The Nets are terrible, but the season starting with a back-to-back was a challenge which could have easily bit Hoiberg and this inept defense in the ass. Especially on the road.
Instead, the Bulls opened with a 24-10 lead and never looked back.
The offensive spacing
To illustrate what the high motion offense produced tonight can be done no better than their 42-for-78 shooting from the floor with 14--yes, 14!!!--three-pointers for a .628 eFG%. An eFG% only smaller than six games during the entire 445-game Tom Thibodeau Era, including the playoffs.
The ball handler at half court was almost never the handler when a pick n' roll was set. Derrick Rose was rarely the ball handler at the beginning of endgame possessions, where he could work off the ball and there were two or three passes before he would touch the ball. It was a refreshing departure from his 18-second dribble drives.
Pick n' rolls didn't occur in vacuums. There was always an off-ball screen accompanying them. Penetration was coupled with movement on the perimeter to create passing lanes. Jimmy Butler was the ball handler often as the game wore on, and almost no plays started at center court.
Plays progressed toward the top of the key very often, but those touches were manufactures by good coaching to create good looks to the hole and open shots. They threw the Nets off into a couple of bad fouls or just losing track of the ball.
Whether or not this can be a sustainable elite offense is yet to be seen, but the idea is there.
Butler led the Bulls with 24 points on 9-for-11 shooting, hitting all three of his 3s, with six assists. His two steals don't tell half of his story on the defensive end as a disruptor. We are seeing the beautiful development of a truly all-purpose guard.
Rose was more economical with his shots (15 points on 9-for-11). The ball was out of his hand for larger portions of the Bulls possessions, and that didn't limit him. He had plenty of opportunities to use off all screens and Butler's drive and kick game to the perimeter was turning the Nets' backs on Rose.
Luckily, the Nets are not tough inside, so the Pau Gasol-Nikola Mirotic frontcourt was minimally exposed. Brook Lopez had his 26 points and Andrea Bargnani had his 17, but that always happens. Getting out-rebounded 45 to 39 in a game where Brooklyn missed 54 shots to the Bulls' 36.
Mirotic is becoming automatic for multiple 3s, adding another four, tonight for 18 points. Gasol finally put the ball in the air for 16 points on 7-for-11, using the whole quartercourt. But this barely matters if the Bulls can't prevent penetration or grab boards.
The bench was energized--an imperative on the road, especially on the tail end of a back-to-back. Five players came off the bench to play over 15 minutes, including Doug McDermott for over 20.
McDermott wasn't all too good in those 20 minutes, but showed flashes of aggressiveness and was racing downcourt on the weak side when his teammates would fire up shots. He's learning defensive fundamentals and is trying to applying the penetration game he used in the Summer League. Eight points on 3-for-7 with two 3-pointers is a fine line for a guy still figuring it out.
Not sure McDermott can ever take over the starting role, where Tony Snell is so dependent for a line like tonight--ten points, a couple of threes, no turnovers, active feet off the ball on both ends. But an injury anywhere on the wings likely has McBux as the next man up with a YOLO green light.
Joakim Noah had a deceptive "little things" game. In that his "little thing that doesn't show up in the box score" was struggling to catch a basketball. I mean, it's a friggin' basketball. His six boards and two steals get negates by the five fouls, three bricks (including a dunk), and two turnovers. Somehow Noah's game was actually not as bad as Taj Gibson's to really put the Bulls Bigs Corps into question.
Aaron Brooks had a solid 12 points with a couple of 3s to show that Rose doesn't need to extend himself past 30 minutes and the Bulls don't miss many steps. E'Twaun Moore had an aggressive nine points and a pesky steal to continue his case for a solid role in the rotation.
Next up for the Bulls is a trip to the exotic destination of Detroit for another 6:30 CST game on Friday evening.