Hey, what happened to that other Los Angeles team? Right, the one that made the Bulls feel so good about themselves Thursday on national TV.
“We’ve seen this all year,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg lamented yet again Sunday after the Clippers on national ABC-TV ran out the Bulls 120-93. “I hate to sound like a broken record.”
Reader note: Plastic disc spinning at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute (about the speed of Bulls defenders getting out to Clippers shooters) moving along grooves to produce sound waves.
“We’re a really good team when things are going well,” Hoiberg continued. “We can go out there and play with a swagger and a confidence, but we lose that when things are not going well. They scored 69 points in the second half; you’re not going to beat anybody when that happens.”
It’s the same old song, and it breaks them up to hear it.
Not that the Bulls don’t play well against good teams, which they do. After all, they beat the Clippers in Chicago last month.
“The Bulls beat us pretty good in Chicago,” noted Jamal Crawford. “They were tougher than us and they got into us. They kicked our butts there and we wanted to play good coming back home.”
It’s just that the Bulls don’t play with much consistency or regularity, a great win followed by a desultory loss, an 8-8 record in January and now 26-20. The Clippers led by hot shooting former Bull Crawford are 32-16, winners of 16 of their last 19, most with star Blake Griffin injured.
So instead of throwing the ball inside, the Clippers whizzed around the perimeter, firing up three pointers and making 17 of 32, equaling an alltime Bulls opponents record for makes. Crawford had 26 points, J.J. Redick added 21 and four of four threes, DeAndre Jordan had 17 points and 20 rebounds and Austin Rivers off the bench made five of six threes to lead a Clippers bench wipeout of 58-18.
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 23 points, but shot eight of 22 without an assist and one rebound. Pau Gasol had 15 points, 14 rebounds and five assists and Derrick Rose had 20 points on 10 of 17 shooting, driving relentlessly, drawing gasps and raves with scintillating cross over and speed moves, yet didn’t get even one free throw attempt.
Of course, that might have gotten the Bulls within 22 points with a lackluster bench effort this time.
“It’s been the story of the year, story of the year,” Rose said about the dissonant play.
Yes, this Bulls team isn’t much in harmony.
No dancin’ to the music of this band.
“If I could put a finger on it….I watch a lot of basketball and the only thing I can think of is just that effort and sticking with the game plan,” said Rose. “We’re waiting; we’re still waiting (for a run). We still have a lot of basketball to play. We know All-Star is coming up, so we are trying to play our best ball up until All-Star, give us a good taste in our month and when we come back, come back with some sense of urgency, of going out there and giving that effort every game.”
Yes, yes, we’ve heard that one before, and seen this sort of game with a variation.
This time is was a good start, the Bulls taking advantage of ancient Paul Pierce starting at power forward, getting some mismatches with Taj Gibson and Rose exploding to the basket. It was 8-3.
And then it wasn’t as Jordan kept Clippers’ misses in play, twice for threes and a dozen Jordan rebounds in the first quarter. Hoiberg tried some intentional fouling, and that didn’t work, either, as Jordan made four of six and he put his head down as well.
“No grit, no toughness; closeouts were lackadaisical,” said Hoiberg. “A lot of that is we didn’t do a good job staying in front of the ball. They were able to kick it out for open shots. The first half we came out and had some really good looks, but we missed. We were getting the ball in the paint; we outscored them by over 20 in the paint in the first half. Went in (at half trailing 51-47) at a deficit where we could easily have had the lead if we knocked some of those down.
“Then the second half just snowballed,” Hoiberg said, recalling his team’s winter headquarters.
Didn’t volleyball, actually, since once it went the Clippers way it kept going that way.
“They got comfortable, shots weren’t falling and it affected us on the other end,” said Hoiberg. “You have to have that toughness all the way through and we didn’t have it. We put our heads down in that tough stretch, came back and cut it to 12 (late in the fourth quarter), but never really threatened them.”
The big push for the Clippers came late in the third quarter with three Bulls turnovers in four possessions and 63-60 Clippers after a Gasol three-point play with seven minutes left became 84-73 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We’re not disciplined; we’re not,” said Gasol. “That’s it. It’s true. That’s a fact. You’ve got to give them credit for spacing the floor well, getting to their spots, getting a rhythm, making shots. But you also have to ask yourself what we could have done differently to not let them get going. I think if we would have communicated better, gotten more into their bodies maybe we could have limited some of those three pointers. We’re disciplined at times. The lack of consistency is very noticeable. It’s nothing new.”
Then Crawford did a 2004 playback as shot off screens, crossed over, converting back to back three-point plays. And then when the defense did finally come, he passed into the corner for a three. Suddenly it was 95-77 Clippers with 10 minutes left and about over. It got to 12, but was back to 21 three minutes later as reporters sought new ways to ask about the paradoxes in their play and players remained consistent in their confusion about the inconsistency.
“We let guys do whatever they wanted out there,” said Butler. “I know we have to start winning; can’t keep waiting. The time is now. No answers. I don’t know why we do it (inconsistency). It’s everybody, not one person more than the other. We all have to bring it from the jump. Continue to play the right way and start winning these games. Not putting bodies on people, or rebounding and guys getting to their strengths; that’s the will. Defense is all about toughness; we’re not guarding, so we don’t look tough.
“I don’t think we lack toughness,” said Butler. “But at times we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing. Guys play hard, but you’ve got to play hard every possession, loose ball get there, rebound get there.
I won’t say we lack toughness, though. We better figure it out. We have a long road ahead of us.”
It’s the same old song and no one much knows the meaning but the emptiness it brings.
“It’s all about playing,” said Rose. “If we come out with the right effort we should be able to win any game we step on the floor.”