With Mike Dunleavy out for the game, the Bulls Saturday night starting lineup of Rose/McDermott/Butler/Gibson/Noah fared very well in their trip (slightly) north, ultimately securing their first win of the preseason.
It may have been a bit harder to secure that expected, with Jimmy Butler playing 36 minutes and a lineup of he and Pau Gasol (30 min) to close out the lowly Bucks, but you have to think Thibs wasn't going to let this one go after making them practice approximately 47 hours in the week leading up to it.
The great news is that the starters, and Derrick Rose in particular, looked very good. Rose was out there for 22 minutes, a longer run than he has been previously, and looked fairly great. Shot 3-4 from the three-point line and looked damned fast in his transition opportunities.
Rose, like the rest of the starters, had a very high +/- for this game. McDermott was the variable to watch here, and he looked pretty decent in the starting role, with 7 points on 6 shots and a few solid assists. One was a drive/kick for a Noah jumper in the first half, another was this beautiful lob to Jimmy Butler.
Butler (18 points), Gasol (20), Noah (10), and later Gibson (11) all provided balanced scoring throughout the game. The Bulls opened up this one with a 16-4 run, and had similar such stretches when Rose re-entered in the 2nd quarter as well as to start the second half.
The defense looked better in the first half than in the second, with Pau Gasol not only looking better than Carlos Boozer but closer to Bill Russell with the blocks he was racking up. It was less of a block party in the second half as, again, when Gasol is on the move he becomes vulnerable (McDermott's defense too was expectedly lacking). It's an interesting dynamic to watch where Noah is now going to be out guarding power forwards. The Bucks tried to have Ersan Ilyasova punish them from the outside but it spectacularly backfired, as he had an abysmal 4-20 shooting night. Another thing to watch with Noah at the forward spot is how much (even more) havok he'll be able to create on the offensive glass, as though I now see he didn't get a rebound he definitely drew fouls and created tips by his activity.
As we've seen throughout the preseason thus far, the bench unit still is not sound. The defense with any Brooks/Hinrich/Mirotic/McDermott-Snell combination looks like it's going to be a problem, even with Taj Gibson to help clean things up. Even Hinrich looks to be grabbing more than usual, which is hopefully more a result of the preseason officiating than a steep age-related decline on that end. For his part, Hinrich did shoot the ball well (3-6), which is more than what can be said from Mirotic (1-7), Brooks (0-2), and Snell (0-5). Mirotic looked a bit better than the previous game, and even was surprisingly disruptive defensively with a nice weakside block and several steals. But he's still hesitating a bit to pull the trigger, and it locks up the offense when he does so. That's a problem with this lineup combination because they may nto be able to do much defensively when together.
But taking a step back: it's preseason, and the Bulls are very rarely going to roll out 10 or 11-deep lineups in the real games. I'd rather have the starters looking great and the bench looking suspect than vice versa, and as the preseason goes along we'll probably be seeing more time from the guys who matter more.