The Sixers offense was painful to watch last night – there's no denying that – but it doesn't help that they're up against the Chicago Bulls defense.
Chicago's defense is good. How good? They finished the season first in John Hollinger's defensive efficiency rating and second in Basketball Reference's defensive ratings. As a matter of fact, their defense finished in the top 20 of all-time in defensive efficiency during the shot clock era.
I'm fully aware that the Bulls' historically good ratings in the various defensive metrics are slightly skewed because of the lockout – 9 of the top 20 defensive efficiency ratings since 1979 came during either this season or the '98 lockout – but they're still a great defense, coached by arguably the best defensive coach in the league.
Per Basketball Value, they allowed an average of 97.6 points per 100 possessions this season – good for the lowest total in the league. Now, one might say 'yeah, but they had Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah during the regular season'. Well, it turns out Rose and Noah may not be as important to the Bulls' defense as you'd think.
When Joakim Noah has been on the floor this season, the Bulls have given up an average of 101.1 points per 100 possessions – up 3.5 points from their season average. They average 91.8 points per 100 possessions with Noah on the bench.
When Derrick Rose has been on the floor this season, the Bulls have given up an average of 99.3 points per 100 possessions – up 1.5 points from their season average. They average 96.1 points per 100 possessions with Rose on the bench.
Last night's starting lineup – Watson, Hamilton, Deng, Boozer, Asik – gave up an average of 100 points per 100 possession on the season, which decreases to 64 points when Brewer (who played 29 minutes last night) replaces Rip Hamilton (18 minutes).
Based on these numbers, it appears the Bulls defense might actually be stingier without Rose and Noah. Do I think the Bulls are a better team without Rose and Noah? Not in a million years. They don't resemble a number one seed without Rose and hardly classify as a Playoff team without both. However; it should be noted that the Bulls number one-ranked defense is just as good, if not better, without Rose and Noah.
Again, the Sixers offense was bad last night – no team should score 26 points in a half – but the Bulls defense deserves some credit.
Other variables, like shooting 32 percent at the basket (down from 65 percent on the regular season) and a loosely reffed game, on both sides, led to the Sixers historically inept performance. And amidst the eye-gauging from the first half, the Sixers quietly managed to score 41 in the second.
The Bulls defense is great, even without Rose and Noah, and the Sixers offense is no juggernaught, especially in the half court. When those two factors are combined, and the refs basically allow both teams to be mauled without a whistle, games like last night are bound to happen.
At the end of the day, it was one game – a painful, vomit-inducing, rather-watch-paint-dry and/or Teen Mom re-runs game – and the odds of it happening again are slim to none. The Sixers won't shoot 32 percent 'at the rim' again. The refs won't allow another game of that type physicality. And the Sixers won't shoot 18 percent from beyond the arch again. Maybe one of the three, but not all three in the same game again.
On to game six.