Switching into bullet mode:
- As for my overall impressions first: There were times in the game, especially early, where the Bulls looked completely outclassed. Though whether it was a cause of the Cavs letting up or not, the fact that it became close can only help the Bulls confidence in the series. Though I wouldn't look at it as some kind of grand effect, as this team all season has been one that's kept their heads when they could've been discouraged.
- And an argument in tandem of that: it's lazy to fault the Bulls' effort in instances where they're down big in this series, like the unhired coach wannabee Mark Jackson tried when describing a lack of 'playoff intensity' in the first half, as it's more of a case of the talent deficiency. The Cavs are loaded, when they play their best the Bulls have no chance. It's not because they have some kind of sporadic effort, and if you've watched this team all season you know that there may have only been a couple times where effort was in question: it's usually talent.
- Speaking of Jackson and Van Gundy, they almost made me long for the local call, because as much as Neil and Stacy drift from calling the game, with the ABC crew it was an epidemic. When it came to discussion over the VDN-Pax incident, the game was completely ignored for 10 minutes. Though I did agree with their sentiments that it was a big deal, and Van Gundy's point about the Bulls screwing themselves by not at least appearing to be more behind Vinny (even if they aren't) was spot on.
- It is continually amazing how Derrick Rose can achieve All-Star status, and a burgeoning superstar reputation, and still not get foul calls. In contrast to LeBron James it's even more startling. And that's not to say LeBron doesn't get fouled, just that Rose does too and only one trip to the line in a game where he put up 28 shots shouldn't even be possible. Rose tried his best to carry the offensive load and I'm actually a bit worried that he was hitting shots with such high degree of difficulty that are unlikely to be repeated much in this series. Then again, that's sort of what he does.
- I also thought some of the off-the-ball calls on Noah were unfortunate, and really screwed with what he was able to contribute. The Cavs absolutely dominated the offensive glass and that can't happen. Vinny needs to consider starting Brad Miller alongside Noah to keep Joakim away from Shaq for the minutes he's on the court. It's not as if Shaq will play too much as he returns from injury (though I was surprised he even got over 20 minutes in his first game back), and the biggest guaranteed stints are to start each half. To match up Miller with Shaq as much as possible, Miller has to start.
- This definitely wasn't 'the monster' LeBron had promised, either from himself or his team as a whole. James was unspectacular outside of his 4 blocks (and annoying histrionics), and the Bulls were committed to over-helping on his drive. That left wide open (honestly, as much as the Bulls 'scorers' get looks due to Rose, it is no comparison to what these Cavs see on every shot) Cavaliers that did not effectively punish the Bulls, going 6-23 from three. That's a stat I'd worry about not repeating.
- Meanwhile the Bulls should be able to get more out of their secondary options than they did in game one. Kirk Hinrich played 44 minutes and scored 8 points. Luol Deng was awful all game, and it's frustrating that Rose even considers passing to Deng while he stands 22 feet from the rim when Rose can instead continue towards the rim himself (maybe he's sick of the no-calls?). And when Deng drives, it seems like he loses the ball (as in, not blocked or fouled but the ball is gone before the shot is even up) more than any player of his caliber in the league. Not big news to anyone to say that for them to have a chance the Bulls need than just Derrick Rose to provide a threat, but that's been a season-long problem.
- Vinny started Rose on Anthony Parker and Hinrich on Mo Williams, which is the right move. Early in the game the Cavs went right to Parker who lost Rose behind an off-the-ball screen (this is a no-Rose-bashing zone, but he is still awful at fighting through screens), but if the Cavs want to go to Anthony Parker more, that's a great strategy from the Bulls standpoint.
- Though LeBron did have a quiet game, a James Johnson DNP is still disappointing. Vinny went to Hakim Warrick in the first half for 9 minutes and he did decent job against Jamison, but I would've preferred Johnson got that call on LeBron and gave Deng a relative rest to guard Antawn. And would also prefer that Pargo got no call, as his initial 2 minutes of time was not in garbage time. Another strange VDN rotation choice was playing the starting lineup the first 14+ minutes of the second half, but overall Vinny's rotations won't make much a difference as it is so shallow in the first place. We'll still have the cliche-gasm every time they mic him up, and that's fun. (Actually the stuff they didn't show on TV was pretty interesting, namely VDN's insistence on keeping the pace low and making the Cavs work defensively. I don't think that will work given the Bulls terrible set offense, but at least it's a strategy).
- I still see a way for the Bulls to take a game, as long as they keep it close: Rose can take over a few late possessions and the rest of either side won't matter. But there was also a lot to see in game one that suggests that the Bulls will be blown out a couple times this series too. With all that went wrong (or willingly dormant) for the Cavs they still won by 13, and terrible offensive performances by the Bulls are more the norm than the exception.