BULLet Points: Pau carries the offense to victory against Denver

  • Pau Gasol was a beast Wednesday night, scoring 26 points on 12/19 shooting to go along with 19 rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots. Gasol was piping hot from mid-range, flashing to the high post area on pick and pops where he was able to launch shots unfettered by the Nuggets defense. Pau gave the Bulls a nice kick start to open the game, going 6/8 in the opening quarter. After a fairly quiet second and third quarter, Gasol came to life again the the fourth to prop up an otherwise stagnant and ineffective Bulls offense.
  • On the defensive end, Gasol held up very well in the post against Denver’s young batch of big men. The Nuggets went to Joffrey Lauvergne multiple times in the fourth quarter while the game was within their reach and the young center did not deliver. Lauvergne shot 3/13 against the Bulls, and many of his misses were due to the scary long arms of Pau Gasol. Gasol did not bite on fakes or create contact and did enough to slow the Nuggets comeback attempt. Gasol was a game high +18 in his 36 minutes on the court. This was a nice deviation from the norm this season, as Pau is currently sporting a -2.7 net rating.
  • Nikola Mirotic took an elbow to his face in the first quarter and suffered a concussion. This is a serious injury and the timetable to return is different for every person. Niko was having a solid first quarter before the injury, knocking down a three and shooting another, both in rhythm and without any unnecessary pump fakes.
  • With Mirotic out for most of the game, Fred Hoiberg relied heavily on pairing Joakim Noah alongside Pau Gasol. In 23 minutes together, the pair was +6. Last year, the Noah and Gasol combination was an abject disaster. But last night it seemed to work alright. Noah looks to have his legs back a bit and did a good job chasing guys on the perimeter. Joakim is obviously at his best playing center and anchoring the defense, but maybe we gave up on this twosome too soon. If Mirotic misses significant time, we will find out.
  • Jimmy Butler struggled offensively in this game. With reports that he’s dealing with some kind of heel injury, it’s not surprising that his jump shot looked flat and his explosiveness was missing. The Bulls attempted three lobs to Jimmy, typically automatic dunks, but Butler was not able to connect on any of them. Despite  the apparent injury to his foot, coach Hoiberg played Butler a team-high 39 minutes. Butler takes a lot of pride in his warrior mentality and ability to play through pain, but Hoiberg needs to understand we are in the first leg of a marathon season and that a win in December won’t mean anything if nagging injuries follow Butler through May.
  • Derrick Rose REALLY struggled offensively. Rose was 3/17 from the field, which is very bad. Rose just couldn’t find the right angles on his bank shot and couldn’t jump high enough on his attempts at the rim to avoid his shot being severely altered. Rose managed to make it to the line eight times Wednesday, but too many of his shots come off of aborted drives where he’s falling away from the basket, an attempt that will rarely draw a foul.
  •  Doug McDermott followed up his +10 performance against the Spurs with a +14 against the Nuggets. Doug was just 1/3 from three point range, but he still shot 55% for the game by taking the ball to the basket and unleashing his bizarre looking floater that keeps going in. McDermott is beginning to develop a reputation as a shooter and is impacting the Bulls offense even when he doesn’t shoot.

This is good!

  • The defense is still a work in progress. On the very next possession, Doug was defending Will Barton on the inbound. After delivering the pass, Barton darted to the corner while McDermott died on a screen he should have seen coming. Barton missed the open three.
  • The Denver Nuggets are far from a finished product, but I actually enjoy watching them play. They compete hard on the defensive end and have a lot of interesting players. Emanuel Mudiay had a night to forget, going 2/13 from the field. The 19-year-old has a lot to learn about the NBA, but he certainly has the physical and mental tools to become a great guard. Nikola Jokic started this game at center and actually got off to a hot start, drilling a transition three in the first quarter. Danilo Gallinari is one of my favorite players to watch. His herky-jerky dribble moves are strangely effective and his shooting stroke is pure. After signing an extension last offseason, he currently has one of the most valuable contracts in the NBA. I hope a contender snags him before his athleticism starts to fade.
  • Coming up: the Bulls host the Hornets on Saturday night. They’ll look to take a 2-1 lead in the season-series.

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