In what was their last game at the United Center before the customary November “circus” road trip across the country, the Bulls avoided letting tonight’s game slip away in the final minutes and improved to 7-3 with a 96-95 victory. Let’s start with the negative before digging into some positive notes.
- The alternate jerseys. Apparently these were supposed to be a symbol of Chicago pride, but the connection wasn’t clear. Instead, what we had were oddly colored gray t-shirts that just looked weird. To me, the only alternate jerseys the Bulls need are the black ones. Those are about as good as they come.
- Nikola Mirotic’s shooting. Excluding last Monday’s game, he’s not had a game in which he’s shot above 30% from the three point line since November 1st against the Magic. That stretch includes three games in which he missed all of his three point attempts, going 0/10 in those games. He has been hardly better from the field otherwise, with last Monday’s game again being the exception since late October. Really, since the first three games of the season, he’s had just the one game in which he’s shot particularly well. I do have to give credit to Mirotic in one way, however, he led the team’s +/- with a +6 tonight.
- Doug McDermott on defense. It’s bad. Not only is he slow, but he very often looks lost and out of place. Much of the time, he doesn’t look like he knows where he should be, and by the time he’s figured it out, it’s too late. On one play in the second quarter, he allowed an easy basket from the post because he was late on help defense, and when he got there, he was crossed over with ease and went to the ground. His shooting is generally pretty good, but as has been documented here already, he is usually more harm than good when he’s on the floor. His defense will have to improve, or otherwise I would expect that his minutes will start to dwindle.
- On a more positive note, Derrick Rose shot awfully well for someone who will apparently be dealing with double vision for a large chunk of the season. He was 9/18 from the field and 2/2 from three point range tonight. He led the team in scoring tonight with 23. Unfortunately, he sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter and did not return.
- As a whole, the Bulls offense did a nice job of driving to the basket early on and did nicely at keeping Indiana out of the paint during much of the first half. The Pacers’ lack of success there was the main contributing factor to their halftime deficit.
- Even though Pau Gasol only mustered five points, he was an absolute workhorse on the boards, especially on defense. Though the Bulls were outrebounded 50-48, Gasol and Taj Gibson both had double-digit rebounds.
- Gibson finished with nine points, 11 boards, five assists (!), and four rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. He could start seeing more of Mirotic’s minutes.
- Chicago survived a late game scare. The Pacers are not a team to take for granted, no matter what kind of lead you have, and we saw that tonight. Paul George is fully back from injury and looks fantastic. I made the mistake of thinking this one was in the bag with about half of the fourth quarter left, and instead spent the final minutes nervously hoping we wouldn’t fall victim to a last second shot from the Pacers. Thankfully, that did not happen and the Bulls left with a 96-95 victory.
- Coming up: the Bulls head west for three games, the first of which is Wednesday in Phoenix.