“We recognize we have to do a better job (defensively),” said Pau Gasol, who had 22 points and 20 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double/double. “Defensively, we are not at our best; we are not where we want to be. It’s been too up and down; teams have gotten their way too easily against us and that has to change."
Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Bulls lose to Warriors hot shooting

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By Sam Smith | 12.7.2014 | 2:15 a.m. CT

There was a lot of disappointment to go around for the Bulls Saturday in their 112-102 loss to the Golden State Warriors. There was the home record falling to 2-5 and 12-8 on the season, yielding more than 100 points for the sixth time in the last nine games and a career high for Draymond Green with 31 points and seven three pointers.

“We recognize we have to do a better job (defensively),” said Pau Gasol, who had 22 points and 20 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double/double. “Defensively, we are not at our best; we are not where we want to be. It’s been too up and down; teams have gotten their way too easily against us and that has to change.

“We definitely have to turn it around (at home),” Gasol added. “It’s becoming an issue. It’s not good to lose at home; you have to protect your home court. Your home should be a fortress. A team should be afraid of coming to play here and know they are going to have a long night. But now there is a certain level of confidence they are coming with, so we are going to have to change that quickly.”

Still, it was another exciting game, one with five ties and 15 lead changes in which the Bulls rallied from large deficits in basically every quarter and were poised and in position, trailing 87-85 on a Kirk Hinrich three with 8:38 remaining. Warriors coach Steve Kerr was hot as he called time out, getting on his team as it seemed a Bulls home domination of the Warriors, beating them 11 of the last 12 in the United Center, would continue.

But the league’s best team with a 17-2 record and first in offense and defense got a three from Klay Thompson, who then blocked a Hinrich attempt, and then another from Green as the Bulls stayed with a strategy that made sense.

They wanted to limit Stephen Curry, who scored 19 points, but six in the last 26 seconds when the Bulls were desperately fouling in an attempt to produce a miracle finish. You know the old saying, “If Draymond Green beats you, shake his hand and get onto the next game.”

“We made a conscious effort of getting Curry out of the game,” added Gasol. “But we left Green open a lot and he got going. He shot 13 threes, which is a lot of threes, most of them uncontested. So game plan should have been a little better and our collective effort trying to help each other out. But I guess if you wanted someone to beat you, I guess you wanted someone like Green to be that guy and he played well tonight.”

Klay Thompson did get 24 points, but shot nine of 23 while Jimmy Butler matched him with 24 points on eight of 17 shooting with three of six on three pointers. Overall, the Bulls were seven of 21 on threes while the Warriors were 12 of 30.

It’s difficult to either outshoot the high scoring Warriors, averaging almost 107 per game, or out run them, where the Bulls found themselves in a swimming up stream first half when they committed 14 turnovers and the Warriors had an astounding 27 fast break points.

The Bulls closed that off after halftime as Golden State had just one point from a fast break situation in the second half.

But the Warriors continued to put the Bulls in what has become a difficult matchup situation for the Bulls.

With Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, the latter who returned from missing six games with a sprained ankle, the Bulls have a front line which is the envy of the NBA.

But playing Gasol and Noah together can put them at a disadvantage against teams with versatile, good shooting power forwards, the athletic so called stretch fours of this era. It’s a tactic the Phoenix Suns used successfully when Kerr was their general manager with coach Mike D’Antoni.

Green only averages 12.5 points per game and shoots a modest 35.4 percent on three pointers. His career high coming into Saturday’s game was 24 points. He’d actually become a starter only under Kerr for his defense and with theinjury absence of former All-Star David Lee. But the way the Warriors have played, it seems unlikely the Warriors would make any changes now.

“He’s a winner and given us a new dimension with his three point shooting,” Kerr said of Green. “The Bulls are an excellent defensive team, so when you can pick and pop with your four man, it spreads the floor. That was the big difference. They had us stifled a couple of times during the game and every time he popped and hit a three it kind of loosened the game up. You don’t draw plays for a guy like Draymond; everyone in the league has a hard time guarding pick and pop fours. There’s only so much court you can cover. If you can’t stretch them (Bulls) out, they’ll squeeze you (with their size). It so happened Draymond made shots and that’s why we won.”

It’s simply a tough cover for the Bulls in trying to avoid a small ball game against a team like the Warriors. The Warriors would finish the game like that, playing the majority of the fourth quarter with Green, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights and Shaun Livingston.

The smaller lineup did a good job of spreading out the Bulls with Green scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter. Thompson and Curry combined to shoot two of 10 in the fourth quarter, and you generally win games against the Warriors when that occurs. But the Bulls couldn’t get quite enough from their big men, and with the tendency of Noah or Gibson to help and play inside, Green was able to pop out several times for big shots.

Certainly, the object of the game is to win. But you don’t figure to get defeated by Draymond Green like that.

“He (Green) is a hard playing guy,” noted Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “In many ways, he reminds me of Jimmy Butler. They are the same type of guy. They were both overlooked in college (35th overall in 2012 from Michigan State). They are winners and hard workers. They make their team function well. When you have guys who can shoot the ball like Thompson and Curry can, that puts a lot of pressure on your defense and allows them to play unselfishly.

“The turnovers got us,” Thibodeau added. “We had a chance, but we got behind early. You have to defend, you have to rebound and you have to keep your turnovers down to be in a position to win. We turned it over and put them in the open floor. We started slowly, but I thought we came back and had good energy in the beginning of the second. We fought back in the third and the start of the fourth. We couldn’t close it.”

The Bulls didn’t open that well, either, though Derrick Rose had a strong start with nine first quarter points and four of four from the free throw line. Rose finished the game with nine points, but played facilitator much of the remainder of the game with excellent passing as the Warriors collapsed on him. Rose’s myriad collection of cross court and up court passing enabled the Bulls to take a 72-71 lead midway through the third quarter after they’d trailed by 14 earlier in the third quarter.

It would be a tough start for the Bulls in what is becoming a bothersome habit of home losses. Though it’s perhaps little solace they’ve lost at home to the Cavaliers, Mavericks and Warriors, three of the league’s top teams.

It was Green early who gave the Bulls and Noah problems as he constantly set up outside and made three first quarter threes and scored 11 points for a 28-22 Golden State lead. It’s a dilemma when starting Gasol and Noah, the Bulls best big men, as teams are loath to surrender their strength. Plus, the plan was to limit Curry and Thompson, which the Bulls did. But the Bulls have been guilty of some sloppy ball handling and passing and it cost them early.

However, they opened the second quarter with 11 straight points with a strong return from Gibson operating inside against the Warriors smaller players. Gibson finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.

“Just a little rusty,” said Gibson of his return. “Just trying to play hard and bring energy. I felt good. Still got to work the kinks out, get a little stronger. I felt like I haven’t touched a ball in a long time; it felt foreign. I tried to be active with my energy and defense, but our defense wasn’t too good. That’s a great team over there.

“When we play home, it’s tough,” Gibson added. “Just not a lot of trust right now (defensively). We’ve got a lot of new guys, a lot of young guys trying to figure out things, figure out the system; just not trusting right now. Not having each other’s back on certain things. It’s a small thing you can fix. But you have to get it right because these games are going to keep coming and nobody is going to feel sorry for you.”

The Warriors pushed ahead at halftime 61-49 as Thompson with 13 points in the second quarter and Butler with nine were battling in one of the better matchups of young shooting guards.

With the starters back to open the second half, Noah with 16 points was playing aggressively, the turnovers were down and Rose was orchestrating the offense. The Bulls pulled ahead and led 80-79 going into the fourth quarter on a Gasol drive over the smaller Speights to close the third.

It seemed the Bulls had regained control of the game. But opening the fourth quarter without Gasol and Noah, it was the Warriors dominating the boards with offensive rebounds on five consecutive possessions to take an 87-82 lead.

Thibodeau rushed Noah back in for Nikola Mirotic and the Bulls came back on a Hinrich three and a pair of Gibson free throws. But those threes with Green adding a pair were part of a 14-3 run that effectively ended it for the Bulls.

“Tough night,” said Noah. “Defensively, not great; we’ve got to step it up. I have to step it up, a lot of guys are frustrated now. We’re better than we are playing, but we believe in each other and we’ve got to stay positive and keep grinding. We have a ways to go and we all know it, but we definitely have to change our ways because defensively we know it’s not where it needs to be.

“They have a lot of shooters,” noted Noah. “They are very good, very skilled. They are all on the same page and they are rolling now. I feel like we’ll be all right.
I feel like if we do what we are supposed to do we’ll be able to compete against any one of those guys and get wins against those kinds of teams.”

As for the Warriors, they are breaking all their franchise records.

“It’s good to have great players; that’s the bottom line,” said Kerr. “I’m the luckiest coach in the NBA. I come in this is my first job and I come in and inherit this group of guys, easy to coach, really talented, unselfish. I’m just lucky.”

Not the Bulls this time, however.