Kirk Hinrich helped set the tone
Hinrich only played 17 minutes due to foul trouble, but boy did he make those minutes count. He finished with nine points and six assists in those 17 minutes, shooting 3-of-4 from the field and 3-of-4 from the line. He continues to look rather spry in running the fast break, which will be very helpful for this Bulls team when they struggle in the halfcourt (which certainly didn't happen last night). He also took Kyrie Irving to school a few time, which left my jaw dropped on the floor in disbelief.
On the other end, Hinrich made Irving's life a living hell in the first quarter. Kirk had his way with Irving in the preseason game between the two teams as well, and it seems like he has gained a bit of a reputation as a bit of a Irving stopper. That continued last night, as Hinrich never let Irving get into a rhythm. Kirk pressured the ball relentlessly, and did a relatively good job of keeping Irving in front of him. It's hard to keep a guy like that down completely, and Irving did end up getting Hinrich into foul trouble (one foul at the very end of the first quarter was just dumb by Kirk), but Hinrich and the Bulls did an excellent job limiting the damage. Irving only had 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting, and in the first quarter, he had five points on 2-of-6 shooting and four turnovers.
Ridiculous offensive numbers
The Bulls got it going offensively right from the start, and they never really took the foot off the gas pedal. They shot 73.7 percent from the field in the first quarter and had a whopping 11 assists on 14 made baskets. Getting out in transition and getting easy buckets certainly helped the cause, but they were also 5-of-7 outside the paint in the first quarter.
I expected the Bulls to slow down somewhat after the hot start, but they never really did. For the game, they posted a ridiculous offensive rating of 122.3. They shot 63.8 percent overall, had an effective field goal percentage of 66.7 and a true shooting percentage of 70.0. Those numbers are better than any single game from last season. The Bulls also posted 34 assists. As pointed out in the comments of the recap, this is the fourth time in the past 27 years where the Bulls scored over at least 115 points, shot at least 63.8 percent and had at least 34 assists. Just great stuff.
As we pretty much expected, the Bulls weren't going to take that much of a dip defensively. Yes, losing Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer hurt, but with Tom Thibodeau around, the general consensus was there would be just some minor slippage in the D.
So far, there has been none at all. In the first game, the Bulls held the Kings to 87 points and an offensive rating of 91.6. Last night, the Bulls held the Cavs to 86 points and an offensive rating of 91.5. Sure, neither are those teams are all that good offensively, and they certainly aren't very disciplined, but it's still impressive whenever you hold teams to under 90 points.
One of the more encouraging things about the defense is that they've done an excellent job forcing turnovers. The Bulls were once again all over the passing lanes last night, getting their hands on balls and turning those deflections into easy points on the other end.
The Bulls forced nine turnovers in the first quarter and 17 overall for the game. That comes after forcing 19 turnovers against the Kings. According to Hoopdata, the Bulls were one of the worst teams in the league at forcing turnovers last season, so this is something that's nice to see.
A few other notes:
- While the offense was obviously great last night, I'm going to nitpick just one thing from this game and the opener that was discussed here earlier this offseason: the three-point shooting. The Bulls went 4-of-10 from three last night and 2-of-9 against the Kings. So that's just 19 attempts in two games. Matt did a post back in September outlining the importance of three-point shooting, and TrueHoop's Henry Abbott also pointed out after the Kings game that three-point shooting somewhat correlates to winning. Obviously this is a very small sample size and it's not like the Bulls needed threes last night, but it's something to watch for.
- Speaking of three-point shooting, I continue to be thoroughly unimpressed by Marco Belinelli. His final line of eight points on 3-of-4 shooting (he missed his lone three) in 21 minutes looks fine, but all of that was done in garbage time late. In his first stint, there was a whole bunch of nothing. The way the Bulls were generating looks you'd think he could free himself up for a couple of open threes. Nope. And he's looked pretty weak defensively, but luckily, you have guys like Luol Deng and Taj Gibson to cover for him.
- I mentioned Deng's early aggressiveness in the recap, and I'd like to highlight it again here. Four of his first six shots came from within the paint, and he got to the lines a couple of times, including a really nice and-1 where he finished with a lot of contact. We also saw Luol work the post on several occasions, which he really should do more often. He has a height advantage over a lot of 3's, so a competent post-game would be a nice addition to his repertoire.
- Apparently Marquis Teague had three assists and no turnovers in four minutes of garbage time, but I didn't see it because Comcast was too screwy and watching James Harden tear out souls while Omer Asik grabbed every rebound in sight was more fun. So...at least Teague maybe built a little confidence?
- And finally, I just want to once again point out how absurd it is that Luke Walton still is allowed on the floor while a NBA game is going on. Walton played about as bad a four minutes as you can play in the first half, going 0-3 from the field (he air-balled a five-footer!) and collecting two fouls. He was a -11. For some reason, Byron Scott thought it would be a good idea to stick him on Gibson, and the Bulls immediately took advantage, going to Taj nearly every time down the court before Scott got his head out of his ass and took Walton out. I could only laugh at the struggles, because I've hated Walton ever since his Arizona team was gifted a Final Four trip by the refs back in 2001 over my Illini while his dad laughed on from the broadcaster's booth.