82-0 is in play, everyone.
Ok I’ll be honest here, the game was actually kind of fun to watch. Will they always be like that? Of course not, but it’s a nice start to the season nonetheless. There are some elements of this team that I think you’ll be able to enjoy throughout the year. Not many, but some.
Before we begin, Let’s stay objective. This is the first game of the year, plus the Celtics were on the second night of a back-to-back. That said, the Celtics are discussed as a top-3 seed in the conference, so it’s impressive.
To the observations!
Chicago shoots 11-25 from three
This has to be first. I’m sure this is what everyone was expecting, right?
•Dwyane Wade 4-6
•Jimmy Butler 4-6
•Rajon Rondo 1-2
•Michael Carter-Williams 1-1
Oh lord Jesus, sorry I blacked out there. Wade’s hot shooting from three during the preseason has apparently carried over to the regular season, at least for one game. But if that becomes a thing this year, and Butler can get back to shooting around average from deep, it’ll do wonders for this team offensively.
Bulls won by playing to their strengths (outside of three point shooting)
Looking past the three point shooting from last night, the strengths of this team going into this season were going to be rebounding, second chance points and getting to the free throw line. And that’s exactly what they did. The Bulls got to the line 30 times converting on 22 attempts as compared to the Celtics 24 attempts while only making 15.
Chicago absolutely crushed the Celtics on the boards, out-rebounding them 55-36(!), and 18-3 on the offensive boards. Starters Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson chipped in eight offensive rebounds combined while Butler and MCW had three a piece. The Bulls only shot 39% from the field tonight, and that could be a reoccurring theme. However, if they can continue to rebound and create second chance points they’ll be there at the end of games more times than not.
Many have touched on this already, but the Bulls are not going to be a very good defensive team, and at times that was evident Thursday night. Specifically the transition defense, help-side defense and then in the pick-and-roll.
But there were two noticeable issues against Boston that were new from my perspective. Multiple times the Bulls ending up switching screens on the wing, sometimes even a guard and a big were switching. Problem was there was no communication. Guys were running into each other, having no idea that a switch was taking place. Not sure if this was in the original game plan or not, but moving forward Fred Hoiberg has to get his players on the same page and communicating.
The second issue was defending the drive going middle into the lane. When the offensive player was driving middle, the guard one pass away would dig extremely hard. While in some cases this can be an apt strategy, against a team like the Celtics who have more than one shooter on the floor it’s not. There were a few times where guys were digging hard on the drive which would then leave their man wide open for an uncontested three. In turn, Boston was able to convert a couple of times in the first half because of this, and it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Bobby Portis has completely fallen out of the rotation, with Cristiano Felicio having now officially moved ahead of him. And Jerian Grant, who some had pegged to be the primary backup point guard after the trade, has now dropped all the way to the inactive list. Not great, Bob.
One lineup that Hoiberg rolled out that didn’t play that awful, but something I would prefer to never see again is MCW and Rondo together. I know Hoiberg is trying some things out here early on, but Jesus Christ, we can’t have those two on the floor together. He has to find a way to stagger those two, and be able to get Denzel Valentine, not Isaiah Canaan, on the floor. Hopefully that changes sooner rather than later.
On the positive side of staggering, Hoiberg kept one of the three alphas on the court at all times last night.
Overall I thought Wade, Butler, Lopez, Gibson and yes, even Nikola Mirotic played very well last night. If you look past Niko’s struggles at the three point line, he shot 6-11 from the field for 15 points and nine rebounds, along with some solid defense.
Wade and Butler were terrific, scoring 22 and 24 a piece, respectively. For Wade, he did a little bit of everything, from hitting three’s to getting into the lane and finishing at the rim. While Butler struggled from inside the arch, he did manage to hit four three’s and got to the line 12 times, making eight of those.
Between Lopez and Gibson, those two are going to be a load for teams to keep off the glass. As I said before, if those two can consistently crash the offensive glass and create second chance opportunities for the offense, it’ll pay dividends. Outside of that, Lopez will get a lot of looks out of the PnR rolling to the rim especially with Rondo, and Gibson will have chances to continue knocking down that elbow, free throw line shot out of the pick-and-pop.
Dammit Fred, play this man more than six minutes.