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.