Starting off the season with a cupcake win on national TV was exactly what the Bulls needed.
An average preseason was quickly laid to rest under the lights of Madison Square Garden, Chicago proving too well-drilled and too deep for the New York Knicks. Six Bulls scored 10 or more points.
All preseason the worry was the Bulls bench being roundly abused on a nightly basis. Tonight, the bench bailed out the starters’ indifferent start, turning a three-point deficit into an 11-point lead before Rose and Noah returned midway through the second quarter.
Fuelled by the Aaron Brooks-Taj Gibson tandem and anchored by Pau Gasol, the Bulls reserves rode out a rough offensive start to break off an 11-5 run to lead 24-20 after 12 minutes.
Gasol has been largely ineffective and inefficient in the build-up to tonight but showcased his various veteran moves and relentless energy on his way to a 21-point, 11-rebound night.
After leading 53-43 at halftime, Chicago came out intending to send the Garden crowd home early – a 15-5 third quarter tear blew the game open and gave the Bulls a 74-54 lead six minutes into the frame.
With Gibson leading all scorers and the Bulls leading 100-65 with five minutes to play, the Garden crowd emptied fast as the two benches played out the remaining string.
Joining him in torching the Knicks underwhelming frontcourt rotation was Gibson. Regardless of the looks the Knicks threw his way – Amar’e Stoudemire, Quincy Acy, Sam Dalembert – Gibson pushed them aside. His 22-points on 10-12 from the floor to go with eight boards clearly illustrating why so many pick him to land the Sixth Man of the Year award.
It’s rare in a Knicks game Carmelo Anthony is almost anonymous. Anthony played 29 minutes agains tough defensive attention and it reflected in his pedestrian output – 5-13 from the floor for 14 points.
Derrick Rose was obviously the dominant headline pregame, but credit his teammates for keeping the spotlight off him by outclassing the ballyhooed Knicks and their new offense.
Rose last season enjoyed a terrific preseason that proved a false dawn. His Regular Season numbers were bad and he appeared tentative and unsure.A startling inability to draw fouls really hurt.
This year, the shots may not be dropping but the lightning quick decision making is in place. The touch around the rim will come and feeling when to launch from deep or move the ball will return. He did score on two back-to-back elbow jumpers before sitting for the night.
Nikola Mirotic made his first shot in the NBA – a long three with the shot clock expiring – and enjoyed an easy, unhurried start to competitive life in America. He was joined by fellow rookie Doug McDermott, who appears to work incredibly hard proving critics of his athleticism wrong. It doesn’t always work – he often overplays or fouls – but the effort won’t go wrong.
Now to the bad. Kirk Hinrich was an offensive threat to both teams. Hinrich hit 4-10 from the field, 3-7 from behind the arc. The misses weren’t particularly close and the makes were on tough shots, not wide open looks. One made three came as part of a four-point play.
Joakim Noah also struggled, playing less than 20 minutes and missing three of his four shots. Six rebounds isn’t bad but Noah was lacking his all-energy edge. Shutting him down for a short spell may be best in the longer term.
The game was already out of hand, but it drove home the Knicks’ many problems when Tony Snell put Cole Aldrich on a poster before Doug McDermott broke into the open court for a two-hand dunk. Cameron Bairstow, a rookie from New Mexico, even saw court time.
It wouldn’t be fair to go so far without mentioning how bad the Knicks appeared tonight.
New York’s offense under Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson is absolutely a work in progress and the defense is a porous mess punctuated by very bad rotations and overmatched big men.
The triangle takes time and the right blend of players, skill-sets and importantly, personalities. The Knicks arguably have the first two but the third tenet could prove problematic. J.R. Smith has openly stated his struggles to conform to the equal-opportunities system and Carmelo Anthony began to dominate the ball in isolation more often as the Bulls disappeared over the horizon.
Things aren’t all gloom, though, as Shane Larkin looks like a solid backup guard and Jason Smith can score some. Losing Jose Calderon to injury deprived them of their best offensive ball handler.