The Bulls’ 79-74 loss to Milwaukee was both befuddling and obvious.
On one hand, it’s tough to understand how the Bulls could squander such a great opportunity. They missed a chance to tie Toronto for eighth place in the East, playing at home against a Bucks squad that just lost center Andrew Bogut for the season.
The Bulls seemed to have some momentum with a relatively healthy roster and a 6-2 record since their 10-game losing streak.
But the reasons for this result weren’t difficult to spot. And those shortcomings might foreshadow the team’s plans for the summer.
More than anything, the Bulls’ utter lack of outside shooting killed them in this game. Without a 3-point threat to keep the defense honest, Milwaukee could stick with the plan of packing the lane to stop Derrick Rose’s drives to the basket. As coach Scott Skiles said after the game, the goal was to force Rose to “play in a crowd.”
One game after scoring a season-high 24 points against Charlotte, Kirk Hinrich went 4 for 16 on Tuesday. Luol Deng was 6 for 17 from the field, Rose 5 for 12. Flip Murray was 3 for 4, so maybe he should have gotten more looks.
When the Bulls played their best basketball this season, they did shoot well from the outside. In January, when the Bulls went 10-5, John Salmons shot 55.6 percent from 3-point land and 48 percent overall.
Of course, Salmons scored 26 points for the Bucks on Tuesday. That’s 10 points more than anyone on the Bulls in this game.
Also, I’d say Tuesday was the second time in the past few weeks that a visiting coaching staff executed a masterful game plan against the Bulls (the other was by Miami’s Eric Spoelstra on March 25.) Skiles had the Bucks playing to their strengths on offense and shutting the door on defense.
Overall, I think Vinny Del Negro has done a commendable job in two seasons as head coach. His toughest task probably comes when an opponent is executing a good plan; having to identify and implement a counter attack on the fly.
That’s a lot to ask of someone with no previous coaching experience. But then, Del Negro beat Larry Brown and Charlotte on Saturday, so there’s much more to it than just a coaching matchup.
Skiles, Jim Boylan and crew were on top of their game Tuesday, no doubt.
-- When Andrew Bogut's ugly fall popped up on the scouting video of the Milwaukee-Phoenix game inside the Bulls locker room, the players either groaned or quickly turned their heads to avoid watching it.
--The Bulls are still nursing some nagging injuries. After leaving the floor late in the first quarter Tuesday, Derrick Rose laid down on the floor and had his hips and legs stretched out by assistant trainer Jeff Tanaka.
When Rose stood up, Luol Deng sat down in the same spot and slid back and forth on the floor while rolling his calves against a cylindrical pad.
--Another issue on Tuesday was the Bulls collected just 6 offensive rebounds. They’re averaging 11.6 offensive boards per game, which is 12th best in the league.
--Taj Gibson’s steak of seven consecutive double-digit rebound games came to an end, when he finished with 6 against the Bucks.
--Rookie guard Brandon Jennings scored 25 points against Bulls way back on Nov. 3. In his next three against the Bulls, he scored 15, 5 and 4. In the past two contests, Jennings went a combined 2 for 17 from field. Overall, he shot 30.9 percent against the Bulls this season.
--Here’s a good tidbit from the Bulls’ game notes: On Saturday against Charlotte, Joakim Noah grabbed 16 rebounds and Taj Gibson had 15. That’s the first set of Bulls teammates to get at least 15 boards since … wait for it … Marcus Fizer and Jerome Williams on Dec. 13, 2003.
--Cleveland clinched the NBA's best record on Sunday when the Lakers lost to the Spurs, so the Cavs have nothing at stake when they visit Chicago on Thursday.