Game 3 Recap: Bulls 110, Blazers 98

I wish this game could have taken a place one day earlier. After all, Halloween would have been a much more appropriate time for Luol Deng to return from the basketball grave.

It’s not that Deng’s game had died in the literal sense. However, he didn’t play particularly well in the Bulls’ season opening loss in Oklahoma City (13 points, 5-for-13, 2 rebounds) and he seemed virtually nonexistent in Chicago’s home opener against the Pistons (9 points, 2-for-10). In fact, Luol was benched during the fourth quarter of the Detroit game in favor of James Johnson. And, frankly, it was deserved. JJ was playing much better.

So, once again, Deng was left for dead by Bulls fans. By The Horns commenter dengsucks (real name) had this to say:

“Got to love how you went on and on about how Deng isn’t that far worse than ‘Melo and yet once again he does not show up. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter at all, now that’s what I call an impact player. Can you imagine a game where ‘Melo wouldn’t play in the fourth quarter of a close game?”

It’s true. I talked Deng up this summer. I quoted advanced stats that showed Deng’s production is at least in the neighborhood of Anthony’s. And if you believe in Win Shares, David Berri of Wages of Win showed that Deng was actually worth more than ‘Melo last season in terms of wins produced.

But 2-for-10 and a fourth quarter benching? That’s damning evidence against a player people are always ready to dog pile onto.

Deng’s legacy in Chicago will probably be determined by three factors: 1) the perception that he did not live up to his huge contract (six years and about $80 million), 2) the (somewhat apocryphal) belief that the Bulls could have acquired Kobe Bryant in a trade that included Deng, 3) and now that Bulls have passed up a chance to get ‘Melo in exchange for Luol.

Regarding point number 1: Deng’s contract is about right if you compare his production to other small forwards around the league. I’ve talked about this at length. It might be a few million dollars per year too high. But it’s not the abomination some people make it out to be, assuming you actually take the time necessary to measure his production beyond the raw numbers.

Regarding point number 2: The Bulls weren’t getting Kobe for Deng straight up, and Kobe wasn’t coming to Chicago to play on a gutted team. In fact, one report stated: “Bryant has continually threatened to veto almost any deal in which Deng would be included.” So if anything, that one’s on Kobe.

Regarding point number 3: The Bulls weren’t getting ‘Melo for Deng straight up either. Should the Bulls have crippled themselves by giving up Deng and Noah — both of whom were worth more in Wins Produced last season — for an inefficient volume scorer like Anthony? Or even Deng and Taj Gibson? And what kind of trade would the Nuggets have even accepted? There are a lot of unknowns in this scenario.

Meanwhile, Deng just keeps on keeping on. Take last night’s performance against the Trail Blazers. Deng only went off for a career-high 40 points. And his efficiency was off the charts: 14-for-19 from the field, 3-for-5 from beyond the arc, 9-for-11 from the line. Lu was aggressive. He attacked the basket. He got to the line. He didn’t hesitate on his jump shots.

He didnt’ give up on himself. Even if plenty of other people had.

Deng scored 16 points in the first quarter, during which the Bulls outscored the Blazers 32-21. It helped set the tone of the game. Chicago never looked back. Meanwhile, it was Portland’s starters — including All-Star Brandon Roy — who spent the latter half of the fourth quarter on the bench.

Of course, it wasn’t all Deng. Derrick Rose (16 points, 13 assists, 5 rebounds) had some wicked moves (like this reverse layup) and played the role of floor leader to perfection. It’s only one game, but Rose appeared to see the floor better last night than he ever did in two seasons under Vinny Del Negro. Coach Tom Thibodeau has the Bulls passing the ball very, very well.

To wit: The Bulls had 27 assists on 43 field goals.

Speaking of things Thibodeau has the Bulls doing very well, how about the transition game? During the preseason, Thibs said he wanted this team to run, and they sure ran against the Blazers. Chicago finished with 27 fast break points to only 10 for Portland. Guys like Rose, Deng and Noah are ideal for transition. It showed last night.

Defense was also key. Portland shot only 41 percent from the field (compared to 60 percent for the Bulls). What’s more, the Blazers — who came into the game ranked first in three-point percentage — went 0-for-14 from downtown. Some of that was just the fact that shots weren’t dropping. But Chicago players were contesting those threes too. And they weren’t dropping.

There were plenty of things to be pleased about last night. Guys were playing well. The ball was moving. Players were running hard and defending with intensity. Chicago won the rebounding battle 36-35. And of course, they got a blowout win over a quality Western Conference opponent.

Were there some concerns? Absolutely. The Bulls gave up 16 offensive rebounds and 41 free throw attempts. They also missed 13 of their 32 foul shots.

But hey, no game is perfect. The reality is: The Bulls played really, really well and provided a glimpse of how good they can be under their new coach. And Carlos Boozer isn’t even playing yet.

Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box ScorePlay-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.


17 Responses to Game 3 Recap: Bulls 110, Blazers 98

  1. Super Joe November 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    Very impressed with The Bulls play last night. Got a little worried when Portland put together 4 consecutive baskets late in the 4th, but good composure to keep it together and pull away!

    thirdsaint November 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    What I saw in this game that made me happy (aside from Deng’s outbreak):

    1. Omer Asik actually doesn’t look as bad as I thought he would. It helps to have another 7-footer in there backing up Noah and once he gets some meat on him he could be a force. I already like how aggressive he was going up to the basket and he doesn’t give up. The dude’s never going to be nimble but he has potential.

    2. This team as it is now (without Boozer) is already better than last year’s team. I’m confident they’d win 43 games as they are thanks to Coach Thibs and the new players. Once they get Boozer back they’ll do some serious damage. I don’t remember the last time we’ve controlled the whole game and kept a good playoff team double-digits away the whole time without them making a 4th quarter comeback.

    3. Lovin’ the distribution from Rose and the team defense. Also, Korver’s big 3 at the end was exactly what I envisioned him doing and why I wanted him. We needed that to put a dagger in teams when we’re ahead or to help come from behind.

    the bigest bulls fan in Florida November 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    good game for the bulls. this is a realy good bulls team. my only problem is d rose. the talk i here on ESPN and the NBA channel is rose taking a lot of shots and its not good for a PG to put up points like he was doing. i want to say that these people are hating on d rose. d rose have a got shot at getting the MVP. and to be hones. in the 4th Q of this game, Tom T. had to call a time out at the end of the game because rose was not pushing the ball and play his game. you never want your players to leave points on the floor. I HOPE AND PRAY D ROSE IS NOT LISTEN TO THE REPORTERS AND I HOPE HIS TEAMS ARE BEHIND ON GOING FOR THE MVP. GO BULLS 4 EVER!!

    Chuck November 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    My main concern so far this season is that they shot a better FG% than FT%. Foul shooting is going to be an issue all season and it will cost them a close game or two.
    This 2-1 start is very real because they lost to an OKC team that will probly win 50 and they beat a bad team (Pistons) and another good team (Blazers). This is a good Bulls team that will be great when Boozer is back and acclimated.
    Things will get interesting when the trade deadline rolls around. Because the Bulls are under the cap they don’t have to match salaries to trade for somebody. This gives them an oppourtunity to trade for a shooter from a team that is looking to dump salary. Right now Kevin Martin would look good in a Bulls uniform.

  5. dengsucks November 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Rose “appeared to see the floor better” because his teammates finally stepped up and made a shot. Rose had 7 assists against Detroit, but if Deng would have made a couple layups, Noah a missed dunk, and other teammates some open shots he would have had double digit assists to go with 39 pts.

    Rose can set up teammates all day long (which he has always done) but if they don’t make shots, there are no assists. Simple as that.

    bullsfandom November 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    While we are all listing our concerns, my concern is the foul trouble we keep finding ourselves in. It felt like Taj was in foul trouble from the opening tip this game and last game, not to mention us having to sit Derrick in OKC (might have cost us the game since it felt like he was out of rhythm when he checked back in). But I’m not going to bag on the Bulls right now, that was a good win and I can’t wait for their next game.

  7. TBF November 2, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

    I’m liking what I see from Asik so far. Sure, he’s pretty raw but I think he’s got good potential. He chipped in 6 points, 7 boards, and 3 blocks while he was out there. I also loved the combo of Rose, Johnson, Deng, Asik, and Noah. That’s a big, physical line-up that’s going to put pressure on a lot of teams. Just wait ’til Boozer comes back…this team could be special.

    Brad S. November 2, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    Bullsfandom –

    Yeah the foul trouble sucks, because early in the season we want to see what the boys are capable of. Then they get a couple of ticky-tac calls and wind up on the bench. But the NBA is a “reputation” league and 2 of the 3 teams we have played are established, good teams. They are going to get those calls. I think the Bulls might be on the cusp of gaining a league-wide reputation for good defense. Here’s hoping that the refs swallow their whistles when that happens!

    thirdsaint November 2, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    Foul trouble is a problem but yesterday was just ridiculous on the refs part. They called so many horrible non-fouls but at least they did so for both teams. They were consistent in that regard.

  10. RastaCub November 2, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    I def didn’t like how all three of bigs (yeah, I include Asik after what I’ve been seeing and he’s 7’0″) had five fouls in the waning minutes. I think Gibson is always going to rack up fouls (I mean, obviously not EVERY night, but we just have to live with it as one of his negative characteristics), but when Boozer comes back and Gibson comes off the bench, maybe plays just a few more minutes, I don’t think we’ll see them racking up as quickly.

    Asik is young, first year in NBA, so obviously he might struggle with fouls for much of the year. Again though, when you get Boozer on the frontline it will really take the pressure off. But for real, I love this dude. He goes up and gets boards. From most box scores it seems his FT are better than in Turkey (although last night was a poor show). He’s hands are not horrible, and if he develops them at all then having him offensively under the basket with Noah could be pretty fun.

    One guy I am worried about is JJ. I hate seeing the type of fouls that get him into fouls trouble. Sometimes their pretty stupid. Needless to say I get excited whenever he has a single real solid game (even if against Det), but I want to see him really build on this and he’s not gonna be able to stay in any sort of rhythm with the kind of fouls he’s racking up.

    No homo, but can I just say I have a total man crush on Noah. He is without a doubt the most unique center I’ve seen from this younger generation. Yes, Dwight Howard is easily the best, most athletic, talented cnter of the group, but Noah’s intangibles put him right behind I believe. First, (IMO) he’s gonna fight Howard for the rebounding title for years to come. Second, he will be the best passing center of his generation (like Miller and Divac of theirs…arguably). Third, there is not a single center with capability to bring the ball up in transition like he does, or take defenders like off the dribble like he does (granted he looks goofy as hell sometimes and it doesn’t always work). Not to mention, that boy is working on his shot. You can tell he really wants to be efficient with it. It’s not a real dangerous component yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he got it there in a few years. I can’t believe I’m so happy to have a 27-year center to help develop someone like Asik, usually those kind of comments are for older veterans ya know. I really think Noah did an impressive job and paid attention to Miller cause he’s already showing that veteran savy.


    Jake in Minnie November 2, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    One interesting observation from last night was that end of the third stretch when the Bulls ran with 2 Centers (Noasik)2 small forwards (Deng and JJ) and 1 point guard (Rose or Watson)…and it worked. Especially when Thibs kept Asik and JJ in there with 5 fouls each.

    I really liked that.

    bullsfandom November 2, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Brad S – I really hope you’re right, still this concerns me. This is a winner’s league, and the winners get reputation. When we go on this circus trip, if we start to lose and lose with lots of foul trouble – it will be hard to suddenly convince ref’s that we aren’t foulers you know?

    thirdsaint – I totally agree, those ref’s where blowing anything close (and it didn’t help when Roy started to whine about hand checking). Still I’m concerned at the trend of foul trouble we are starting to establish.

    Also I’d like to third the comments by Jake in Minnie and RastaCub…the Big n Fast lineup of Rose, JJ, Deng, Noah, Asik seems pretty vicious.

    joe November 3, 2010 at 4:04 am #

    Some Chicago Sports fans need to whine about stuff.

    The NBA is full of Busts. Deng ain’t one of them.

    And if Deng’s not worth his salary and magmt stinks then why should Denver have taken him for Melo or LA taken Deng for Kobe.

    Deng’s no good but we could have traded him for a franchise player on a championship and play-off team.

    thirdsaint November 3, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    Rasta, I think we all have a man crush on Noah, haha. Seems those years with Miller teaching him has improved his passing greatly. I don’t remember him making these sweet passes at the beginning of last year so much. So now having him teach Asik is going to be huge. Asik is a rookie so he’ll never get any calls his way but once he beefs up he’ll be a problem for teams night in and night out. He seems like a smart player too which I love. Smart players are teachable.

    As for JJ’s fouls, he took some great ones to stop easy layups or dunks and some stupid ones. That’s what you are going to get with him. I’m glad he’s seeing some minutes though and him working with Pippen will only help as the year goes on. If anything he’ll work himself up to have great trade value for a team looking to salary dump a shooter in February.

    BoppinBob November 3, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    It is clear that the Bulls are still a work in progress, but the work is going well. I am impressed with the defense, Rose’s continued evolution is aparent and exciting. Even though it is still early in the season and the team is still gelling it is clear that the team is better than last year.

    @joe, you made very solid points about Deng and the possible trades that did not happen. Deng will be an integral part of the Bulls success.

    I love the line-up that uses Asik at C, Noah at PF, Deng at SF, JJ at SG and either Rose or Watson at PG. Can’t wait for Boozer to get in the mix, But Gibson is doing a solid job.

    The Bulls have moved one step closer to elite status, but have a ways to go before they are a real threats to the other elite teams. It could happen before the end of this season if/when; 1. Boozer gets and stays in the line-up, 2. Asik continues to improve and contribute, 3. JJ contines to contribute and develop as a 3-position player (2, 3 & 4), 4. at least 1 or 2 of Korver, Watson and Brewer settles down and begins to perform as expected.

    I can see only up-side for the Bulls if they can avoid a serious bite by the injury bug.

  16. Jimmy November 3, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    Looks like everyone is in agreement with the Asik-Noah combo. Even when Boozer comes back, I still would like Asik and Noah together once in awhile.

    That being said…man boozer and noah are going to be a sick PF-C combo!

    C.T November 3, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    @ rasta- Noah’s 25 yrs old my dude

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