of the best players.
The Raptors, on the other hand, are 3-7 in their last ten, having given up 110.2 ppg in those ten games, stopping only Oklahoma from beating their season ppg average, and have been outrebounded by their opponents since Reggie Evans was injured. And while they are in the top ten in scoring, they are actually a pretty mediocre offensive team that doesn’t have much of an ability to create for themselves, are below average passing the ball, and are near the bottom in three point shooting. Oh, and they’re currently missing their two best offensive players, in Calderon and Bargnani.
So on the surface, things looked pretty bad for the Raptors. And I haven’t mentioned that they were trotting out the youngest starting lineup in Raptor history, at an average age of 22 years, with Weems, at 24, being the senior of the group. Conversely, Derrick Rose, at 22 years, is the only Bull starter UNDER the age of Weems’ 24 years, Boozer is 29 and Keith Bogans in 30. Of the Raptors starters, only Amir Johnson has played more seasons than the least experienced Bulls starter, Rose. And Rose has played nearly twice as many minutes as Amir has.
Am I starting to paint you a clear enough picture?
So this game pretty much turned out as expected. Fortunately, even in bad losses, there are things that can be learned. And they are…
1. Jerryd Bayless is NOT a PG (and neither is Leandro Barbosa, for that matter). Looking at the stats, you might think that Bayless had a good game. He scored 20 points, on 9-15 shooting, had only 1 turnover, and held Derrick Rose 18 points BELOW his seasonal average of 24.7 ppg. This would be great if he also did what a PG is supposed to do.
Unfortunately, without the much maligned Jose Calderon available, Bayless was expected to run the offense. And he can’t do that. Chicago plays great defense, but it certainly didn’t help that Bayless doesn’t have a clue of how to run and offense and deliver the ball where it’s supposed to go. If this game doesn’t underline why I have always said that Calderon should be starting, I don’t know what will.
The big problem with trying to convert a SG into a PG is that running and offense and making your teammates better is mostly instinctual. It takes YEARS of playing that position to understand what needs to be done. It’s why I was so against drafting Avery Bradley at 13 in the last draft. He’s a talented players, but I doubt he’ll ever be a PG.
This game showed that, at this point, anyway, Bayless is a good player, but should never start.
2. Chicago is a very, very good team. This is the first game I’ve watched of them play since Boozer returned from injury and it reinforced why he is so important to this team. Taj Gibson is a good, young big man, but he’s not the low post threat that Boozer is, and is not the veteran Boozer is. Boozer’s in his 9th season, has played in 4 playoff series, including a trip to the Conference Finals, and has even played in 2 All Star games. He’s not a great defender, but he at least knows what to do on that end of the court, even if he’s not the most willing.
The two main reasons the Bulls are so good: Derrick Rose and their defense. Despite only scoring 6 points, Rose killed the Raptors with his playmaking. And the Bulls play such good defense, even if Bargnani and Calderon had played, the Raptors would still have had trouble scoring.
Chicago has an easy schedule ahead, which is a good thing because it appears Joakim Noah will be getting surgery on his injured hand and be out for a while. Hopefully, for Chicago, it’s not too long.
3. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson form a formidable defensive front line, but neither one of them should ever be asked to be the primary scorer. Without Bargnani, I was hoping to see what I feel is a more balanced front line, but early foul trouble from Amir killed that chance, and he only ended up playing 20 minutes. Joey Dorsey had a career night, in his place, but the problem with Dorsey is that, while he’s an excellent rebounder, good shot blocker and pretty good low post scorer, he’s not really much of a defender. He’s not Bargnani-bad, but there’s certainly a reason he doesn’t play a lot of minutes. And this is a problem I’ve noticed long before the game against Chicago.
Now, both Davis and Amir can be very effective and efficient scorers, but score mostly off offensive rebounds and passes from teammates. Unfortunately against the best rebounding team in the NBA, there’s not going to be a lot of second chance points, and without a true PG, there aren’t going to be many good passes inside.
On the plus side, Davis got his first ever double double, but did learn that he has to get a lot stronger to be able to defend guys like Boozer in the post.