There was 12 minutes of beautifully-hot Bulls offense there. And then the rest of the game happened.
The problem being that the Sixers also looked to have free reign to create open shots, and unlike Chicago never really stopped, finishing off the Bulls in the 2nd and 3rd quarters and cruising to a 127-108 defeat of the Bulls in their 2018-19 season opener.
First let’s fondly remember what was a truly insane first quarter, the Bulls setting an opening-night franchise record with 41 points, nearly matched by the Sixers 38 in that same period.
Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis were nearly perfect, combining for 29 points on 11-12 shooting. Here was Bobby’s start.
Bobby Portis literally could not miss in the first quarter. Here's all five shots he put up (spoiler alert: he drained them all): pic.twitter.com/UHJNHaqjl7— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 19, 2018
As you can tell by the score, the defense was not so good. Joel Embiid absolutely worked Wendell Carter inside and out, and he also started the game perfectly, 5-5 for 14 points.
The Bulls did find a slight edge defensively by simply ignoring Markelle Fultz. There was grave concern heading into this game with Kris Dunn’s absence meaning they had nobody to guard Ben Simmons, but the Bulls wisely put Holiday AND Cameron Payne on Simmons and let Fultz get pity applause from the home faithful whenever he touched the ball. Reminded me of post-ACL Derrick Rose it was so sad.
For the most part the Bulls were draining jumpers, yet giving up dunks. The end of the that magical initial quarter saw both teams with a very nice 69% true shooting percentage, at one point the Bulls made thirteen straight shots, it was bonkers.
The 2nd quarter started with JJ Reddick converting a 4-point play and the Sixers maintaining a steady lead from there. Both slowed down, as expected, but the Bulls even moreso as they missed 5 of their first 6 three point attempts and scored a mere 17 points in the second period. The bench, ‘led’ by Jabari Parker, Antonio Blakeney (?) and Brian Arrivederci (!?!?) shouldn’t be expected to maintain the scorching hot start...and they didn’t! The Bulls went into halftime down seven, and it likely would’ve been worse if the Sixers weren’t being so casual with their own attempts.
The second half saw the Sixers following through with their odd plan of sitting Fultz for JJ Redick, and the extra shooting likely helped in allowing them to totally blow the doors off. Hoiberg tried a couple timeouts but couldn’t stop the bleeding, as the Bulls defense went with a unique strategy of both not defending the three-point line AND giving up offensive rebounds. It was a 17-0 run by Philadelphia that put this game well out of reach.
Both LaVine and Portis had 4 fouls early in the 3rd quarter and were pulled, and things predictably did not get better. Jabari Parker was awful, even causing a delay of game as he unpeeled endless wrappings like a goddamned mummy. Blakeney showed he is underrated in his pursuit in being the worst defender on the team, just needs more minutes to prove it.
It wasn’t even 3 quarters in the books before Ben Simmons earned a triple-double on yet another open 3-point look for his teammate.
If Jabari wants to play more, he has to run harder on these kinds of plays. pic.twitter.com/E69n0JQQcs— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) October 19, 2018
By the time the dust settled entering the 4th, the Bulls were down 26 points. What we all feared heading into the season when it came to the Bulls defense - made worse by Kris Dunn’s late absence - was happening. Things got so bad that Reggie Miller felt the freedom to start talking about LeBron James getting his number retired with the Lakers.
In the 4th...who cares. Things were so goofy that Fultz hit a three. I hope the Bulls brass don’t see it as ‘positive development’ when they see ‘their kids’ display a brief spurt here and there in such an environment. Like...cool, Zach LaVine did hit several more shots to finish with 30 points (tying Embiid for the game-high), but overall the 4th quarter was as informative as the tankathon to end last season. If Fred leads his press conference with winning the fourth quarter again...
Anyway, this was really bad, but had brief spells of enjoyment, and the Bulls have their home opener in a few days against a much less formidable opponent, hosting the Pistons on Saturday.