Despite winning the Defensive Player of the Year award on Monday, Joakim Noah and the rest of the Chicago Bulls need to step up their defense if they want to win Game 2 against the Washington Wizards. The Bulls dropped Game 1 at home to the Wizards 102-93 and surrendered a combined 39 points to big men Marcin Gortat and Nene.
The even more troubling fact is that the Bulls lost despite having seven players score in double figures. If they have any chance of beating the Wizards, the Bulls will have to out-defend, out-muscle and outplay Washington for 48 minutes—something Chicago failed to do in Game 1. The Bulls also gave up 18 points to Trevor Ariza on 5-for-6 shooting. The only positive aspect out of the loss was that the Bulls slowed down All-Star John Wall who went 4-for-14 on the night.
But the Bulls’ lack of effort was evident from the start. They never established their league leading defensive dominance and never really got their fans into the game. The sold out United Center crowd seemed as if they were sitting in a library rather than watching a sporting event. After all, there is no need to cheer when Nene is scoring at will on the Defensive Player of the Year.
But the defensive problems don’t fall on the shoulders of Noah alone. The Bulls need to collapse on Nene whenever he catches the ball and send him to the free throw line before he has a chance to get a shot up. Nene is only shooting 58 percent from the line, so it wouldn’t be a bad strategy to rack up the fouls on the Wizards’ big man.
The Bulls just need to get back to what got them so much success during the regular season—their defensive physicality. If the Bulls continue to allow so many easy baskets in the paint, this will be a very short series for Chicago.