Fred Hoiberg Lapses into Old Bad Habits in Celtics Loss

The Chicago Bulls lost their first game of the season in the last two minutes because Fred Hoiberg’s old habits reared its ugly head again. Not learning from the Pau Gasol debacle last year, Hoiberg played a team with no rim protector and gave up two free layups and a crucial rebound.

At Iowa State, Fred Hoiberg revolutionized the game by playing four shooters and one playmaker in a run-and-pass game that reversed roles. The guards would drive backdoor and shoot from outside, while the front court would shoot the lights out or run the opposing team to the ground. Quick sets and sure shooting often created big leads that could not be surmounted unless the opposing college squad could score on every possession.

Last year, Hoiberg fell flat on his face by keeping Pau Gasol in when the team needed crucial rim protection and defensive rebounding in crunch time. The Bulls lost plenty of games where they were leading until the team ran out of gas in the last two minutes while opposing teams ran a layup clinic.

By the end of the season, it was clear that Cristiano Felicio and Bobby Portis together played well off each other as the Bulls bigs while then guard, Justin Holiday locked guys down or funnel guards into Felicio or forced them into a Portis double-team.

It is frustrating that Hoiberg forgot all of that this year and was strangely experimenting with a lineup that included Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis in Wednesday’s rematch with the Celtics.

Hoiberg wasn’t going with Jerian Grant, who was playing well enough attacking the rim and giving pocket passes to the Bulls post player while helping slow down Isiah Thomas to help the Bulls catch up. Hoiberg played the young Bulls forwards and Rajon Rondo towards the end of the fourth quarter.

Brad Stevens, being the smart offense coach for the Celtics that he is, saw an opportunity and had his team attack the basket from two angles and either pass when covered or get a layup. The Bulls ran out of gas after tying the game at 100 late.

In the first game with the Celtics, Hoiberg was changing lineups in crunch time, subbing two defensive players when the team was on defense then sending in the shooters like Mirotic when they were playing offense. In the second game, we saw Hoiberg go all the way with the strange lineup in the closing minutes until they lost.

No one on the coaching staff helped him out. No defensive rebounder or rim protector in the last two minutes meant Hoiberg bet on his old play of one playmaker and four shooters in the game. The Bulls lost a game they could easily have won and stolen from the Celtics.

Fans were disparaging Nikola Mirotic for not covering the glass or blocking shots, but that is not Mirotic’s role. Mirotic’s job is to be a scorer and to be a help rebounder. In the first Celtics game, he was pulled out and defensive forward Taj Gibson was put in during defensive possessions, and then put back in on offense.

Why is Fred Hoiberg being lazy in the fourth game of the season? Coaching should be a hard-nosed minute per minute gig. You already know Portis needs a wall to tandem with to be as effective in the post. If Felicio were subbed for Mirotic, the team might have had a chance.

Hoiberg was lucky the team evened the score several times during the game. Sadly, he lost the game on the simple and basic NBA basketball experience of protecting the rim in crunch time and having defensive rebounders too. He completely forgot his first game strategy and just watched his team give the Celtics the game on a hunch, claiming that he was rewarding Portis and company for bringing the energy to tie the score.

Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson were sitting on the bench when they could have changed the complexion of the game by clogging the middle and forcing the Celtics to win it from mid-range or long range. Using them both would have made Portis and Mirotic’s efforts pay off.

The Celtics got free layups against a Bulls lineup that was a shooter squad and not a defensive mix of both. How utterly confounding. The Bulls should win every game they can steal or bully or oppress. No more winnable games lost on a hunch.

Bulls beat reporter, K.C. Johnson said it all when he tweeted:

Hope this is the last time the Bulls play the end of the fourth quarter against ANY NBA team with zero rim protectors or defensive rebounders.  Use substitutions to play the right people at the right time.

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