Inside the Bulls' epic collapse

Inside the Bulls' epic collapse

Posted by mikemcgraw on Tue, 12/22/2009 - 01:57
There isn’t much to analyze after the Bulls made history by blowing a 35-point third-quarter lead against Sacramento on Monday. It was a thoroughly dismal performance and the Bulls probably owe a personal apology to every one of the 19,631 fans in attendance. Basically, the Bulls expected to coast to the finish after opening a 79-44 lead with 8:49 left in the third quarter and the Kings kept playing. Sacramento had the deficit down to 19 points by the end of the third quarter, but the Bulls still seemed to be in decent shape, especially after the Kings picked up their fifth foul and put the Bulls into the bonus with 7:45 left in the fourth. During the next seven minutes, though, the Bulls made it to the foul line just twice – going 2 for 4. And those were the only points during a 20-2 Sacramento run. The Bulls couldn’t get fouled because they were so busy turning the ball over. Here’s an amazing stat about the fourth quarter: After Kirk Hinrich hit a jumper to put the Bulls ahead 92-74 with 10:15 remaining, the home team went 0 for 6 from the field during the rest of the game – 6 shots in more than 10 minutes. They shot some free throws during that span, 8 to be exact. But the biggest problem was 9 turnovers during the final 10 minutes. They came in all varieties – two shot clock violations, Taj Gibson called for three seconds while being guarded by the much-smaller Sergio Rodriguez, John Salmons losing the ball on a fast break and complaining about no foul call. On one of the shot clock violations, Salmons actually knocked down a 17-foot jumper, but the refs ruled that it was still in his hands when the buzzer went off. Close call. There is no point in complaining about missing foul calls, though, because the referees let Hinrich put his hands all over Tyreke Evans during the late-game possessions and it didn’t help the Bulls at all. BENCH STRENGTH COUNTS This was a game where the Bulls’ lack of depth seemed noticeable. Not so much because the starters got tired, but the Bulls just can’t change things up during tough stretches with a seven-man rotation. The Kings finished their comeback with just two starters on the floor – rookie Tyreke Evans and power forward Jason Thompson. Forward Ime Udoka was invaluable for the Kings, scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter while hitting 3 of 4 shots from 3-point land. He also had a key steal, reaching in to knock the ball away from Derrick Rose with the score tied and 1:30 left. Udoka is 32 years old and has plenty of experience playing for the Blazers and Kings. Sacramento also used 6-7 power forward Jon Brockman, a muscular rookie from Washington. He was responsible for keeping some of those late rebounds alive. The Kings also used guard Beno Udrih, who didn’t do much in the fourth quarter, but drilled 3 3-pointers to help start the comeback. “The guy who turned the game around for us was Jon Brockman,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “He did everything out there and gave our offensive players a chance to score. We brought him on the trip and up until now all he was doing was eating.” Westphal lobbied for the Bulls coaching job both times it was available (when Scott Skiles was fired and again the next summer) but didn’t make it very far in the interview process. COMEBACK QUICK HITS --Not much quotable in a quiet Bulls locker room. Even Joakim Noah declined to speak to reporters. Rebounds were an issue for the Bulls in the final minute. They gave up 2 offensive boards, which led to 3 points by the Kings. After Derrick Rose missed his potential tying turnaround in the lane, Noah had his hands on the rebound, but three Kings were able to swipe it away from him. “We were a little small with Luol (Deng) at the four,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We were struggling to score and that’s the best scoring lineup, I feel. You have to give and take some things. We won the glass overall.” When Tyrus Thomas comes back, the Bulls might want to put the “four smalls plus Noah” lineup into storage for a while. --Andres Nocioni’s return to the United Center was almost completely overlooked. He got a nice ovation during introductions and scored Sacramento’s first points on a running jumper and 3-point play. After that, he didn’t do anything. Nocioni finished with 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 foul and hit 1 of 7 shots in just over 16 minutes of action. He sat out the entire fourth quarter. At the same time, Luol Deng went to town on his old buddy, hitting his first 6 shots of the night and scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Deng finished with 26. --It’s still not clear where this game ranks exactly among the NBA’s greatest comebacks. Utah’s victory over Denver on Nov. 27, 1996 has been billed as the great comeback. The Jazz trailed that one by 34 points at halftime. Elias Sports Bureau believed Denver’s lead was 36 at one point. Other Internet sources said 35. Either way, it was an epic collapse by the Bulls and almost certainly the largest blown lead in franchise history.
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