Man, that was a fun game to go to. Nice win against the type of team the Bulls should be beating if they want to get to the playoffs. Plus it was against Skiles and his dopey apprentice...one of the regrets of not seeing the telecast was that guy's sad sack face in disappointment as the Bulls pulled ahead for a victory.
On to my fragmented bullet-points.
- Maybe one of the best signs was that the Bulls played this well offensively without Derrick Rose having a great game. I thought he was very tentative after his first stint, unselfish to a fault. I believe he only attempted one jump shot (he missed). His defense was poor, except he had an uncanny ability to play defensive-back when breaking up a couple fast break outlet passes. But even without the aggressiveness he finished with 9 assists in 32 minutes, and it was a noticeable difference when he wasn't on the court. More more more Derrick Rose.
- 41 minutes for Tyrus Thomas! I bet out of habit Skiles tried to take him out of the game before realizing he wasn't coaching him any more. He had 8 FTAs (missed 3, which is actually a percentage below what he'd been doing in the preseason) and drew several more fouls. The man is a foul-drawing machine, and the entire team did a very good job getting the Bucks in the penalty. (You can tell Skiles is taking over the Bucks defense by first getting them to foul a lot...eventually the refs will get sick of calling it and it'll morph in to 'tough defense'.) He makes so many plays where you say there's no power forwards who can do that, or stop that. He's such an instinctive passer and his jumpshot has improved to the point where defenders are running at him. The one 'old Tyrus' part of his game was the 2 goaltends (plus an offensive basket interference), but if you let him play it's usually a net positive. And then some. Was slowed a bit in the 2nd half when he re-tweaked that ankle, so hopefully that's not a recurring thing.
Ben Gordon started his 'get me my damned money' tour a half late. His first stint was not good, he didn't make a shot and did some of his patented "look I can do other things too!" moves that usually turn out poorly. But in the second half he was so good. Finished with 18 points in 26 minutes, 3-6 from three. He did not play as much with Derrick Rose as I would've liked, but he did get the opportunity in the 4th when the Bulls pulled away. In a game where Rose wasn't assertive (and the times Rose wasn't in the game), the Bulls needed Ben Gordon and he delivered.
Kirk Hinrich also had a good shooting game, though before I looked at the boxscore I wouldn't have guessed it. Consider it one part anti-Kirk bias and one part Ben Gordon's prettier jump shot. Overall I still think Hinrich just looked much better when he was able to control the ball, which is why I still think it's a mistake to bring him off the bench before Gordon, as it exchanges the time Rose spends with Gordon to Hinrich instead.
- But maybe the real solution is to get Thabo out of the starting lineup. Expectedly, he did nothing on offense (he did refrain from turning the ball over) and didn't exactly 'disrupt' Michael Redd as Redd has his best stints to start each half (and 30 points on 19 shots overall). While Thabo certainly has the tools to be a great defender with his long arms, he's not exceptionally quick for a guard. So Redd can always get him away by running off the ball. And beyond that, the fact remains that you're not going to be able to stop most prolific wings anyway, so sometimes the best way is to get back at them on the other end. That's something Thabo cannot do. He played just under 12 minutes but it was still minutes that could've gone to Gordon and Hinrich, and more importantly, those were all minutes with Derrick Rose, which should be held to a premium.
Noah showed why he's such a good complementary player. He had 6 boards and 3 blocks in 19 minutes, and his superlative hands really helped in the lane, either for his own shot or a deft pass.
Luol Deng did what a $12m SF who's a very good 3rd option should do. Get 21 points and have an observer like me not really remember much of it. Nice to see him attack the basket, as mentioned it was a real team strength for tonight.
- There were some bad bounces of the ball that helped cause this, but I thought the Bulls did not do a good enough job (in the first half)
securing defensive rebounds, which led to too many easy opportunities. Bogut/Villenueva/Allen/Moute will not be the most formidable front line they face this year.
- Was I the only one giddy every time Malik Allen entered the game? Sometimes at Center with Mbah a Moute at PF. Skiles-ball at its finest. The Bulls weren't able to punish them in the first half but it eventually did catch up with them.
- Congrats to coach Vinny Del Negro on his first win. I was too far away to judge his mannerisms, but they shouldn't be judged anyway (beyond my curiosity to make lame jokes about them if necessary). His team played fairly crisp (obviously 18 TOs is too much), played hard, and ran when they could. And he didn't play Aaron Gray a single minute. As I mentioned, played Tyrus Thomas a ton. But the guard rotation will be an issue throughout the season. Rose with 32, Hinrich and Gordon both with 26, Thabo with 12. Clearly Gordon (and Hinrich if he keeps this up, but he needs more to earn my trust) should get a bump after tonight. Play so well that Hughes has no spot when he returns, please.
- It was a rare Bulls sellout where most of the paid attendance was actually in the building, a very cool atmosphere. There was a brief pop any time Derrick Rose appeared on the video screen. Clearly Bulls fans are ready to embrace him, and even after a so-so first game he led a Bulls victory. Hopefully the first of many.
(I guess those thoughts weren't so fragmented)