Preseason Game Three: Bulls vs. Bucks

The Bulls were undefeated in the preseason. The Bucks had given up 115 PPG over their first two preseason games. An irresistible force meeting a very moveable object? Yeah, right. Milwaukee put the clamps on the Derrick Rose-less (and Tyrus Thomas-less) Bulls, winning 98-86.

Guys who looked good:
Kirk Hinrich was solid if not spectacular at the point: 2-for-4 from the field, 8-for-9 from the line, 13 points, 2 boards, 2 assists and a turnover in 22 minutes.

Taj Gibson started at power forward in place of the injured Tyrus Thomas and responded with an energetic performance: 12 points (5-for-8), 2 boards and a block. Of course, he also had 3 turnovers and 5 fouls in his 31 minutes of action, but I’ll forgive him because he’s a rookie.

Guys who looked good and bad:
James Johnson had a pretty good game, scoring a game-high 14 points, earning a game-best 10 foul shots (of which he converted 8), and grabbing a team-best 3 offensive boards (he had 7 total). I loved his aggressiveness. What I did not love was his butterfingers. Johnson had a game-worst 6 turnovers. NBA rookies cannot turn the ball over at that rate. It’s like a rookie running back in the NFL who fumbles the ball.

Joakim Noah’s ability to put the ball in the bucket continued to be a non-factor (1-for-3), but he grabbed 7 rebounds and blocked a shot in limited PT. He once again struggled with fouls, though, finishing with 3 in only 16 minutes. Not to overreact, but that projects to a foul-out in 32 minutes. If Joakim wants to stay on the floor, he needs to channel his natural mania without hacking people.

Jannero Pargo looked pretty smooth in dishing out a game-high 6 assists to go with his 13 points (4-for-7 from the field, 2-for-2 from downtown). But those 5 turnovers were not so smooth.

Guys who looked bad:
Let’s start this list with Luol Deng, who scored only 6 points on 2-for-9 shooting in 25 minutes. And Deng didn’t have much impact in any other phase of the game, either. He was 0-for-1 from downtown and finished with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, a block, 3 fouls and a team-worst plus-minus score of -15. It was the kind of performance that gives Bulls fans shivers, because a lot is riding on Luol this season.

John Salmons played like a guy who’s been waiting for his wife to deliver a child: 7 points, 2-for-8 from the field, no rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers.

Guys who didn’t play:
Rose (bum ankle) and Thomas (bum hip). Speaking of Tyrus…

Guys who are feeling the heat:
Thomas, who (like Rose) attended the game and sat on the bench in full warmups, had some feisty post-game comments: “This is a huge year for me. I need to shut some of you damn critics up. No, seriously, I’ve had the best summer of my life as far as getting better on the court, strength-wise physically, mentally. I’ve put myself in mental shape to go through a long season and deal with adversity. It’s going to be a good year for me.”

Regarding the inspired play of Taj Gibson, who could possibly serve as his replacement, Thomas said: “That’s part of the business. I don’t really see it. If it’s supposed to be pressure, pressure makes diamonds. I know what I can do. I’m confident in myself.”

As for whether the Bulls will give him a contract extension after the season: “I have my qualifying offer if all else fails. I don’t think it will come to that. My big thing is achieving the goals that I set out for myself. I know I can reach them.”

I really, really hope that’s true, because the clock is ticking…

Reasons for concern:
Turnovers were a problem for the Bulls at various times last season, and they’ve been a problem so far in the preseason. On Saturday night, the Bulls committed 27 turnovers, which the Bucks converted into 25 bonus points. Bottom line, a team cannot win if it can’t take care of the ball, especially when it shoots 40 percent from the field and gets outrebounded 38-34. Oh, and let’s not forget that Bulls got almost no penetration to the hoop all night. I mean, check out the shot chart. It was a jump-shooter’s paradise. Hopefully the team can get some higher percentage shot attempts when D-Rose returns.

Reasons for hope:
Yes, the team started slooooooooow. They didn’t connect on a field goal until Gibson nailed a 12-footer with 5:54 to go in the first (before whcih they were behind 14-4). If the Bulls seemed flat, it’s worth noting that — in addition to being without two starters (one of whom is their best player) — they did just get back from London. As someone who went to Italy last summer, I can tell you that jet lag kills. The 7-for-10 three-point shooting was pretty sweet…although two of those conversions were by Derrick Byars. As I’ve said, Byars is playing well (he scored 9 points on 3-for-6 shooting and grabbed 3 rebounds on Saturday night), but I don’t see any room for him on the Bulls regular season roster.

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart.

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5 Responses to Preseason Game Three: Bulls vs. Bucks

    Brad S. October 12, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    Nice Byars comment, …I guess all the “hater” emails are beginning to fracture your psyche. Stand strong, Matt! You were right the first time. There is no need for much in the way of Byars analysis.

    As far as the game. Who here thought the Bulls would have a great game after coming back from London? How about a show of hands. …anybody? …No? Me neither.

    Let’s also not forget that Scott Skiles has been coaching the Bucks for over a year now. I expect them to be a much improved ball club, even with the loss of some of their marquis players.

  2. LL-Smokes-Jays October 13, 2009 at 5:05 am #

    Lol, da bucks. What a joke. We’ll give them this, probly da highlight of there season. A preseason win against da bulls when da bulls didnt have rose or tyrus and just got back from london, and dis gon be the highlight of there season. rofl.

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