When was the last time you were this excited about a preseason game? Derrick Rose is back, the Bulls are back, and they're ready for a big season. Joakim Noah missed the game which isn't the best sign for the start of the preseason but probably isn't worth worrying over.
The first quarter action
Derrick Rose didn't start off with a bang. He didn't take the Pacers to the hole the first time he touched the ball but just passed it around. For Bulls fans just waiting to see what Rose would do, it was a surprisingly frustrating few minutes until he drove into Roy Hibbert's chest missed the shot, but quicked jumped for a rebound which he caught and shot in mid air for the put back.
Rose took had another hard drive a few players later where David West got away with a big foul across the wrist causing Rose to miss a shot and attempted to take a charge where he didn't get the call but probably should have.
Rose was the first and only started pulled in the Bulls first minutes shift, but they came back and grabbed everyone else shortly afterwards. Overall, the first stint was a success.
Jimmy Butler looked active and athletic getting to the free throw line multiple times early while Luol Deng took plenty of shots to pedestrian success. Carlos Boozer felt like he wasn't there, and Nazr Mohammed kicked things off with scoring five points but looked completely helpless on defense against Roy Hibbert.
The bench started off strong with multiple quality plays by Dunleavy, Gibson, and Hinrich in the first quarter. Dunleavy had a nice pass to Gibson for a dunk, Hinrich created a nice jumper for a score, and everyone made some nice hustle plays.
Things started to cool off in the second
The momentum the Bulls had towards the end of the first ended pretty quickly in the second quarter. The Bulls struggled to get anything going on offense from the bench which is certainly one of the concerns for during the season.
After three and a half minutes of pure ineptitude, the Bulls brought Derrick Rose back into the game and played him with four bench players. On the Bulls second offensive possession, Rose beat the Pacers down the court for an acrobatic lay in on a fast break. Derrick then turned the ball over on consecutive possessions while also getting beaten off the dribble by C.J. Watson, not his best stretch.
A play later, the Bulls brought in the rest of the starters where Derrick Rose then went MVP on the Pacers driving through the lane repeatedly for shots. Rose looked athletic, confident, and not scared of contact at all. In short, he looked like the old Derrick Rose.
The Bulls built up a six point lead over this stretch from a deficit, and Luol Deng knocked down the first three pointer of the night for Chicago. The Bulls finished off the quarter with plenty of energy, Rose repeatedly made athletic plays and played faster and faster as the night wore on.
If there was one negative of the first half, the half court offense was pretty much abysmal. Chicago did most of its damage in the fast break with Derrick Rose the heart of much of that. Otherwise, the Bulls struggled to shoot.
An ugly 3rd
Derrick Rose continued to attack, but the Bulls lack of shooting made them look fairly awful for most of the quarter. Six minutes into the period, the Bulls had just two field goals and had turned their half time lead into a deficit.
Chicago struggled with turnovers, shooting, and the confidence to even attempt shots throughout the period. The Bulls tried to attack, but the Pacers just dared anyone to shoot from the outside and no one would. Rose, Butler, and Deng all passed up on open three point looks multiple times rather than to try to break the zone, a trend which hopefully won't continue.
Bulls scrap and claw their way to victory
It wasn't particularly pretty, but the Bulls deep bench crushed the Pacers even when they attempted to throw their starters in at the end of the game to grab the victory. Paul George fouled out almost immediately, and the Bulls pulled away.
One interesting facet for Bulls fans is that Marquis Teague didn't see the floor until the fourth quarter for six minutes. He knocked down a three, his only shot of the game, and played fine, however he doesn't look like he's in the rotation to me. This goes along with Thibodeau's quote when I asked him about the bench in media day, only Hinrich, Gibson, Nazr, and Dunleavy were mentioned.
Some player thoughts
Derrick Rose may have plenty to prove in terms of overall ability, but his knee looked really good. I think the number one concern about Rose was whether he'd have the explosiveness he used to have, but he did plenty to show that he's still an explosive high flying player in this game. He took plenty of hard contact and played strong all night.
If you wanted to be concerned about Rose, be concerned that he didn't look to take jumpers and wasn't knocking them down. The Bulls will need to see more shooting from Derrick, but his debut was definitely a success in my mind.
Taj Gibson looked awesome. He knocked down his mid range jumper, he played great defense, and he had several dunks on athletic, quick moves to the hole. Overall, it's good to see a big game from Taj who looks noticeably stronger this season and is coming off somewhat of a down year. Taj simply looked like a beast in this game, hopefully that continues.
Jimmy Butler got to the free throw line plenty, but he was just 1-4 from the field. It's too few attempts, and he shied away from too many outside shots in particular. The Bulls are going to need Butler to be more of a threat out there from the perimeter or teams will really pack the lane.
What to say about Luol Deng? This was one of those common Deng games where he took a crapload of shots, didn't hit many of them, but still hustled and played hard.
I don't think Snell or Murphy look like rotation players right now.
It was a nice first start, there's no reason to get too analytical about what happens in the first preseason game. We saw Derrick look healthy, and now we just need to see the Bulls get their stuff together with the first team offense.