Pau Gasol had a Bulls debut that all the pessimistic, front-office hating Bulls fans certainly can't be happy about, as his 21 points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes were a huge part of the Bulls' 104-80 blowout win over the Knicks in the 2014-15 season opener at Madison Square Garden.
While it was only one game, and the Knicks certainly aren't much in the way of competition, the Bulls' front office (a/k/a Paxson and Forman) looks like geniuses for one night anyway.
Carmelo Anthony, whose decision to not sign with the Bulls was derided as yet another reason the Bulls can't compete for a title this season, played 29 minutes and was good for 14 points (5/13 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 turnovers. He didn't even get off the bench in the 4th quarter of this one, as the Bulls recovered from a slow start to thoroughly embarass the Knicks for most of the night.
J.R Smith hit a pair of free throws to give the Knicks a 16-11 lead with 3:49 left in the opening period. At the 3:12 mark, the Bulls were 3/10 from the field, 0/4 from behind the arc, and had committed six turnovers.
Pau Gasol, Aaron Brooks and Taj Gibson turn the game around
But Pau Gasol and Aaron Brooks scored five points each and Taj Gibson added three in the final 2:49 of the quarter, leading a 13-4 Bulls run that gave the visitors a four point lead after 12 minutes.
It only got uglier from there for the Knicks, as the Bulls outscored them 60-40 over the second and third quarters, eventually pushing their lead to 35 before Thibs cleared his bench all the way down to Cameron Bairstow and E'Twan Moore over the final three minutes.
The Bulls' bench outscored their starters 55-49 tonight, but to be fair the starters only played a combined 125:05 while the bench played 114:55, with most of their minutes coming against the Knicks' backups.
But the bench really was outstanding tonight, led by Gibson's 22 points and 8 rebounds in just over 28 minutes of action. He was on fire from mid-range, and completely unstoppable in the low post. He made 10 of 12 shots from the field, and the Knicks simply had no chance of stopping him with their backup big men.
Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic each had pretty nice NBA debuts- McDermott played 24 minutes and gave the Bulls 12 points, 5 rebounds, two assists and a steal while hitting 5/9 shots overall, 2/4 from behind the arc. Mirotic played 15 minutes, knocking down a three from the top of the key on his first NBA shot attempt and finishing with five points and seven rebounds.
After struggling through most of the preseason, Aaron Brooks had an oustanding Bulls debut. He scored 13 points on 4/5 from the field while dishing out a team-high six assists.
The most amazing thing about tonight's win was that the Bulls were so dominant with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah not doing a whole lot. Not that either of them played badly, it's just that they weren't needed.
Rose's comback certainly wasn't spectacular, but it was solid. He got into the paint at will, was deadly on his mid-range jumpers off the dribble, and showed that he's still one of the quickest players in the world. He only played 21 minutes, giving the team 13 points (3/7 FG, 7/8 FT) and five assists with a pair of steals. Noah played 20 minutes and contributed 3 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 2 assists.
If you think the Bulls are serious championship contenders this season, you had to be happy with tonight's opener as it really couldn't have gone much better.
If you're among the many Bulls fans who prefer to hate on the front office, who think that signing Pau Gasol was a waste of money, and that the team gave up too much for McDermott and paid too much for Mirotic... sorry about your luck.