Wilbon: Jordan sticks to a plan.
Highest plus/minus: Andray Blatche (-1)
Lowest plus/minus: Caron Butler (-13)
As has been mentioned many times in the last day or so, we missed our point guards tonight. It's not even the 18 turnovers that tell the whole story. The intense pressure the Bulls put on Nick Young, Roger Mason, and DeShawn Stevenson forced us to waste precious seconds of the shot clock simply getting the ball down the court. Once we got there, the best we could do was isolate Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison, and they'd take a bad shot. It explains why nobody else did anything yesterday, because we simply didn't have enough time to run the offense.
Still, Caron Butler's tough runner with 4:11 left gave us an 80-79 lead. From that point on, we were outscored 16-4. How did that happen? Let's go possession by possession.
3:54: The Wizards play an excellent defensive set for 16 seconds, but it eventually breaks down, and Luol Deng slices in for a layup to give Chicago an 81-80 lead. This was our problem in a nutshell last year, and it reared it's ugly head again. It also hurt that Brendan Haywood wasn't in the game to protect the basket, because as good as Andray Blatche is on the helpside, teams aren't worried about driving when he's in the game.
3:12: As much as we love Blatche, it's easy to forget that he makes a lot of bad mistakes. On the ensuing Wizards possession, he throws a terrible pass that gives the Bulls the ball. The Wizards force Ben Gordon into a somewhat difficult three pointer that misses, but Blatche can't corral the rebound, and Chicago retains possession. Five seconds later, a defensive breakdown off the inbound pass leads to an easy layup from Gordon off a pass from Kirk Hinrich. 83-80.
2:51: The Wizards run a set that gets Haywood a relatively easy shot inside, but he misses it, and Hinrich rebounds.
2:31: The Bulls eventually break down the defense again, and Roger Mason is forced to foul Luol Deng. Deng hits one of two. 84-80.
2:19: For Chicago, the key to this game was Tyrus Thomas, who finally got the playing time he deserves every game. Down the stretch, he plays great defense on Antawn Jamison, pinning his layup on the glass and grabbing the rebound. You can tell Jamison is visibly frustrated when he commits a silly foul on Thomas, who calmly hits both free throws on the other end. 86-80.
2:07: Butler rushes a three pointer that misses. Gordon rebounds.
1:27: The icing on the cake. Remember how Jamison was frustrated on the last possession? This time, he sneaks by Thomas and tries to go up for his patented runner, but Thomas swipes it away from behind, just as Jamison crashed into Aaron Gray. The Bulls recover and get a fast-break, where Deng finishes for the layup. Meanwhile, Jamison is complaining and eventually gets a technical for his efforts. It's debatable whether there's a foul here -- Thomas looks to get all ball, while there's definitely contact with Gray -- but it wasn't a particularly egregious call. The reason Jamison was angry was because of Thomas, who had provided an incredible burst for Chicago when it mattered most. After having to carry the offense all day, Jamison just ran out of gas.
Those last few possessions were the product of problems that occurred early in the game. Chicago's pressure earlier in the game caused the Wizards to run bad offensive sets, and the Bulls' deliberate run-around-aimlessly offense tired out the Wizards defense and eventually led to bad fouls and easy layups when the game was in the balance. If we had better point guard play, I don't think any of that happens.