Hey, a game recap that is not prefaced with "the preseason doesn't matter"! We've reached a milestone, in that it's the first game of the regular aseason and the Chicago Bulls have notched their first win of the year. Last season, of course, the Bulls took home their opener when Derrick Rose dropped in a floater in the closing seconds to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 88-87. Obviously, Derrick wasn't available this time around, but that just forced the Bulls to look elsewhere.
The game was really, really ugly at times. But the Bulls came out on top. That's going to happen a lot this year. The ugliness, that is, not necessarily the wins.
In the end, the win came down to four players: Joakim Noah, who slapped up a 23/10/3/5/3 night — that's points/rebounds/assists/steals/blocks — and went 11/12 from the free throw line, including four clutch free throws to help ice the game down the stretch; Rip Hamilton, who scored 19 points; Carlos Boozer, who put up 18 points and 8 rebounds and became the Bulls' go-to guy down the stretch — the results were mixed at best, but still — despite struggling mightily from the free throw line; and Luol Deng, who didn't score much and couldn't shoot for most of the game, but grabbed 12 rebounds, five of them offensive, including a pair of huge offensive rebounds down the stretch as the offense did its level best to implode.
Of course, those are the four guys the Bulls expect to be leading them. It would have been much more interesting if at least one of the four were, for instance, Jimmy Butler or Nazr Mohammed, but there you are.
The bench struggled. Marco Belinelli hit a three and some free throws, but also bricked his only other jumper off the side of the backboard. Nate Robinson was OK, but turned the ball over a few times and made some incredible — in a bad way — decisions along the way. Mohammed barely played. Taj Gibson was fine, blocking four shots on the night, but his jumper was off. Butler only played 11 minutes for reasons that aren't quite clear.
Here's what we know going forward: The Bulls are going to play excellent defense and run like hell when they get the chance. Their bread and butter offensively is running Rip Hamilton off screens and playing through Boozer and Noah. The bench is going to struggle at times, especially early in the season, and the team as a whole will struggle to find consistent shooting from outside. But when the team gets rolling, as it did early in the third quarter, they can look like the Bulls of old — sans Rose, of course. They still need to prove themselves against a team that is not projected to end up in the high lottery for the umpteenth straight year, but they've got some decent pieces.
On to the next one.
Player o' the game: Joakim Noah, for everything mentioned above.
Noah played a second over 40 minutes. After averaging around 30 minutes the last two years, Noah's going to be expected to play more this year because of the loss of Omer Asik, and he did so tonight. He helped anchor the bench unit and he did his thing with the starters. Hopefully this is the Joakim we get for the rest of the year.
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