By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — On Wednesday night, the Bulls continued a trend that’s become all too familiar in this up-and-down season: They were soundly outplayed in the fourth quarter.
Chicago entered the final 12 minutes tied with Washington, only to shoot 7-of-24 in the final 12 minutes and fall 107-97 at the United Center. It continued a theme of this .500 season, as the Bulls (14-14) entered Wednesday second-to-last in the league in the fourth quarter in scoring margin (-2.2) and last in field-goal percentage (37.2). And afterward, it had the attention of veteran guard Dwyane Wade, who believed the Bulls have become too reliant on star Jimmy Butler down the stretch.
“It doesn’t matter if a guy knows who it’s going to,” Wade said. “If the paint is packed because you’re running one action, it’s going to be tough. A guy has to make an unbelievable shot. That’s putting a lot of pressure on Jimmy. Let’s call it what it is: We’re putting a lot of pressure on Jimmy in the fourth quarter to make a lot of plays because we’re running just one action. So we got to get more action, more body movement.”
Wade put the onus on coach Fred Hoiberg, his staff and the players on the floor around Butler, believing the team’s movement has stagnated as many watch Butler go to work. In Wednesday’s loss, the Butler-Wade-Rajon Rondo trio combined to shoot just 14-of-50 on field goals, and the Bulls went with a fair share of isolation basketball.
“It’s got to come from us as players too,” Wade said. “Obviously, some of it is play-calling as well. Some of it is we got to get out the way, we got to move, we got to keep them honest. We’re asking a young guy to make extra shot he takes with bodies in front of him, step-backs, all these things. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do.”
Regarding Wednesday’s issues, Wade pointed out there was “not a lot of spacing sometimes, we had to take a lot of tough shots.” Part of that is because foes regularly sag off Rondo, who’s shooting 38 percent this season and was 1-of-10 on Wednesday. Hoiberg acknowledged that he considered using wing Doug McDermott over Rondo more in the fourth quarter — a move he made to a degree in a Dec. 8 win against the Spurs — but decided against it because of Rondo’s quality game Monday and the Bulls’ need for pace, saying, “You feel like you have to have him out there.”
As for Butler, he responded “maybe so” when asked if he agreed with Wade’s assessment, then put the burden on himself.
“I got to be a better playmaker, get the ball up earlier,” said Butler, who 20 points on 6-of-20 shooting. “I’ll watch it and see what I see. I’m still going to play basketball the way I know how to play basketball — good, bad or indifferent. I play to win. I guess we all have to be better, including myself.”
Wade indicated he’s in regular communication with Hoiberg about strategy and believes the Bulls can overcome their late troubles.
“We always talk about different things,” Wade said. “I thought today, especially early, we ran some great sets. We got to continue to work on our full-court execution. It’s no secret at all. We stay in constant communication of what we can do, but it’s just going to have to be some more work in progress.
“We got to find a way to make shots easier for guys.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.