Now that was a lot of fun.
It’s only one preseason game against a young Cavaliers team that likely won’t be any good again, but this was what the Bulls’ front office envisioned when they overhauled their roster over the last year. The Bulls ran the Cavs off the floor in a 131-95 shellacking, dominating on both ends of the court and having a lot of fun doing it.
While the offense was a bit sluggish to start, Chicago’s defense was ferocious from the opening tip, racking up a number of deflections, steals and blocks. Javonte Green and Lonzo Ball set the tone with their hustle, with Green making the most of his start in place of Patrick Williams. The 6-foot-4 Green stoned rookie Evan Mobley several times and was all over the court, ultimately finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two steals in 17 minutes.
Troy Brown Jr. surprisingly helped kickstart the offense with a trio of 3-point makes in the first quarter, but the game stayed somewhat competitive through a quarter and a half. That changed midway through the second quarter when Billy Donovan turned to a much-anticipated lineup featuring Alex Caruso, Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. This group blew the game open to close the half, giving the Bulls a 69-48 lead at half. There was some showtime as LaVine got cooking after a slow start:
The starters continued the pounding into the third quarter, running up the score on the hapless Cavs by constantly turning defense into offense and getting easy buckets by pushing pace. It was a 41-point game by the time the stars checked out, and the rest of the game was garbage time. Even the deep bench kept pouring it on for a bit and almost made it a 50-point game before the Cavs finally got it back under 40.
The Bulls got up 109 field goal attempts and shot 46.8% from the field and 16-of-37 from 3-point range while racking up 36 assists, 13 steals and 11 blocks. They did a good job taking care of the ball themselves, with the starters only totaling three turnovers. Seven players scored in double figures and 10 players scored at least eight points.
LaVine led the way with an easy 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting and 4-of-6 from 3-point land in 24 minutes. After forcing up a few shots early, he got most of the rest of his buckets in the flow of the game, which is something we’ll hopefully see a lot now that he’s playing with more talented guys. He was a plus-45 for the night. About the only downer was this hilarious botched dunk attempt:
DeRozan, Vucevic and Ball didn’t shoot particularly well, but they had the ball moving all over the place and stuffed the stat sheet. Ball’s pace-pushing, passing and defense really stood out, showing why he was the top target in the offseason.
Meanwhile, Caruso was a terrific spark off the bench with 10 points and 10 assists in just 20 minutes. Alize Johnson also showed off his energy with eight points, 11 rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes. It was also nice to see Ayo Dosunmo come in and get some late buckets in front of the home crowd.
On the other end, Lauri Markkanen was embarrassed repeatedly, getting stoned inside by at least four (I think) different Bulls guards. He showed every reason why the Bulls were fine moving on from him, playing soft on both ends and getting destroyed. He got a few buckets when the game was out of hand to make his line look a bit more respectable, but Green put the finishing touches on him:
Denzel Valentine didn’t see the court until the fourth quarter.
Again, all preseason caveats apply here, but it’s hard not to be excited after watching how the Bulls played in this one. At the very least, they should be very fun to watch.
The Bulls’ next preseason game is Friday against the Pelicans. Derrick Jones Jr., Tony Bradley and Marko Simonovic weren’t available for this game because of injuries, so we’ll see if they’re good to go for the next one.