Tonight was an exciting night for many basketball fans as the new NBA season tipped off. To headline opening night, the Miami Heat hosted the Chicago Bulls. There were many noteworthy stories associated with tonight’s game: Derrick Rose’s return, the Heat getting their title rings, the Heat starting their quest for three titles in a row, to name a few. However, despite the excitement and fervor, the game ultimately didn’t live up to the hype as the Heat scorched the Bulls 107-95.
Don’t let the score fool you that much. The game started off much like most Bulls games do- Chicago played strong defense, the opponent missed their shots, and Chicago struggled to get much offense of their own going. Things changed quickly. After opening up a 15-8 lead in the first quarter Chicago allowed Miami to grab the lead for good to end the quarter 17-15. The second quarter marked Chicago’s implosion as the Bulls allowed the Heat to take off on a 17-0 to fall to a 21 point deficit at the end of the half. The third quarter was marked heavily by both teams trading blows. Behind the efforts of Jimmy Butler the Bulls managed to string together a run in the middle of the fourth quarter to bring the deficit down to 8 points. However, the run came too late.
The loss was ugly. The defense was lack luster especially around the perimeter and the offense was shaky. However if there is something Bulls fans can take solace in it’s the fact that the Heat only did their damage when both Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng were forced to sit in the second quarter with foul trouble. It’s likely that Tom Thibodeau’s rotations involve having either Jimmy Butler or Luol Deng on the floor at all times which means tonight’s situation will likely be rare for the Bulls. While the game was ugly for Chicago, when either Deng or Butler (or both) were on the floor, the team flowed better. Another fact that the Bulls can take solace in is that the Bulls got the looks they wanted all night but just couldn’t convert. I’m not overly concerned with the team’s offense. It’s the beginning of the season and there is rust, Thibodeau recently switched the team to a new “read and react” offense, and teams just have these bad nights from time to time. The team will come together and the Bulls will perform much better moving forward. The season is still young.
The following are some small player reviews for key players from tonight’s game. Normally I would expand these reviews make this a separate post titled “Game Grades” however they will be included in tonight’s recap.
Joakim Noah- 2 pts, 11 rbs, 2 asts, 2 stls, 2 blks, 2 tos
Noah had a night to forget and probably shouldn’t have played altogether given his recent groin injury. On offense Noah was incredibly shaky. His passing wasn’t as crisp and clean as it normally is and he couldn’t get any rhythm on offense. On several occasions Noah botched several scoring opportunities and managed his only points of the day on a fast break dunk. Defensively Noah seemed a half step slower than he normally was and allowed some players, like Bosh, to drive on him. Finally, he didn’t seem like he was as energetic rebounding as he normally is. On both offensive and defensive rebounds Noah seemed to be outworked by his Miami counterparts. Whatever the reason was, Noah was out of rhythm tonight.
Carlos Boozer- 31 pts, 7 rbs, 2 asts, 1 stl, 1 blk, 2 tos
Boozer played out of his mind on both sides tonight. On offense he demonstrated that in addition to being able to shoot an elbow jumper, he can drive and play with his back to the basket. On one play, Boozer backdown Chris Andersen and used a spin move to get himself a wide open layup. His offensive efforts led to a 72.2% night from the floor. Defensively Boozer was spotty. From time to time he made the same boneheaded mistakes such as failing to rotate but at others he showed poise and quick hands as he managed to block a shot and strip the ball out of the hands of some Heat players. Phenomenal night from Boozer.
Luol Deng- 4 pts, 5 rbs, 4 asts, 2 stls, 3 tos
Deng’s night was mostly forgettable. Defensively he had difficulty going against Lebron James, though that shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Most of Deng’s damage came on offense where he couldn’t get anything going for the Bulls tonight. Deng fell short on all 5 of his three point attempts, lost his dribble a couple of times, and just made some poor decisions in terms of passing. For all his poor play though the team did perform a little better with him on the floor though.
Jimmy Butler- 20 pts, 3 rbs, 3 asts, 5 stls, 1 blk, 2 tos
Butler was the gold spot of tonight’s game for Chicago. He put the team on his back towards the end of the third quarter and through the fourth and led the Bulls fight to come back in the game. Defensively he was a rock (what else is new?) and managed to get deflect a lot of passes and made life difficult for whoever he was guarding, including Lebron James. The team’s overall play took a nosedive when Butler was called for his third foul early in the game but picked up significantly when he came back onto the floor. That should tell you everything you need to know about his performance.
Derrick Rose- 12 pts, 1 rbs, 4 asts, 5 tos
Rose’s return wasn’t what any of us were hoping for by any means. Rose shot a poor 26.7% from the floor including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. Defensively Rose was repeatedly burned by whoever he was guarding and seems like he’s regressed a bit from 2011, though this isn’t too shocking. Offensively I find it a bit hard to blame Rose for his struggles (outside of his ill-advised three point shots… those I blame him for). Most of Rose’s game driving to the basket is reliant on the team’s ability to spread the floor and open up some lanes for him to drive through. However, the team’s overall struggles shooting the ball failed to produce any holes for him to work with and, as a result, Rose couldn’t get anything consistent going. For reference as to how poorly the team shot the ball, refer to the shot chart from NBA.com below.
Bench- Taj Gibson, Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich
The bench tonight failed to produce much tonight and were a big reason why the Bulls fell into the big hole in the second quarter of the game. Taj Gibson was the brightest spot of the bench as he managed to provide some semblance of offense and played solid defense. Kirk Hinrich wasn’t terrible on offense tonight though his shot release was fairly slow. There were a few occasions where Hinrich was open for a three point shot but by the time he released he was completely guarded by an opponent. Defensively Hinrich also appeared a step slow for most of the night. Dunleavy managed to get his game going in the fourth quarter as he knocked down two three pointers, a jump shot, and a pair of free throws, however outside of the fourth quarter his performance was miserable. Defensively he was repeatedly burned and offensively he had zero rhythm on his shot. Finally, Tony Snell saw his NBA debut guarding Lebron James during that second quarter stretch during which Butler and Deng sat. Not surprisingly, Snell struggled against the likes of Lebron and made several rookie mistakes when handling the ball on offense. Snell, who had demonstrated a decent three point shot during the Summer League and during the preseason, fell short on all of his jump shots on the night as well.