Every team that falls on the wrong side of the playoff bubble can circle some part of their schedule and ponder to themselves what would have been if they’d gotten the job done. The Bulls are determined not to let that circle come from growing pains at the beginning of the season, and they showed it with an affirming victory over the Pacers on Saturday. Just days into the season, Coach Hoiberg has utilized his squad to do what is often easier said than done: outplay the other team. At 2-0, the Bulls looked like a team that wanted to start the season off well and not look back.
- As expected, the Bulls started out with Rondo, Wade. Butler, Gibson and Lopez. The offense was a well-balanced, fine-tuned machine throughout the game. The Bulls were able to stay on the offensive by capitalizing on fast-break opportunities, while staying prepared and disciplined during transition.
- In the 2nd quarter, the offense broke out. Accompanied by a respective defensive effort, the Bulls scored a fantastic 38 points, a quarter in which the Pacers have struggled thus far. Rondo racked up 6 of his 13 dimes on the night, while McDermott scored 7 points in as many minutes. The Bulls shot the ball 18 times, and managed to sink all but four.
- Going into half with a 21 point-lead, the offense continued to attack, especially in transition, while putting up 30 more points in the 3rd With a healthy lead, Hoiberg let his bench finish off the job, lead my McDermott who finished off a 23-point performance with double digits in the final quarter. #11 was lights out behind the arc, finishing off 5-6, while Isaiah Canaan made the most of his time going 3-5 behind the arc.
- Get used to it: Taj Gibson out-rebounded fellow big-man Robin Lopez, but Gibson was the only starter who didn’t snag an offensive board. Christiano Felicio looked like someone who could stick around in this team’s rotation. His 8 rebounds were impressive, while 3 of them came on the offensive glass. Butler and Wade did their parts as well by snagging 5 boards a piece. Don’t be surprised to see that trend continue.
- Perhaps the most assuring stat of the offense’s balanced attack tonight was that nine players clocked at least 19 minutes tonight.
- Six of the nine players who clocked 19+ mins. scored in double digits, and two of the three who did not (Rondo and Felicio) were impressive in their own right.
- As will be the case throughout the season, Michael Carter-Williams had mixed results. His 5 assists were shadowed with 4 turnovers, while the scoring production wasn’t there. Rondo also had 4 turnovers, however, those would be the only 4 TO’s amongst the Bulls’ starters.
- The most telling stat of the night? Every Bulls starter had a positive +/- rating while every Pacers starter had a negative rating. Not surprisingly, the Bulls had the edge in just about every team stat.
- After shooting in the low 70% region from the line vs. Boston, the Bulls sunk 19 of their 21 shots from the line. While the starters were 100% from the line, none of them were able to cash in once from downtown.
- As for the Pacers, there were plenty of areas that will need addressing. Teague and Ellis were a combined 1-13 from the field, contributing just two points between themselves. George and Turner each shot 66.67% from the field, while Thaddeus Young registered an adequate 10 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes of action. If Teague and Ellis can mold to their ideal roles, the Pacers too could have a well-balanced offense to be wary of.
- Next up: The Bulls will take on the Nets (1-2) in a Halloween game at the Barclays Center.
In case you missed it, this off-season, the Bulls ditched Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, and Joakim Noah, and replaced them with The Big Three (lol) of Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, and Robin Lopez (… no, you’re thinking of Brook Lopez. Almost the same thing). The arrival of these three is in line with the plan to get younger, faster, more athletic, and complement Fred Hoiberg’s patented Hoiball TM. Well, alright, not exactly. Ok, not at all. But maybe they can be good anyway because getting into the playoffs is fun. Let’s break down the Bulls home opener as they move to 1-0 on the season (undefeated!).
- The Bulls’ offense looks about the same as it did last year whenever Pau Gasol wasn’t in the game: a series of dribble hand-offs around the perimeter, followed up by a drive baseline with the defense icing, and kicked for a contested three. Oh, and the occasional back-cut alley oop from the top of the key to Jimmy Butler. But, this year we get to mix in some Rajon Rondo passing magic, and some Dwyane Wade threes (you heard me right), which is exciting.
- The Bulls led by as many as 15 in this game, with a starting five of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Robin Lopez. The Celtics went on a 14-3 run to open the third quarter and cut it to one, taking a small lead later on in the period, before the Bulls responded with a run of their own to regain and extend the lead to six, ending the third quarter.
- They started the fourth with the hodge podge of Wade, Michael Carter-Williams (MCW), Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott. And as these NBA games tend to go, unless you stomp on a team’s throat when they’re down, they won’t go away. The Bulls went on a 9-0 run in the fourth to take a 95-81 lead, but the Celtics did not go away, and the Bulls could only score four points over the next five minutes to allow the Celtics back into this one with an 11-0 run of their own. But Wade had the answer with a step-back three to seal the game late; the final: 105-99.
- I made fun of the Bulls for having Dwyane Wade as one of their main three point threats, and I will continue to do so. But tonight, he made me look foolish (last year he was 7/44). He was 4/6 from beyond the arc- one, a desperation shot as the shot clock wound down, and one, a clutch three ball to lock up the game. He had 22 points and five assists, leading the team with a +15 in 32 minutes.
- The Bulls made seven three pointers in the first half, one of which was a Butler buzzer beater as the half expired on a pull up three. He’s still settling for step-back threes – perhaps a bad habit hangover from last year. He had 24 points in 36 minutes on 6/17 from the field, but was 4/6 on the three ball and got to the line 12 times, knocking down eight.
- Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder got into a scuffle when JB tried to take a charge from Crowder, then tripped Crowder as they got their legs entangled. Jae put the ball on Jimmy’s chest, and a technical foul was issued to both players, as well as ones on Isaiah Thomas and Rajon Rondo for getting in the mix as well. Much ado about nothing, let’s play basketball. All of this was strange, considering Butler and Crowder were teammates at Marquette. Some people might pat Butler on the back for having some fire in the home opener, but I thought the tripping was kind of petty.
- Taj Gibson was a nice threat inside; his footwork looks improved from last year, posting 18 points on 8/13, and 10 rebounds for a nice double-double.
- Rajon Rondo still can’t shoot – four points on 1/9 shooting, but he’s not here for that. He had nine assists and six boards.
- Butler, Wade, and Rondo led the team in minutes. I’m not sure how sustainable that’s going to be with the latter two going forward, but Jimmy has proven he can handle the work load.
- Doug McDermott was a non-factor in this game, shooting 2-5 with five points, and was scoreless from outside in 21 minutes.
- Mirotic still not getting calls on the defensive end. Noteworthy? Probably not. But I noted it. He had 15 points on 6/11 shooting, but was a paltry 1/6 from deep.
- MCW had one small flurry of good play coupled with a bit of unorganized mess, which is par for the course, given that he was the least efficient player in the NBA as a rookie two seasons ago, despite being Rookie of the Year (basically, he was the only offensive option on a crappy team and had a lot of points as a result).
- Robin Lopez played too, I think… right? *Checks box score* Yep, he was there. He played 27 minutes.
- The Bulls ran out 16 five-man lineups tonight. The one that had the most success (+11 in over 12 minutes): the starting five. The one with the least success (-5): Butler, MCW, Lopez, Mirotic, Rondo. Fortunately, that lineup only played for about a minute and a half.
- A word about the Celtics: they had a lot of energy tonight, but looked a little disheveled on defense, which is strange for a team that was fourth in defensive efficiency last year. After adding Al Horford and Amir Johnson into the mix, I would imagine it will take them a couple weeks to get into a groove. Expect this team to be tough.
- Up Next: The Bulls welcome Paul George and the Pacers to the United Center on Saturday night in a heavyweight matchup of undefeated teams.