The Bulls Wednesday defeated the Brooklyn Nets 115-100 for just the Bulls’ second 2-0 start in the last 13 years.
“Guys are continuing to work on their games; they are knocking down shots and getting guys open in rhythm. That’s team basketball,” said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 24 points, six assists and a dominant defensive effort against Joe Johnson. “If we continue to play like that, I think we are going to be hard to beat.”
But it was more than just the result and the encouraging start to the season:
- Butler and Rose fit seamlessly as the guard duo combining to shoot 14 for 22 with 39 points and nine assists. Late in the game when the Nets exerted extra pressure on Rose, Butler handled the ball. He set up Nikola Mirotic for a pair of threes and scored 10 points in the last six minutes. Butler also was three of three on three pointers;
- With five players making at least two three pointers each, the Bulls had an amazing 42-0 lead in three-point shooting going 14 for 28 to the Nets’ zero for nine. The Bulls are now 21-47 on threes in the two games in their offensive goal to open the court and create driving lanes. All of Rose’s field goals were driving scores;
- The Bulls had six players score in double figures after five in the opening win Tuesday over Cleveland. And Doug McDermott added eight points with a pair of threes in about 20 minutes;
- Butler again played the most as he is lined up against the best scorer, Johnson Wednesday (four of 15) after LeBron James Tuesday. Butler played 34 minutes Wednesday. The only other Bull playing more than 30 minutes was Gasol at 30:14. The Bulls used 11 players with 10, like in the opener, playing at least double figure minutes.
“We were making shots tonight. So it made it a lot easier to drive to the rim,” noted Butler. “Everybody is taking and making threes. We’re hard to guard when we are doing that because that leaves me and Derrick doing what we do best, attacking the rim.”
It wasn’t a brilliant effort against a Nets team in transition more off the court than on. They’re in the midst of a restart and had starting point guard Jarrett Jack out.
The Bulls scored the first seven points and would never trail, although the Nets going with a small group in the second quarter against a defensively erratic Bulls reserve five closed within 58-55 at halftime. The starters took over to open the second half and went out to the biggest lead of the game at 84-65 before coach Fred Hoiberg began substituting again.
The Nets actually cut the Bulls lead back to six with about four minutes remaining.
But Rose picked up a loose ball near half court with the clock down to about five and burst down a lane all the way to score. Butler then drove inside and passed back to Mirotic for a three and Gasol in a stronger offensive effort hit a fadeaway jumper from the left post and the Bulls eased on to Detroit for Friday’s close to the short road trip.
“Jimmy was phenomenal tonight,” said Hoiberg. “Markel Brown did a really good job of pressuring Derrick Rose (late). Jimmy handled the ball heading down the floor a few times, and we wanted to get the ball in his hands to make plays. He hit Niko for the three, he had a great drive to the basket on a ball screen from Pau and hit a big shot. So he was great tonight. Not only offensively but defensively.
“Too many turnovers (for us),” Hoiberg added. “Any time you turn the ball over 20 times (for 22 points), that is not good. We put them on the foul line too many times (28) as well. As for the offense, when we did get a shot up we were efficient. But you can’t make a habit of turning the ball over that many times. Early on our pace was really good, the first half when we got up by 16. Then we took our foot off of the gas a little bit. It was nice to see us finish off the game the way we did.”
The Bulls did play the game a bit casually after their fast start that enabled them to go ahead 28-12 in the first quarter. The Bulls played like it would be easy. The Bulls then got outhustled and it showed on the offensive boards, where the Nets despite playing multiple small lineups crushed the Bulls 16-5.
Aaron Brooks was clever and slippery in reserve with some unlikely—other than for him—driving scores. But the reserves this game were mostly outplayed. Joakim Noah was zero for three shooting in about 18 minutes and has yet to score a field goal in 35 minutes in the two games. Though Noah did play Wednesday after hurting his knee Tuesday. Taj Gibson wasn’t as active in the second of the back to back after coming off his ankle surgery. E’Twaun Moore made shots again, though he was loose with the ball at times. But he showed he deserved to be in the rotation for his offense. Rookie Bobby Portis didn’t get in, but Kirk Hinrich got his first action with about five minutes and an assist.
This was a game where the talent differential was clear.
Brook Lopez scored 26 points for Brooklyn with good outside shooting, but was slow defensively. Gasol, who had been mostly left out of the offense in Game 1, got off to a good start and shot well with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Though there’s been much discussion about the Bulls’ new Midwest Sprint offense, the Bulls didn’t play at a particularly fast pace or dominate in fast break points. It’s likely after a preseason with so many players missing games and building toward the opener that their conditioning probably isn’t at peak form.
But the movement in the offense and the personnel being employed by Hoiberg continues to provide better shooting opportunities.
Though it’s being pointed out that Rose is driving more, in many respects he’s doing what he was last season, basically taking what the game dictates. Last season with Noah at power forward usually backed up by Gibson and Butler not renowned for three point shooting, defenses constantly closed in the lane and denied lanes to the basket. So Rose probed, but he would often pull up for the jump shot. Rose is still suffering double vision from his orbital surgery. So he isn’t anxious to take many jump shots. Hinrich several times should have shot but passed back to Rose. But with shooters like Mirotic, Tony Snell and McDermott to spread the court, Rose has been able to penetrate more often.
“They said that in a couple of weeks it’ll go down, or go away,” said Rose about the double vision. “I’m just waiting patiently. If anything I want them to shoot the ball right now because I still have a hard time with seeing. My part is just going out there, creating, and trying to get to the basket. I’m not worried about offense. It’s just defense. We had slips.
“We (also) need Niko to go out and play the way that he has been playing,” said Rose. “There is no way you can play him. With the freedom that he has he is able to take any shot that he wants. I love his effort on the defensive end. He’s trying a little bit better, which all of us need to. I just love our team.”
Mirotic again was active and bold, now seven of 12 on threes in the two games. He’s getting known.
“They’ve got a lot of guys who spread the floor and shoot threes,” noticed Joe Johnson. “I thought they made some good shots. So they’re a tough team to cover. Pau got it going. I can’t remember No. 44’s name, but he got it going a little bit and Jimmy started making shots. So it kind of opened up.”
Forty-four, of course, is Mirotic and he’s going to make a name for himself.
“I am feeling comfortable shooting the three and playing inside and outside,” said Mirotic. “My teammates (are) finding me. So it’s great for everybody. I really like this offense because we are playing beautiful, playing for each other, a lot of assists. It’s great. My goal this year is to show the people I can play defense. Offensively, some days, of course, can be better (than others). But I need to show I can play defense and I really focus on that.”
Mirotic is just one of the Bulls showing something in the first few days.