The Bulls are off to a 2-0 start to the 2016-2017 season after beating the Boston Celtics and the Indiana Pacers. I didn’t think this would be the case, figuring they would split the two opening games. But, as in most cases, I was wrong: the team has come out and played better than I, and certainly most, expected.
Obviously, it should be noted that the Bulls started 2-0 last year, and well, we saw how that turned out. But this team is visibly different than that one, and actually enjoying one another on the floor. Could this end up being an underdog story where the awkward misfits rise to the top?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Are the Bulls 2-0 because both the Celtics and Pacers were on the second night of a back-to-back? Surely it factored in, but the Bulls are off to a strong start mostly due to the fact that they’ve excelled in the areas where they need to in order to be successful. The Bulls defense has been OK through the first two games, but they aren’t going to win very many games because of it. They’re going to have to rely on their offense to generate enough points in various areas.
Offensive Rebounding/Second Chance Points
The starting five for the Bulls, plus newly-acquired Michael Carter-Williams, are all very good at offensive rebounding for their respective positions. And they have to use that to their advantage to provide more opportunities to score, which they have to this point.
Against the Celtics on Thursday, the Bulls corralled 18 offensive rebounds to Boston’s three. Off of those rebounds, the Bulls scored 18 second chance points to the Celtics’ five. Same story on Saturday versus the Pacers, the Bulls were able to grab 13 offensive rebounds while Indiana only had eight. On second chance points, the Bulls doubled them up 16 to eight.
The Bulls need to continue to punish teams on the glass, especially Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez, and take advantage of those second chance opportunities. If they can, they’ll put themselves in a good position at the end of games to win.
One of the easiest ways for these Bulls to generate points is via the free throw line. With the way that Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler play, those two should be getting to the free throw line on a consistent basis. And with Rajon Rondo slinging passes into the post, those guys are going to get more opportunities to convert from the line as well. So it’s important to not only get to the line, but convert as well.
Chicago was able to outscore the Celtics and the Pacers in this area on Thursday and Saturday. The Bulls were able to get to the line 30 times against Boston, converting on 22 attempts, while the Celtics went 15-24 in a tight ballgame. Saturday night, Chicago got to the line 21 times, making 19 of their attempts, as the Pacers got to the line a mere nine times. As you can see, these things add up.
A sign of a good offense is how many assists are accumulated versus how many times they are turning it over. It shows how well you’re taking care of the ball, but more importantly that you’re moving the ball well and getting good looks at the basket. For the most part through their first two games, the Bulls have done that.
Last year the offense would often stagnate and the ball would stick, whereas this year there’s been more movement. This team’s structure makes that important. You have to move the ball side-to-side, keeping the defense on its toes. As much slack as Rondo may get for assist-hunting, and stalling the offense from time to time, he’s done a pretty damn good job of pushing the pace and keeping the offense flowing. And everyone else is following.
In their opening night game, the Bulls assisted on 25 of 36 made field goals, with just 12 turnovers. Two nights later, the Bulls managed to do even better assisting on 34 of 45 made field goals, again only 12 turnovers. Guys are moving the ball and making the extra pass and it’s already created a whirlwind of a difference from last year.
Are the Bulls actually good? Like I said, it’s only been two games. The Bulls have a very tough start to the season, with their annual Circus Trip coming in the next week. How they finish this first month will show us a lot about this team. But so far, the Bulls have gotten off to a positive start and are trending upward in the areas that they need to be.