It’s always good to open the season with a win. But, as is usually the case, this game had plenty to like and dislike.
Things to like:
I loved the productivity of Joakim Noah (23 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists, 3 blocks), Carlos Boozer (18 points, 8 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block) and Rip Hamilton (19 points, 3 assists, 2 steals). Those three guys combined to shoot 21-for-41 from the field (51.2 percent) and 18-for-22 from the line (81.8 percent).
I especially liked seeing how aggressive Noah was on the offensive end. In years past, and even at certain points during the preseason, Noah has been hesitant to assert himself offensively. Last night, he was looking to score. And his game-high 12 free throw attempts were a sure sign of that.
By comparison, the Kings attempted only 16 foul shots as a team. The Bulls won the free throw battle handily (33-16). The Free Throw Percentage Margin was 31.6 to 15.5, which underscores how dominant Chicago was at drawing contact.
The defense was its usual self, limiting the Kings to only 87 points on 40.5 percent shooting. The Bulls generated 10 blocked shots and 8 steals. Overall, they forced the Kings into 21 turnovers off which they scored 25 points.
Teamwork was also on display, as the Bulls assisted on 7 of their first 9 field goals and 21 of 33 overall.
Lastly, after a forgettable preseason, Marco Belinelli played well: 12 minutes, 6 points, 1-for-2 from the field, 1-for-1 from downtown, 3-for-3 from the line, 3 assists and a team-best plus-minus score of +7. Let’s hope the lid is off the basket for this kid.
Things to dislike:
Luol Deng was a beast on the boards (12 rebounds) but his shooting was way off (3-for-13 including 0-for-4 on threes). He also went 1-for-3 from the line. I keep saying this over and over, but Lu’s shooting went downhill last season after his wrist injury. I’m very worried he’ll continue to shoot in this area until a) he has surgery to repair the ligament or b) he gets enough time off so that it can fully heal on its own.
And did I mention Deng played 42 minutes. Looks like he’s in for another marathon season.
Kirk Hinrich struggled with his shot too (1-for-7, o-for-1 on threes, 1-for-3 from the line). He had a game-high 7 assists, but if he can’t be a shooting threat, the Bulls’ offense will struggle.
Speaking of which, the Bulls’ offense struggled: 93 points on 41 percent shooting. They also went a dismal 2-for-9 from three-point range and bricked eight free throws. Sacramento actually finished with a higher Effective Field Goal Percentage and Chicago’s Offensive Rating didn’t crack 100 (98.0). I know this is a new year, but the Kings are a young team that finished 29th in Defensive Rating last season.
I think offense is going to be a nightly roller coaster until D-Rose comes back.
Overall, the bench didn’t play poorly, contributing 23 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocked shots. But they didn’t have that “game changing force” feel the Bench Mob of the last two seasons often had. I say “often” because the Bench Mob didn’t dominate every night…which means we can probably cut the new subs some slack.
I was also disappointed the Bulls struggled to close this game out. They built a double-digit lead in the third quarter but couldn’t hold the Kings off. And Tyreke Evans — who tortured the Bulls with 21 points — pulled Sacto to within three points (86-83) with 41.2 seconds left. Things were secured until Deng hit one of two from the line and Evans committed a five-second violation when he couldn’t get the ball inbounds.
The Kings aren’t a good team. And you hate to see the Bulls struggle to finish off a stinker.
Of course…it’s better than the alternative.
The Bulls offset their sub-par shooting by scoring 19 second-chance points off 14 offensive rebounds.
Slightly irritating stat:
Despite getting a combined 48 points from their starting frontcourt, the Bulls were outscored 44-42 in the paint.
Noah. He set the tone both offensively and defensively (his 5 steals were a career-high by the way).
Former Bull James Johnson had a James Johnson-y game: 2 points on 1-for-8 shooting with 4 turnovers and a plus-minus score of -13. I love seeing him in an opposing team’s jersey.
Quote of the Night:
Joakim Noah: “It’s one game out of 82. Good start. But we have a lot of basketball to be played.”