Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons
7:00 CDT; NBC Sports Chicago
The Chicago Bulls season-starting scheduling isn’t what you would categorize as difficult.
After taking care of the Detroit Pistons in an ugly, you-can-tell-this-is-the-first-game-of-the-season win, the Bulls were mostly dominant in a 128-112 victory against the Zion-less Pelicans.
It’s the freaking Detroit Pistons and the freaking New Orleans Pelicans....but if nothing else a 2-0 start is at the least fun after all the crap we’ve been through over the last five or six seasons.
In a bit of scheduling quirk, the Bulls play the Pistons again this time at the United Center.
A few things to look out for. The Bulls surrendered just 88 points against the Detroit Pistons on Opening Night. In the modern NBA, that is an end-of-the-third quarter total for most teams on most nights. An 88-point defensive effort is reminiscent of the Tom Thibodeau days when the Bulls opponents remarkably averaged just 88 points per game for one of those seasons.
They followed that up by giving up 112 points to the New Orleans Pelicans despite the fact that Zion Williamson wasn’t playing.
Of course, there’s no way the Chicago Bulls this season are anyway close to being the same quality as some of those Thibodeau defenses. But, at least on paper and at least based on the way-too-early-returns, they look better than they have been in a few years. Alex Caruso and Lonzo Balls give the Bulls a pair of solid perimeter defenders they haven’t had in awhile, LaVine looks improved on that end this season, and Patrick Williams size, length and athleticism screams great defender once he gets his legs under him. The Bulls are probably closer defensively to what they showed against New Orleans than Detroit, but still that’s better than it has been as of late.
A second game against a similar opponent is always an interesting exercise on who can make the better adjustments. Can the Bulls dominate defensively against the Pistons now that Detroit gets a second look at them? Or was that 88-point game a fluke?
Another thing to look out for is the evolution of the Bulls offense. Against the Pistons, 94 points in the modern NBA doesn’t cut it on most nights. Zach LaVine was brilliant with 34 points on 11-for-17 from the field, but besides him the offense looked clunky. Vucevic, Ball, and DeRozan all shot below 50 percent from the field and the Bulls benched produced just 10 points.
Against the Pelicans, the Bulls had 128 points offensively with four starters scoring in double figures, major contributions from the bench, a casual 32 points from LaVine, and a triple-double from Ball in just his second game as a Chicago Bull.
Getting a bunch of good players to gel on a new team is of course a process. As the season progresses, you’d like to see the offense improve each game as they slowly get more and more in sync.
It’s a long season, but the early returns ain’t bad. For this franchise, that is something to get excited about.