The Bulls seemed angry about Tuesday’s replay-aided loss to Denver. The locker room cleared out quickly. Derrick Rose didn’t talk at all, while Brad Miller stopped only for a brief chat in the hallway.
A victory Tuesday would have sent the Bulls 3 games over .500 in November for the first time since the 1997-98 season. Instead, they could fall back to 4-4 with a loss in Toronto on Wednesday.
Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani are putting together some impressive stats, but the Raptors are giving up 111.4 points per game. On Monday, Toronto found a way to lose 131-124 to the Spurs, who played without Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
The problem is, neither Bosh nor Bargnani is capable of defending the center position, but one of them usually ends up playing it.
--At one point while watching replays of Miller’s game-ending 22-footer, I thought it was going to be called good. But the officials probably got it right. The ball seemed to still be touching Miller’s fingertips when the red light went on.
This is just one of those rulings a team has to accept. It was a judgment call by the refs to give the Bulls 0.3 seconds to work with after Chauncey Billups missed a free throw on purpose.
Someone sitting at the scorer’s table thought more time should have been put on the clock when referees reviewed an out of bounds call that resulted in Denver keeping the ball with 4.3 seconds left. There’s no way to get those timing calls completely accurate.
--The Bulls seemed short-handed in the Denver game. Not so much with healthy bodies, but just contributors.
When the Nuggets needed a boost, a role player would step up. Guard Arron Afflalo, who got his first start of the season, scored 8 points in the third quarter to turn a 3-point deficit into a 4-point lead. Rookie Ty Lawson had a similar moment in the first half, knocking down a couple of 3-pointers.
John Salmons, Kirk Hinrich and Jannero Pargo were a combined 2 for 15 from the field in the first half, then Salmons missed on the Bulls' first two possessions of the third quarter.
Salmons came back to knock down 3 shots from 3-point range later in the game, including a big corner three that brought the Bulls within 85-83 with 3:16 left.
Overall, though, the Bulls’ shooters didn’t get it done. Salmons finished 3 for 13, Hinrich 3 for 10 and Pargo 1 for 6. After going 4 for 18 from 3-point land, the Bulls’ league-worst long-range shooting dropped to 25.3 percent on the season.
Making shots continues to be a huge problem for the Bulls and it’s amazing they had a chance to beat the Nuggets while shooting so poorly.
--On the positive side, rookie Taj Gibson (10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) played very well. Derrick Rose (22 points) scored 10 in the fourth quarter and turned in his best game of the season, while Luol Deng outscored Carmelo Anthony 22-21. Joakim Noah (21 rebounds) was terrific, but that goes without saying these days.
--Coach Vinny Del Negro was able to keep everyone but Noah under 40 minutes. Rookie forward James Johnson still hasn’t earned much confidence. He played just under three minutes, but did score a basket.
--The Bulls trailed 83-76 with 6:02 remaining, then pulled within 85-83 on Salmons’ 3-pointer. During the next minute, the Bulls turned back Carmelo Anthony three times after getting a couple of rough calls on rebounds.
The first time, Anthony stuck out his leg to prevent Deng from retrieving a loose ball before it went out of bounds with no whistle. Then an official called a jump ball between Noah and Nene on the next rebound, even though it appeared Nene never had two hands on it.
Denver won the tap, but Anthony missed for a third time and the Bulls eventually evened the score with 33.9 seconds left.