This was a tough game to watch.
In a style of play more reminiscent of last year's Bulls, both teams shot extremely poorly but the Pistons ended up dominating the Bulls in overtime to improve to an impressive 3-0 on the season. The highlights from NBA.com:
The Bulls had a chance to win this game with a last second shot from Derrick Rose. Fred Hoiberg opted to let the guys play, yelling instructions to Rose and declining to call a timeout.
Despite Hoiberg's screams, he and Rose must have had some sort of miscommunication on this play:
Hoiberg on final shot in regulation: "We wanted to attack there."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 31, 2015
Hoiberg told Rose to drive. Rose shot air ball on jumper at buzzer. OT time.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 31, 2015
Rather than attack, Rose chose to shoot a contested step back fadeaway jumper. He didn't even hit the rim. That's a shot that Rose has increasingly used as a go-to move for game winners, hitting one against the Bucks a few years ago and the Warriors last season but also missing many others in the process. Rose seemed to regret the shot:
Rose on final shot: "I should’ve pump-faked. A young guy (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) was sticking me too. I should’ve made smarter decisions"— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 31, 2015
Rose and Butler both had rough shooting nights while Nikola Mirotic was once again the Bulls' best player by a mile. Mirotic seemed to be a little gassed towards the end of the game, but he hit some insanely deep 3's and kept the Bulls in this one with his ability to get to the line and hit big shots.
Ultimately, the Bulls just ran out of gas in this one. It was the team's 3rd game in 4 nights and the Pistons jumped out to a big lead in overtime that the Bulls could never catch. Jimmy Butler played a Thibs-ian 42 minutes, and Mirotic logged big minutes as well.
Now I'd just like to add some random things I liked from this game and the season so far. How's that for a segue!
The Mirotic/Gasol Combo
There were big concerns that this lineup wouldn't be able to defend. Teams have been running a lot of pick and roll at Pau and Mirotic is not a great defender, but they've been holding it together and their offense has been great. The 2 man lineup of Gasol/Mirotic has posted an offensive rating of 104.7 and a defensive rating of 98.3. Both of those numbers are significantly better than league-average.
The other primary big lineup off the bench, Noah/Gibson, has been pretty awful. They can't score at all - their offensive rating is a paltry 80.8. What's even worse is that this supposed defensive unit has a worse defensive rating than the Mirotic/Gasol lineup at 99.3. A lot of that is because they're oftentimes paired with Brooks, McDermott, and Moore but Noah/Gibson has still disappointed. It was bad last year and it's remained bad in the first 3 games of the season.
Hoiberg might want to dump this combo soon and pair Noah with Mirotic instead. Those two have only played 14 minutes together but have been one of the Bulls' best tandems, even better than Mirotic/Gasol.
There's still not a lot of minutes to evaluate the other combos, but here's how all the big lineups have done from an efficiency standpoint:
Interesting to note that Hoiberg only went to the old starters, Gasol/Noah, for 4 minutes in the first game of the season and hasn't returned to pairing since.
We will keep an eye on this and give updates on how the big tandems are doing together as the season progresses.
Something that will never show up in the box score is how many screams of pain Taj Gibson causes with his screens. He's been called for a couple illegal ones early on which has to stop, but Taj sets some of the hardest screens in the league. He set a great one last night and he had two spine-cracking ones in the opener against the Cavs including this gem:
A lot of bigs are just going through the motions when they set a screen. They'll get a bad angle or not hold it long enough before rolling out. Taj rarely does either. You can tell Taj really takes pride in setting good screens that get his guys open, so even if he's not a great offensive player he's still helping out on that end. Same goes for Noah too.
E'Twaun Moore's Post Defense
This might sound crazy and homer-y, but E'Twaun Moore is one of the best guards in the league at defending post ups.
Moore showed off his chops in preseason, blocking Michael Carter Williams on an isolation post up and stuffing Kevin Martin on the same type of play two games later. Both of those guards are much bigger than the 6' 4" Moore, but size doesn't intimidate him. He proved that once again last night guarding Stanley Johnson, who is 3 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Moore.
I have no idea how Moore outmuscles these bigger guards, but he does it consistently and his post defense is superb. That is a big plus for the Bulls guards, who have been bullied down there in the past.
Gosh, I wish I had thought of this idea.
Kirk Hinrich picked up his 2nd DNP last night.
Somewhere, Kirk is forlornly thinking of the good times with Thibs while softly crooning, "You used to call me on my cell phone."
The Bulls don't play again until Sunday's matchup against the Magic, so enjoy your Halloween everyone!