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Bulls formula holds for game one: get down but not out


(hoopdata boxscore)

Unfortunately for my recapping abilities, two half-watches doesn't really count as a full watch. But if there was a type of game that was more fun to simply enjoy than analyze, it's ones like these. The Bulls followed their formula, keeping their defense consistent and the game close through some rough offensive patches to facilitate a thrilling Derrick Rose finish.

That final possession wasn't some vague exhibition of 'clutchness' from Rose, it was extremely impressive shotmaking: going into the lane, stopping, and elevating over the helping Pau Gasol with an almost shot-put-like release. Then on the Lakers last chance, Kobe Bryant wasn't able to get similar separation or elevation as his shot was blocked by Luol Deng and crowded by two other Bulls.

That defensive stand capped a great final sequence from Deng, who defended Kobe well whenever he had the assignment, and came up with the huge steal jumping the pass from Kobe to his safety-valve (Gasol) when he was doubled (and panicked?) out of a timeout. Deng also was able to draw a couple fouls and secure a couple rebounds as he was the 1A to Derrick Rose's fantastic lead late performance.

It was a bit rocky to get to that point, however. The offense still needs work, and new addition Rip Hamilton had Bogans-esque production with the addition of only more fouling. Granted, guarding Bryant is a tough opening assignment, and Rip's presence was felt on a few possessions even if his shot wasn't falling. But it'll be an interesting watch all season to see Hamilton vs. Time, and what version of Rip the Bulls are really getting.

Another question mark will be bench scoring. When the Bulls went to the all-sub unit of Watson/Brewer/Korver/Gibson/Asik, they were -12 in just under five minutes. The difference was evident in seeing the Bench Mob having to go up against Gasol-and-scrubs: The Bulls still really don't have a go-to scorer when Rose sits, and you wonder if Thibodeau will work in a more staggered rotation to make sure at least Boozer or Deng is out there. Both had solid offensive nights (nice of Boozer to take advantage of a mismatch), but neither are really the types to carry an offense alone. In this compressed schedule, it probably likely benefits the Bulls to keep things as-is, but seeing an all-bench unit out there struggling to score gave me playoff flashbacks.

As did the shooting guard situation to end the game. It was interesting (if not surprising) to see Korver to not only play under 10 minutes, but not be involved in offense/defense substitutions late. Instead, with Rip struggling, Thibodeau went to Brewer-only for the final 4 minutes. Brewer played and shot well tonight, and was a welcome sight when the Bulls needed more size when the Lakers had Bryant-Artest at the wings, but near the end of the game you could still see the spacing issues of having Brewer out there and it made one wonder what the heck that whole offseason was for.

But Rose had enough and did enough with it. You could say the Bulls stole this game (some missed FTs from the Lakers helped) but they also did their usual job of keeping things close. That's how they win. And while pre-game I thought it'd be a much more impressive victory, the Lakers are still pretty good and it was still on the road...and it's the sign of a very good squad that they not only put themselves in position to steal the win, but they went out and did it.