82-0 is still in play. The Bulls who are now 3-0 and obviously on the verge of their seventh Larry O’Brien Trophy come next June.
Comparisons, whether you like it or not, are going to continue between this year’s squad and last season’s abomination. On multiple occasions, last year’s Bulls entered games against teams of these Nets’ caliber (Holy god are the Nets atrocious. Someone needs to get Brook Lopez out of their immediately, he deserves better) coming out with zero energy or sense of urgency. As a result, they dropped multiple games to teams who they were better than on paper. So it’s nice to see this team come out Monday against one of lesser talent and lay the wood from the start. These are games they should and need to win.
The way the Bulls played Monday night was a continuation from the first two, and again, something that was not expected, at least from myself.
I’m honestly kind of confused right now: what if this experiment works? To the observations!
Hot 3 point shooting continues
This is still baffling. An area where the Bulls were supposed to be struggling in are throwing flames and one of the top teams in the league percentage wise (third to be exact, at 42.5%). Monday night the Bulls went 11-27 from long range for 40.7%, and that’s with Doug McDermott going 0-3 on the night. Jimmy Butler went 2-2, Dwyane Wade even hit another, and Nikola Mirotic and Isaiah Canaan had four and three 3s, respectively.
Pace Pace Pace
Guys have bought into what Fred Hoiberg wants to do, which is to get out and run, push down the floor before the defense can get set. You can see it every time the Bulls secure a defensive rebound, they’re looking for Rajon Rondo to get the ball up the floor. And his teammates are sprinting with him, which is resulting in easy looks from the field, and the Bulls currently being sixth in the league right now in fast break points at 17.3 per game.
In the halfcourt, the ball still isn’t sticking as it’s moving well from one side to the other. The Bulls fell into a lull in the beginning of the 2nd half, but were able to snap out of it (because, Nets). The extra pass is being made from a good look to a great look, and they’re cutting away from the ball finding open lanes. It’s amazing, I know.
AND THEN THERE’S THIS:
Taj to Rondo, Rondo to Wade, Wade alley oop with Jimmy Butler. pic.twitter.com/VznXsGwf92— ⓂarcusD2.0 (@_MarcusD2_) October 31, 2016
HOOK IT TO MY VEINS FOR THE NEXT 79 GAMES.
Bulls out-rebounding opponents
I mentioned this Monday morning in how the Bulls have been successful through their first two games, and it was the same story against Brooklyn. While the Bulls weren’t able to win the offensive rebounding battle (lost 16-13), they did beat the Nets in second chance points, 24-14, which has become a trend through three games. And they won overall rebounding battle, out-rebounding the Nets 58-45. Everyone who played “non-garbage” minutes secured at least two rebounds on the night.
Small Sample Size Alert! The Bulls are first in the league in offensive rebounding percentage at 33.6%, seventh in defensive rebounding percentage, 81.1%, and first in overall rebounding percentage at 58.4%. Of the trends we’ve seen so far, this is probably the one that will stick around long term considering the personnel and that it was one of the strengths of this team entering the season.
It was noticeable during the Bulls season opener last week, although as I noted I wasn’t sure if it was exactly part of the scheme. Three games later, and that appears to be the case. Everyone outside of Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio has the freedom to switch out on the perimeter.
The sign of a good defensive team is if they don’t need to switch, can they fight through screens on and away from the ball. With the way this team has been constructed, Hoiberg and assistant coach Jim Boylen may know that switching defensively is the best way for them to find success on that end. Thus far, the Bulls have done a good job of switching and communicating on those.
Although, something to keep an eye on, especially with Rondo and the other backup point guards, is defending the high pick-and-roll. They’ve struggled quite a bit on fighting over screens and at times presented the Bulls with a disadvantage defensively as they try to recover.
Taj Gibson, All Star 2017. This guy is playing out of his freaking mind on both ends and it’s been an absolute joy to watch.
Two players who left me wary after the preseason, McDermott and Niko, have rebounded nicely with strong performances to begin the season (outside of the season opener for McDermott). Niko had another another double-double with 16 points and 10 boards, with three assists and three blocks. McDermott on the other hand, chipped in 12 points with three boards and three assists (that has to be a career high, right?) A lot of how successful this season is for the Bulls depends on these two, and how consistent they can be on a night to night basis.
And Jimmy Butler dominated from the start Monday night, continuing his strong play to begin the season. He had 22 points on 6-10 from the field, going 8-9 from the foul line. He went 2-2 from deep in the first quarter, his only attempts of the game. For Butler, he needs to have confidence in that shot, but also to take those when he’s open.
These Bulls are fun to watch, aren’t they?