On paper, it looked like the Bulls would crush the Knicks. It looked like the Bulls front court would be way too much for the Knicks front court. And that's more or less exactly what happened
For about four minutes, the game was ugly. For about four minutes these Chicago Bulls looked like the hapless offensive Bulls we've seen for the past two seasons. Pau Gasol looked old, slow, and scary bad.
After four minutes it was 2-8. Not a big deal, but enough to be collectively groaning. The Bulls called time out and collected themselves. The Bulls played the knicks pretty evenly for the next five minutes. Then the benches came in.
The Bulls finished the quarter with a 13 to four run led by Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks coming off the bench. That lead would swell to 10 by the half, and the Bulls put the Knicks away in the third as the lead grew to 20.
New York never made anything even remotely resembling a run after those opening minutes as Chicago defended strong and scored efficiently, especially in the paint, all night long.
Derrick Rose scared the hell out of everyone
On one play he was juked by Shane Larkin and went down. His leg seemed to bend at an awkward angle as he fell. My heart jumped, but Rose popped back up. He popped up with what appeared to be a limp, but then stayed in the game and was fine.
Larkin seemed to have little problem driving around Rose and finding room. His lateral quickness looked a little questionable on defense for much of the night.
However, Derrick looked very solid on offense. He drained a couple of pull-up mid range jumpers from just inside the free throw line, something we haven't seen much of from Rose in preseason or FIBA play.
Rose looked to aggressively push the ball on offense for his minutes, always pushing the pace hard. He drew fouls in the paint four times for eight free throws as well as hit a layup. He had five assists and a few more opportunities for bunnies blown by teammates.
The only downside to Rose's night on offense was an 0-3 performance from the three point line, but he was 3-4 inside the arc with a couple mid range jumpers and plenty of drawn fouls, so the night was certainly a success overall.
Granted, the Knicks had no one great to help inside or defend him on the perimeter, so tougher matchups are coming, but it was a good start, and Rose's mid range jumpers in the mid 3rd was what really broke the Knicks back swelling the lead from the 10-12 points it was oscillating around to up to the 14-15 point range before things completely broke open.
Taj Gibson dominated
Gibson showed the Bulls can run an offense through him. He dominated as the focal point of the Bulls bench. He added points off of offensive rebounds and kickouts. He hit jumpers in guys faces, he backed them down in the post.
Gibson just looked like a beast offensively.
He was 10 of 12 from the field for 22 points and didn't just look like a starting caliber PF. He looked like an all-star starting caliber PF.
Pau Gasol quietly beasted
He started off 0-2, looked slow and lousy. He got the benefit of the doubt call on to finish an and one over Samuel Dalembart and never looked back. By the end of the night, the Bulls hasn't run much offense through Gasol, but he still finished with 21 points on 7/11 shooting.
The main thing Pau managed to do that Carlos Boozer couldn't was simply be big and finish easy shots. Pau managed to really play in the paint, finish short shots when open, grab some offensive boards and finish, and force guys to foul him.
It will get much tougher in future days, but he put 21 points without the Bulls even looking for him so much on offense.
Rookies both contributed
Doug McDermott continues to impress me with the strong effort on the glass. He put a lot of effort into his defense as well. J.R. Smith hit a couple of step back isolation twos over him, but they were the type of shots you hope the opponent takes, a well defended, 20 footer.
On offense he looked pretty smooth scoring 12 points on nine shots and doing much of his damage inside the arc and not looking simply like a Kyle Korver type player.
Nikola Mirotic only took a couple threes, but he knocked down one of them, and it was encouraging to see him get on to the floor for 15 minutes. Much like McDermott, I was pleased by his defense. He used his length well to deny the ball and played tough.
Congratulations Tom Thibodeau
Mike Dunleavy was the only guy to play over 30 minutes (31). Derrick Rose played 21 while Joakim Noah played only 20. It's not that I'm that concerned about keeping their minutes that low, it's that with a 20 point lead there was no reason to bring these guys back in the fourth.
So he didn't.
That's been something we haven't necessarily seen much of from Thibs in the past. Fans are obviously most concerned with Noah and Rose's health this year, so it's nice to see that the Bulls are willing to get these guys some rest in smart situations even in the opener.
He also played a wide rotation. The next biggest concern with fans was that McDermott and Mirotic would not play much. However, Doug played 24 minutes and Mirotic got run in the second quarter prior to the game being a blow out.
It looks like Chicago will find a way to get these guys on the floor and that's important for the development of the roster and for Chicago to be as good as possible by the end of this season.
Aaron Brooks was a stud
Aaron Brooks was hyped as the next Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin, or John Lucas. His preseason performance wasn't living up to the billing as he looked extremely selfish and couldn't hit shots.
Much like Gasol, who struggled in preseason but dominated in game one, Brooks scored 13 on four of five shooting and added four free throws. His quick five points coming off the bench ignited the Bulls offense and started what eventually would turn into a rout.
Brooks was able to get into the paint at will and was dropping layups all over the Knicks defense. If he can continue to play this well then the Bulls will be quite happy with the signing.
Joakim Noah looked back defensively
Joakim Noah's role on offense was diminished, as we'd expect, but he looked over his injury on defense where he had three blocks and played very strong in his limited minutes.
It will still be a work in progress to see how the Bulls can take advantage of Noah's strengths, but he's such an unselfish player that fewer touches don't seem likely to cause any type of issue with Noah.
Jimmy Butler out 2-4 weeks
Butler won't play for awhile as he's recovering from the sprained thumb. The two to four week diagnosis seems like a fairly cautious approach to Butler, and that's the right attitude for Chicago to have.
The Bulls didn't miss Butler last night where Carmelo Anthony was held to just 14 points on 13 attempts. LeBron James will likely do more damage to the Bulls tonight, but after that, the Bulls will have a relatively soft schedule.
Either way, the Bulls should give Butler all the time he needs to come back and stay healthy.
Filed under: Uncategorized