The Bulls improved to 5-1 in the preseason with a 94-90 home win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this game or all these wins considering that Chicago has been playing short-handed for most of the preseason. And that makes me nervous. So maybe it’s time to remember Rule #32 from Zombieland: Enjoy The Little Things.
Guys who looked good:
Friday night’s “Steppin’ It Up” award goes to Tyrus Thomas, who finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with a team-best 13 rebounds and 2 blocks in 25 minutes. His field goal percentage was outstanding (7-for-9), but I was more impressed by the fact that he did most of his work inside and was aggressive enough to earn 13 free throw attempts. Sure, he missed five of his foul shots and committed a silly offensive foul while trying to make something happen off the dribble, but he gobbled up defensive rebounds (10), scored on offensive rebounds, and his energy level was off the charts. Basically, he played the way the Bulls management, coaches and fans have been wanting him to play (consistently) for years. He certainly shut his critics up…for the night.
Jannero Pargo finally had a decent shooting game (5-for-11) despite missing all his three-point attempts (0-for-3). More importantly, he dished out a team-high 7 assists while limiting his turnovers (which have been a problem in the preseason) to only 3. Pargo even added 2 steals and 2 blocks [!!].
Guys who looked both good and bad:
Taj Gibson once again had a rock-solid game, finishing with 14 points, 6 boards, 2 blocks and a steal. He also grabbed 3 offensive rebounds earned seven free throw attempts. I note these things because offensive rebounding and free throws are usually the result of intensity, aggressiveness and effort…and Gibson has been giving the Bulls those three things throughout the preseason. I wasn’t thrilled with the shooting (5-for-12), particularly because he attempted (in my opinion) too many jumpers. He also committed 5 fouls in 24 minutes. That’s on par for a rookie, but still.
James Johnson chipped in 10 points (4-for-8), 4 rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal in his 26 minutes of PT. Plus, he committed only 2 fouls.
Guys who looked bad:
Okay, I’m officially worried about Luol Deng. Scratch that. I was worried a game or two ago. I’m very worried about Deng. His shooting continued to be ice cold (2-for-7). Most of his shot attempts were long jumpers and he made only one trip to the line. He did play a preseason-high 32 minutes and grabbed 8 rebounds (all defensive). But he was — and has been — a ghost on offense. Remember: Deng is supposed to be the primary member of the committee assigned to cover the loss of Ben Gordon’s 20 PPG.
Joakim Noah was…erratic. He committed a couple offensive fouls, turned the ball over on a three-second violation, bonked a layup, had another layup blocked by Al Jefferson, and missed a nine-foot hook shot. Noah didn’t have a huge impact on the boards either. I’m not really worried about the offense, but the Bulls need Jo to dominate the boards and protect the paint. People may think I’m crazy, but I still think Noah could be Ben Wallace 2.0. That’s what I’m hoping (and waiting) for.
Brad Miller didn’t hit a field goal (0-for-2) and finished with more turnovers (5) than assists (4). Yet, by some twist of fate, he finished with the highest plus-minus score of the game (+11). Go figure.
Guys who didn’t play:
Derrick Rose (right ankle), John Salmons (personal reasons).
Reasons for concern:
Even though Tyrus returned after missing four games, Rose was still out and Salmons had to skip the game for personal reasons. So basically, Vinny Del Negro hasn’t been able to establish any continuity with the team’s projected starters. That’s bad, because this preseason was supposed to be establish a little post-Gordon team identity. The Bulls won the rebounding battle (50-48) but gave up 14 offensive rebounds. As for the turnovers, well, when you look at the stat sheet and feel like celebrating because the team “only” coughed the ball up 19 times for “only” 14 points going the other way, you know there’s a problem. Oh, and note the 2-for-8 three-point shooting. And that was as a team.
Reasons for optimism:
In all fairness, the Bulls have been getting it done without their best player and at least one other starter.