Fred Hoiberg still has something left to prove to Chicago.
With yet another change to the rotation tonight against Brooklyn, it was critical for Hoiberg to showcase to the fans whatever thoughts are brewing in his head.
This unfortunately did not happen, as the Bulls would fall to the Nets 105-102; a team that had only won once before on the road this season. Butler would put up 24 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds. Noah with a line of 4/8/8.
The season series continued in the United Center for the Bulls and the Nets, as the first time they faced was back for the Bulls second game of the season. The Bulls at the time seemed to have quickly absorbed Hoiberg’s offense, scoring at least 28 points in every quarter against Brooklyn.
However,to say the least, things have sharply turned. While possibly facing a rookie wall of his own, Fred Hoiberg has witnessed a bottom 5 offense on the floor for the majority of his time at the reign.
The first quarter began with much of the same for Chicago, as eight straight points from the Brooklyn front court put the Bulls against a wall early, forcing them to try and get up efficient shots as to not fall in a hole.
Following a slashing dribble-drive and-one from Derrick Rose after an offensive rebound, the Bulls took advantage of lazy ball handling from the Nets back court to get themselves out of the early funk.
An encouraging sign from the brand new lineup (Rose, Butler, Niko,Pau, Taj) is a rejuvenation in the ball movement. It seemed to many over the course of the last 10-15 games that complementary players in the offense were not moving and cutting the way Hoiberg would like, and halfway through the first, a smooth Motion Strong with a weak-side wing cut by Butler made it clear that Fred has at least regained some portion of his systems principles.
At least it seemed for the time being.
After twelve, Thaddeus Young would be the one to push the Nets up 29-22, putting up double digits and thriving off of passes from Joe Johnson traps.
With the move of Nikola Mirotic almost strictly at the three, Bobby Portis would get much deserved time, starting with the very end of the first quarter and half of the second. He would take his opportunity early to take a post-lane sprint to the bucket, igniting the crowd and bringing the Bulls back in the lead after back-to-back three’s from Hinrich and McDermott. Before heading back to the bench, Portis would give the team 6 points and a steal.
While the offense would improve as the game went on, 50% from the field wasn’t enough to compensate for some late missteps in the defense, giving the Nets a 58-55 lead heading into the locker room.
Joakim Noah, who had a forceful outing in the last game against the Knicks, putting up 21 points and 10 rebounds filling in for the resting Gasol, would again be a sliver of hope for the Bulls. In the ten minutes played in the first half, Noah would facilitate the offense and get guys like Mirotic and Butler open for clean looks. He would have 7 assists, 2 blocks, 2 rebounds, and 4 points before even starting the second half, and it is becoming clear that while he may not like being away from his starting crew, he can create the offense as the de facto point-center.
Joakim Noah, in fact, had to come in early in the second half to place himself again as the emotional leader on the floor, as the Bulls defense would squander 23 points in the first seven minutes of the second half and push away to a 81-69 lead.
Without a score in four and a half minutes, an Aaron Brooks desperation three would give the Bulls enough energy to finish off the third quarter with some dignity.
However, whatever dignity gained would evaporate quickly after a contested step-jumper by Bargnani would in some way seem to dislocate Joakim Noah’s shoulder.
Gripping his arm, he would be subbed out and escorted to the locker room. It would be announced that he would not return.
A battle of the stagnant offenses, the Bulls and Nets would pull and tug at each other, but would be not able to knock each other out. Chicago, in good ol’ Bulls fashion, would be killed in pick n’ rolls, while the Nets seemed openly willing to let the Bulls back in the game if only they were able to take advantage of fast break turnover opportunities.
With Butler and Gasol seemingly the only players able to output some offense in the second half, the Bulls would fizzle at the end of the fourth and lose to the lowly Nets. This is their second three game losing streak of the season.
The Bulls will look to bounce back on Christmas day, as they face the Oklahoma City Thunder(18-9) at Chesapeake Energy Arena.