What started out as a really fast and fun-paced game pretty quickly turned into what we may see a lot of this season: ugly basketball, close games, but potentially some wins. The Bulls saw a 14-point lead get down to 4 late in the fourth quarter, but they also never trailed in the 2nd half and came away with a season-opening win.
The Bulls had alternating stretches of crisp and crap, whereas the Kings held up to their advertised standard as the dumbest team in the league. The Bulls started the 3rd quarter on a 12-2 run, but then finished the last 8 minutes of that quarter without a FG, making some hay at the line but seeing the lead dwindle away. It was that kind of game, with the feeling that they were never really going to put away Sacramento.
But while close games will be a lot more scary without Derrick Rose this season, the Bulls had some timely makes from Carlos Boozer, offensive rebounding from Luol Deng, and completed their night with a nice job making free throws. Meanwhile, the Kings had some hot scorers in Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton, but did not seem to have a consistent way to execute down the stretch, ending instead with some dumb shots, fouls and a 5-second violation.
The Bulls were led by a marvelous all-around performance from Joakim Noah, who played 40 minutes and finished with 23 points (11-12 from the line!), 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 5 steals. He also consistently frustrated DeMarcus Cousins all night, keeping his center counterpart in foul trouble and completely knocking him out of rhythm even when he was on the court.
Noah's frontcourt-mate Carlos Boozer also had a quality game, finishing 8-13 for 18 points and taking advantage of the Kings undersized PFs of Jason Thompson and rookie Thomas Robinson. Booz was scoring aggressively and forcing the defense to react, and then forcing Keith Smart to react by giving more minutes to Chuck Hayes just to keep Boozer from completely going off.
There was, of course, a ton left to be desired. Rip Hamilton looked better than last season (19 points on 16 shots) but the rest of the perimeter play was pretty awful on both ends of the court. The Bulls started perfect on their mid-range shots to start the game but went totally cold, and they had difficulty containing the King's guard's penetration all night.
What they did do a good job of defensively was causing turnovers, with 14 of the Kings 19 occurring in the first half. Sure, some of it was the Kings being young and bad. But there's a lot of teams that can play like that in an 82-game season. The Bulls rarely slack and are generally disciplined even when ineffective, and for at least the opener did enough to take advantage.
Many more notes to come, good and bad, but the best is the Bulls are 1-0.