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Gasol and McDermott start to get comfortable in the Bulls 3rd Preseason Game

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The Bulls improved their preseason record to 2-1 with a 114-105 victory over the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Here's what happened.

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
If you missed the Bulls' 3rd preseason game, it was an entertaining one that showcased the team's firepower. The offense was impressive, particularly the rotation players who scored 65 first half points.

Here are the highlights from NBA.com:


Some notes from the game:

How Hoiberg Used Gasol

Nobody was quite sure on how Hoiberg would use Gasol this year - whether Gasol would keep his steady diet of post ups or if he would be used more on the perimeter like he was with the Lakers. Hoiberg did tell reporters that he would run a lot of offense through Gasol, and that was definitely the case in the first quarter of the Timberwolves game.

Rather than stretch him out, Hoiberg put Gasol in a LOT of isolation post ups. Gasol got the ball on the block 6 times in the 9 minute stretch he played in the 1st quarter and only took two jumpers in that span.

To that point, Pau is going to be a huge threat from the corner. He was one of the team's best corner 3 shooters last year, shooting 52.4% on those shots. When he spots up on those corner 3 shots, he makes life extremely difficult for his defender. Big men have an instinct to bring help in the middle and when they do, Pau is left all alone on a shot that he's great at:

Bonus points to Mirotic for that semi-illegal screen he sets that will never be called, which buys Gasol some more room.

Pau also took an above-the-break 3 at the top of the circle, which I hated (I wrote earlier on why those are a bad idea for him)

Throughout the game, Pau got a ton of touches in the post, so it looks like Hoiberg will find a way to keep Gasol happy down there.

Lots of Drag Screens

We talked a lot in the offseason about how Hoiberg's offense would be dependent on heavy use of drag screens. The Bulls opened this game with a drag screen on 3 of their first four possessions and ran them constantly throughout the game.

Mirotic was used almost exclusively as the screener on these plays. Interestingly, when he subs out of the game the Bulls don't use nearly as many drag screens. It looks like Hoiberg is tailoring the offense to suit Mirotic's skills. Mirotic was able to catch on the perimeter and get some good looks at 3's along with getting to the lane with his standard arsenal of pump fakes.

The Bulls are Finally Going 2 for 1 at the End of Quarters

Under coach Thibodeau, the Bulls would rarely go 2 for 1 in end of quarter situations. That looks like it's changing with Hoiberg. He only got up from the bench to instruct the team once in the 1st quarter, and it was to signal to Aaron Brooks to go 2 for 1 with 50 seconds left. Brooks responded with an isolation play and one of the highlights of the game:

Brooks set up 2 for 1's at the end of the 2nd and 3rd quarters as well, with Hoiberg signaling from the bench both times.

This is another aspect of "modernizing" the Bulls' offense that is a departure from coach Thibs. Along with stressing the value of more 3's and increasing pace, smart NBA offenses go 2 for 1 to gain that extra possession at the end of quarters.

LOTS of 3's again

The Bulls shot 36 3's in this contest and are averaging 33 attempts per game, which is second in the NBA for preseason. McDermott led the team, going 4-7 and Hinrich had a turn back the clock game, going 3-3. Snell was the lone disappointing spot, shooting 1-7 and passing up a lot of open looks in the process as well.

McDermott is Outplaying Snell for the Starting Role

Speaking of McDermott and Snell, Doug McDermott is having a good preseason and Tony Snell is having a very bad one. Here are their stats side-by side.

McDermott:  31 MPG, 48% FG, 50% 3pt, 18 PPG, 4 RPG

Snell: 31 MPG, 23% FG, 21% 3pt, 7 PPG, 5 RPG

McDermott is clearly playing with a lot more confidence. He was yelling to pump himself up throughout the game, coming over after made shots to give high fives to the bench, and showing a nice touch around the rim. He talked about how he was developing all sorts of weird moves around the rim this summer (including a floater!) because he struggled to finish at the rim last year. He's still shown this preseason that when he tries to go straight up, things go badly.

Snell, on the other hand, looked extremely passive and uncomfortable. He badly airballed a 3 and shot terribly overall this game.

The Bulls also tried a small ball lineup for a big chunk of the 3rd quarter where they played McDermott and Snell together at the 3/4. Hoiberg tried McDermott at the 4 in Summer League and McDermott talked about how he thought he was suited for it, but the lineup looked pretty sloppy altogether.

Can't Post up on E'Twaun

E'Twaun Moore is showing himself to be a great defensive player. After stuffing 6' 6" Michael Carter-Williams on an isolation post up in the first preseason game, he recorded his second isolation post up block against 6'7" Kevin Martin. He also had some nice steals in this game and looked good in harassing the Timberwolves all game.

Moore also had a nice game offensively, chipping in 18 points and showing off a little dream shake in the process.

There's talk that Moore may be eclipsing Brooks as the primary backup PG, and that should be an interesting battle going forward.

Final note: Marcus Simmons only got two minutes in this game. It didn't go so well.