HOUSTON -- The Bulls have never been considered a 3-point shooting team, but they've reached a new low this season. That's because, unlike in years past, they don't even have a real threat anymore. That has become evident throughout the season, but it was especially clear in Wednesday's loss to the Houston Rockets.
On a night when former Bulls sharpshooter Kyle Korver knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer for the Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls managed to make just two of their 16 attempts on the night. The lack of long-range shooting has become a serious problem for the Bulls, and head coach Tom Thibodeau knows it.
"I think you have to understand how the game is going and what's a good 3, what's a bad 3," Thibodeau said. "The rhythm of the offense, is it coming off a quick swing? Is it coming off inside out? When is it coming? And I think that's a big part of understanding your teammates, the offense and what you're trying to get accomplished. I think as the ball moves you have to understand what your looks are in order, everyone has to fulfill their responsibilities, you have to stay disciplined.
"You have to be able to sustain your spacing through a second and third option, particularly late in the game. Your decision-making is critical, and all those things go into winning."
The Bulls rank last in the league in 3-point attempts and 3-pointers made. They are missing Korver's ability to stretch the floor more than Thibodeau could have imagined. Veteran shooter Marco Belinelli was supposed to fill Korver's role as a long-distance threat, but he has been ineffective over the first month in limited minutes. Bulls guard Nate Robinson has no fear of shooting, but his shot selection leaves a lot to be desired. Neither has proven to be consistent offensively over the first two months of the season as Thibodeau continues to find ways to improve his rotation.
The Bulls' offense has been a problem area all year and is compounded by the lack of long-distance shooting. The frustration is seeping into the locker room.
"Whatever it is we need to do we just got to do it," Robinson said. "I can't pinpoint one thing. We just got to play hard and play through adversity, play through frustration and just play basketball. I think at times we want to win so bad and we want to do good for each other. It's just not going our way right now, we just got to play through it."
Good Nate, bad Nate: Robinson played very well at certain times Wednesday and was a major reason why the Bulls had a chance to win late. He was also one of the biggest reasons the Bulls ultimately lost the game. He made several crucial errors down the stretch, finishing the game 9-for-22 from the field. Thibodeau summed up Robinson's night, and in many ways his career, this way:
"Some good, some bad," Thibodeau said. "I thought we did some good things for most of the game and then our defensive discipline got us at the end of the game."
As inconsistent as Robinson has been at times, he's also been the type of offensive spark plug the Bulls have been searching for all year. Overall, he has played better than current starter Kirk Hinrich, and it's one of the reasons why Thibodeau admitted after the game that he would consider some lineup changes.
Robinson has the unique ability to amaze and infuriate, all at the same time. For his part, he believes the Bulls just need to get back to basics.
"We're just thinking too much," Robinson said. "I think we got to go out and just play. Whatever happens, happens. We're just thinking too much, just trying to make the right play, instead of play, just let it happen. Each guy is pulling for each other a little bit too much ... everybody is just trying to do the right thing instead of just playing basketball and just let whatever happens, happen."
The last word: Center Joakim Noah on the Bulls' recent woes: "We got to execute better in the fourth quarter. These games are close, man. We're not executing in the fourth quarter. We got to play better together. We're not playing great together right now."