It took three games, but the Chicago Bulls finally picked up their first win of the 2016-17 NBA preseason. After losing to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Chicago defended home court with a 121-105 win last night.
Granted its preseason, but there are still a lot to grab from this game.
1. This was a good bounce-back game for Nikola Mirotic
Nikola Mirotic wasn’t just bad in the first two preseason games, he was horrible. In a year where Mirotic was supposed to be an X-Factor for Chicago, he looked like a complete non-factor. On both ends of the court, Mirotic was struggling. On offense he couldn’t find his three-point shot despite getting open looks and on defense he was late with his rotations and leaving open lanes to the basket for opposing players.
But really bounced back in this game. Mirotic scored 18 points, knocked down four threes and gathered nine rebounds all in 25 minutes of action. He looked really confident with his shot, and it showed as he was making Indiana pay for leaving him open. After struggling to start the preseason, hopefully this performance means that Mirotic is finding his groove in the offense.
2. Bulls offense was clicking
The Bulls offense exploded last night, scoring 121 points on 51.3 percent shooting from the field. Even though the Pacers outshot Chicago (82 to 76), the Bulls took more efficient shots. Especially Taj Gibson, who was perfect in hitting all nine of his shots from the field.
The big surprise from the Bulls was the three-point shooting. Chicago shot 47.6 percent from deep, but what was an even bigger surprise was who it came from. Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott made at least one attempt from deep, which is a given considering their roles on their team. But the biggest surprise was Dwayne Wade, who has seemed to find his groove on the three-point line, hit three out of his four attempts. In an offense where spacing is likely to be an issue, it was good to see the Bulls play well offensively.
One thing to also point out is that the Bulls seemed to move the ball very well yesterday, resulting in 25 assists. It was the type of ball movement that Fred Hoiberg wants to see. With Spencer Dinwiddie getting the start over Rajon Rondo, the Bulls seemed to be more comfortable in the offense, which does raise questions about Rondo’s fit.
3. Defense, especially on the pick and roll, needs a lot of work
Even without Paul George, the Pacers were able to register above 100 points. Much of it was due to the duo of Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson, who combined for 38 points in 40 minutes of action. Like the last game against the Pacers, it was the pick and roll that hurt Chicago.
On the P&R, it was the switch that gave Indiana the match-ups they wanted. Chicago’s bigs failed to rotate over or even stay in front of the guards when the switch occurred getting Chicago out of order.
One prime example was at the end of the first half when Jeff Teague ran a pick and roll with Al Jefferson. Cristiano Felicio did a good job blitzing Teague, cutting off his path to the basket and forcing him to the sideline. But the problem occurred when Felicio tried to switch back to Jefferson. That allowed Teague to drive straight to the basket. Bobby Portis, who was defending the paint, was late on rotating over on the drive. That left Al Jefferson wide open underneath the basket. Luckily for the Bulls, the clock ran out on the half before he was able to put the ball in the basket.
While the offense certainly looked like it was clicking, the defense still needs a lot of work. It will take a lot of effort, especially from the Bulls young players and big men. So far it looks like the defense will be an issue this whole year.
Another game note :
Doug McDermott dunked again (!!!!) and Fred Hoiberg loved it :