The Bulls seemed pretty mad they lost to the Pacers at home on Wednesday. The Bulls were shorthanded, but they had a big lead they choked in a hurry, and then swore or acted depressed.
Good. The Bulls might’ve responded too late, but at least they responded.
The game was the Bulls’ first in a long time against an actual NBA team, not some bunch of stiffs that have gotten coaches fired or will soon. They got a reminder of what real games feel like.
The Pacers are good and tough. They also play with an attitude, maybe even a swagger, and act like they’re still angry about losing that playoff series last spring.
The Pacers had played and lost the night before, so the Bulls should’ve taken them down on their home in the second half.
But no. For whatever reason, the Bulls had no interest in starting the second half and lost their way during winning time at the end.
You can blame injuries to Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, or you can wise up. The Bulls are deep. They are built to withstand injuries. They are good enough to beat good teams shorthanded.
The key is, your best players have to be your best players, especially against better teams. Already missing their starting small forward, the Bulls acutely needed the remaining starters to give them a game against a team that believes it can overtake the division leader.
Didn’t happen. Several of the Bulls’ best players were guilty. Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton and Joakim Noah, please approach the bench.
Boozer had been playing so well of late. He had been posting up as much as taking the jump shot. He had been rebounding. Heck, he had even shown some defensive smarts. He still can’t or won’t guard anybody, but he was faking it better.
Then came Wednesday, and there went Boozer, back to looking like he couldn’t hold the Jordan statue under 20 points. With Gibson hurt and the Pacers focusing on their bigs, the Bulls needed Boozer to produce at both ends.
But no. Boozer missed 9 of 14 shots and not only made David West look clutch, but also reminded that he’s the only guy against whom Tyler Hansbrough doesn’t look like an overrated goof.
Hamilton mitigated some of his awful shooting with his speed and court vision, but missing 14 of 20 shots is a disaster. When he goes badly, it’s the kind of thing that kills any team, not just the Bulls, because shooters shoot when they’re hot and shooters shoot to get hot. Sometimes shooters shoot their teams out of the game if the coach doesn’t take them out of the game first.
I’m not lobbying for Tom Thibodeau to bench Hamilton. Thibodeau will do that if he sees the need. I think he’s still learning Hamilton’s tendencies in good, bad and mediocre situations. Now the coach knows what “bad Hamilton’’ looks like and because Thibodeau is such a quick study, I doubt he’ll let it happen again unless Hamilton is the only one in the gym.
Noah had good numbers --- a 10-and-13 double-double --- but wasn’t what he should’ve been. He started the Bulls’ foul parade that defined their inept and stupid play and somehow let Roy Hibbert go for 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting. I believe that was Hibbert’s first good game against the Bulls in, I don’t know, forever.
The Bulls got a load of a good team. They couldn’t handle it. Some of their best players couldn’t handle it. Indiana was good enough to run down the Bulls. Indiana is good, not great. Great comes Sunday, and me, I’d prefer not to find out that Miami can pants the Bulls on national television, take their lunch money and send them screaming for mommy.