With Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich on the bench, the Bulls not only were missing their two best point guards against the Celtics on Monday night, but ostensibly their only two point guards capable of playing Tom Thibodeau’s brand of basketball.
Nate Robinson vs. Rajon Rondo is a beating waiting to happen — and predictably, it did. And 19-year-old rookie Marquis Teague still is effectively in a glass case marked ‘Open Only in Emergency.’
The emergency ensued after Rondo had his way with Robinson in the first three quarters at the United Center, scoring 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting, with six assists and four steals and seven rebounds as the Celtics led 82-70.
Thibodeau turned to Teague in the fourth quarter and at least got the effort he was looking for. Rondo was scoreless in the fourth quarter against Teague –Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce helped out by missing nine-of-12 shots in the quarter. And Teague showed the aggressiveness that was missing in his first-quarter stint, driving to the basket.
It didn’t quite work out. Teague was burned by referee Joe Crawford, who called Teague for a foul on a drive that looked like a three-point play opportunity that would have tied the game with 7:03 to go. Teague’s next drive — with a more egregious push-off that wasn’t called –failed. He hit 3-of-4 free throws for five points in the quarter. But Rondo ended up making the difference, with two assists to Garnett for dunks in the Celtics’ 101-95 victory.
Teague was the story of the game for the Bulls. He had played less than 10 minutes in the Bulls’ first six games. But Thibodeau didn’t go overboard.
”I thought he played well. I thought he played hard,” Thibodeau said. ”That’s the first step.”
In other words, it wasn’t a breakout performance. Teague is still a 19-year-old rookie still learning the basics, let alone the nuances, of Thibodeau’s offense and defense. It’s a start, but it’s unlikely he earned a regular spot in the rotation when Heinrich returns. Just because the kid doesn’t back down for a challenge doesn’t mean he’s ready to win it.
Thibodeau was more concerned — perturbed, actually — that his team allowed 33 points in the first quarter and 58 in the first half to fall behind 33-27 and 58-46. Were the Bulls just not ready to play against a rival at home?
”When you fall behind like that, you have to ask yourself that question,” Thibodeau said. ”To me, if we come into a game against a quality team like that where we think we can just trade baskets with them, you’re not going to be successful.”
Even without Rose and Hinrich, the Bulls lost a game they should have won. (The Celtics have their own problems –the way the Bulls started, they should have blown this game out early.) This team is a long way from playing without Rose the way it did last season.
”They scored 58 points in the first half,” Thibodeau said when asked about the defensive lapses. ”You give up 33 [in the first quarter] against a team like that, you’re giving them confidence and they’re hard to slow down after that.
”The bench guys did a good job in the second quarter. They got it down to three. [But] we’ve got to play a lot harder than that.”