The Chicago Bulls haven’t lost three games in a row in two years, a number that coach Tom Thibodeau takes pride in. So when the Bulls dropped three in a row before last nights game it was time for the coach to re-evaluate his team. His consensus was originally to switch the starting lineup but then he shied away from that idea. So if the starting lineup wasn’t the problem, then what was?
The problem is both the offense and the defense unfortunately. Chicago lacks a go to offense when a game comes down to the wire. They used to rely on Derrick Rose to take the last second game winner, but they don’t have that luxury anymore. Instead, Chicago continuously has to scramble in crunch time to find a formula to pull out a victory. While they used to win games with their defense, it seems that that won’t cut it anymore. In the three game skid, Joakim Noah had this to say: ”the defense is not what it used to be,” and Nate Robinson says that “the team is finding ways to lose.” So with a struggling defense and a lack of offense it’s not hard to understand why the Bulls lost three in a row.
Chicago’s defense has always been a cornerstone in their plan for success. As the saying goes, “defense wins championships,” and Coach Thibodeau takes that to heart. But it used to be that in late game situations the Bulls would lock down opponents, force turnovers and convert them into easy points on the other end. Now, it’s the opposite. Now, the Bulls are rushing to take bad shots, they are turning the ball over and they are generally making bad plays when they matter the most. With inconsistency like this it should come as no surprise that the Bulls are struggling in late game situations.
The biggest problem for the Bulls, however, is the bench. Simply put this year’s bench is much less productive on the defensive end than last years bench was. Coach Thibodeau has made his lack of confidence in backup center Nazr Mohammed apparent, and the defensive efforts of Robinson and Marco Belinelli are not impressive or effective. Taj Gibson is the only bench player who seems to play defense well and that is not enough to stabilize a unit.
The Bulls knew this season would be difficult, the whole city knew it, and if they want to succeed and avoid another losing streak than they must solve the glaring problem when it comes crunch time. They must learn to protect the ball and value each possession. If they can do that then they can make each possession count and turn late game woes into late game wins.