Bulls Hit: vs LAC 3/4

Bulls 91 Clippers 101

When the Bulls played the Nuggets on February 28, I wrote that the game was best describes as a Tale of Two Halves in which the Bulls were on the wrong end of a Charles Dickin’. Well, this game was also a Tale of Two Halves, but instead of another pun from an English major I’ll start with a story from when I ran cross-country in high school.

As any runner knows, he most important thing in a race is pacing themselves. If you average 7 minutes a mile in a 3 mile race, you should run all three of your miles at around 7 minutes. If not, you’re fucked. Think about this: if you’re gunning for a 21 minute time and you clock your first mile at around seven and a half, then you’d have to run either 6:45 miles the next two, or one at 7 minutes and one at 6:30. If your first mile is (god forbid) 8 minutes, then you’d have to run at a 6:30 a mile pace for two miles. Well, if you average 7 minutes a mile, what makes you think you can run 30 second personal records back to back? That’s right, you can’t.

On the other hand, if you go out and run your first mile at a 6:30 clip, good job. But now you’re overly tired and you’re likely to become overly-exhausted, or maybe you’ll overcompensate and either way your overall time will slip. So, the best thing is to find a rhythm and make sure you come as close as you can to that time every mile.

At cross country meets the races were 3 miles and my coach would say that each of our miles should be within a couple seconds of the other. One thing that’s hard about that is that you can’t wear a watch when you’re facing. Another hard part is that the races began with everyone clumped up behind the starting line, so it was like you’re at a party where no one can move and you can see everyone’s leg hair and armpit hair. Usually there were around 100 people running the course at any given time, and at the beginning it’s like a dead-sprint to try to establish your position in the pack so you can beat everyone else. Adrenaline is also flowing so you always tend to run faster at the start than you actually should or were capable of actually sustaining for the rest of the race. Some people, and this was my approach by the end of my tenure on the team in high school, I would kind of slow-jog or meander down the first hundred-yard stretch or so in order to establish myself at the back of the race because, you know, that’s where I would end up eventually.

The most problematic part for me was that all my teammates I ran with during practices were all actually in better shape than I was. So during practices when we had to run five or six miles or whatever, they’d be running comfortably in a pack and talking while I was in the back of that pack, keeping up, but unable to talk and scorning my parents for making me do cross-country. Thus, I couldn’t run with any of my teammates that I was used to running with. Instead, I was always alone and had to figure the pace out for myself.

Generally I’d find a kid with a similar body-type to mine, or a kid whose face belied the same feelings I felt every time I had to run: disdain. Disdain for my coaches, for my parents, and for the uniform I had to wear that would undoubtedly result in chafed legs halfway through the race.

But none of those things ever really worked. Either I’d feel good for the first mile and find out from a screaming coach at the one-mile marker that I ran a minute slower than I should have, or I would blow my load during the first mile so for the rest of the race my legs were heavy and my lungs felt like they were lined with battery acid. The worst part about having to slow down was all the kids passing you. It was embarrassing. People with skinny hairless chicken legs leading up to assess covered in mesh Daisy Dukes would trot by me while I’m gasping for breath and hallucinating that there were actual chickens in Daisy Dukes running by me.

And these guys that passed me were obviously better runners: they were skinny like Michael Cera, with perfect form like Michael Cera, quiet and subdued like Michael Cera. I looked like Jonah Hill in a one-piece swim suit and I ran about as well as I’d expect Jonah Hill to run.

In short, sometimes I would beat an opponent for the first mile that was always actually better than me. Usually, though, those chickens came home to roost in the second half of the race. Sometimes I could almost keep up with them and even jockey with them for position down the stretch, but sometimes I would shit my daisy dukes.

And that’s what happened with the Bulls: they ran a good first half of the race, playing a little above their talent against a better opponent, but they shit their shorts in the second half.

Coming into this game the Clippers were on a 1–4 skid since the all star break which, weirdly enough, coincided with Chris Paul’s return from injury. Chris Paul, by the way, leads the league in ESPN’s real plus-minus metric, which “reflects the impact of each player on his team’s scoring margin after controlling for the strength of every teammate and every opponent during each minute he’s on the court.” He leads the league with an 8.33 RPM. So the Clippers should obviously be better when he’s playing, not 1–4.

Quick note: who’s second in RPM rankings? My boy Jimmy G Buckets, baby! (the G stands for “Gets”).

In his most recent stretch of injury-related problems, Paul missed 14 games between January 19 and February 23. In this string of games the Clippers went 6–8, with a 108.1 ORTG, 112.8 DRTG, and a net rating of -4.3. Keep these numbers in mind when I also list Paul’s on/off metrics (per basketball reference) for this season with the Clips: when he’s on the floor, the Clippers score at a pace of 117.2 points per 100 possessions compared with 107.4 when he’s off; defensively, Chris Paul and the Clips around him allow 103.3 opponent points per 100 possessions and 113.0 when he’s sitting on the bench or the operating table.

Here’s another interesting thing and sometime I’ve never seen before: Chris Paul is also LA’s best defensive player. That’s right, a fucking point guard is this team’s best defensive player. That’s like the white guy being the best rapper in D12. The Clippers’ defense is dramatically better when Paul is on the floor. In fact, he ranks seventh in overall defensive real plus-minus and third if you only count players that play over 30 minutes a game. He is only behind the two players competing for defensive player of the year: Rudy Gobert at number one and Draymond Green at number two. This doesn’t capture how extraordinary this is though. Chris Paul is the only point guard in the top 60 players of the defensive RPM rankings. The next point guard is renowned might-be-an-actual-pitbull Patrick Beverley at number 61.

So Chris Paul is really good and the Clippers should be really good when he’s not injured. I covered this in the pre-game, so why am I covering it now too?

Well, because coming into this game, the Clippers were 1–4 since his return from injury, as mentioned. Before last night’s game, the Clippers were also 20–10 when the duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin shared the floor. In other words, things would eventually start to even out. And the Bulls, being a .500 team, only needed a single loss to fall back to .500, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity for them to shit their daisy dukes.

But the Bulls didn’t shit their pants and give up right away like I did during my first pre-med class in college. Rather, the Clippers looked exhausted in the first half, coming off a loss the night before to the Bucks at United Center North. Their legs were shot: Blake’s jumpers weren’t falling and the team overall shot worse on three than the Bulls do on most nights.

But they still grinded it out and won. Here are the stats from the game that measure it up :

The Bulls put up 61 in the first half and held the Clippers to 55. However, the Bulls were outscored in the second half 46 to 30, including a 12 point (!) third quarter.

The Bulls committed 17 turnovers in the second half compared to six in the first.

The Bulls committed eight personal fouls in the first half and 16 in the second half.

The Bulls shot 52.1% from the field in the first half and 27.8% in the second half.

The Bulls had 19 assists in the first half and seven in the second.

The aforementioned third quarter was especially offensive (in all the wrong ways). Here’s the breakdown:

3–18 shooting

7 turnovers

9 fouls

-15 plus-minus as a team

In essence, the third quarter was like when you get 12% on the mid-term in a college class like I did in my first (and only) pre-med class: there’s no way you could possibly succeed in what comes after. You’re just in too big of a hole.

Stray thoughts / observations:

The Clippers didn’t play exceptionally well last night either. For instance, they shot 24% from deep last night on 25 shots. They certainly looked fatigued, but they just outlasted the Bulls. Blake Griffin went five for 15 from the field but recorded seven assists and sunk all six of his free throws.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute played 30 minutes last night and recorded his team’s highest plus-minus for the night. As a defense-first player he only shot the ball six times but also held Jimmy Butler to only seven shots throughout the night. Butler averages a career-high 16.4 field goal attempts a game.

J.J. Redick torched the Bulls in the first quarter, shooting 4 for 5 and forcing Butler to chase him around staggered screens on the baseline while passers hit Redick after he curled for quick catch-and-shoot jumpers. He was otherwise pretty cold for the night, shooting only two for seven the rest of the night and burying only one of five three-point attempts.

Jamal Crawford caught fire in the second half, shooting seven for 10 overall and two for four from downtown.

I like Bobby Portis getting out and running. If memory serves he converted three buckets in a row on the fast break to close out the second quarter. As Stacey King likes to say, if you reward the big man when he rebounds and gets out and runs, he’ll be happy to keep doing it.

I also like Rondo running the fast break with the second unit. When the first unit seems a little lethargic also Hoiberg will throw Rondo out there to get things moving.

Hubie Brown is easily the best color commentator working in the NBA today and I’ll battle rap anyone that disagrees.

Thanks for reading, mom and dad.

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