After losing their preseason opener, the Chicago Bulls bounced back with a strong performance two days later. The offense in particular looked a lot smoother, and its success had more than its fair share of contributors en route to a 131-113 victory over the Nikola Jokic-less Denver Nuggets.
The Bulls shot over 60 percent from the field and were on fire from 3-point range, hitting 15 out of 28 attempts from deep. They were actually only 2-of-8 from 3-land in the first half but still scored 72 points because they shot 75% (!!!) on 2-pointers. They had 32 assists on 50 made baskets. It was also nice to see that the chunk of their points came with their starters/key rotation players on the floor as Chicago scored 75 points in the second and third quarters.
DeMar DeRozan led all Bulls scorers with 22 points in 24 minutes, going 9-of-15 from the field. He wasn’t his usual self when it came to getting to the free throw line, but we still saw basically the same player we did last year. He was getting to his spots and knocking down jumpers whenever given space. DeRozan also showed his ability to get defenders in the air with pump fakes, getting a couple of easy baskets that way. He continued to be excellent off the pick-and-roll both in terms of scoring and playmaking.
Zach LaVine had a quiet game scoring wise with seven points and just eight field goal attempts, but he got involved in other ways. He had six assists while also continuing to put his quickness on display as he had quite a few impressive drives to the hoop. Nikola Vucevic continued his strong start to the preseason with 14 points and seven rebounds. He looked a lot more confident with the ball and was actively looking for his shot in good areas.
Billy Donovan interestingly decided to switch up the starting lineup for this game, giving Javonte Green the nod over Patrick Williams. Green rewarded his coach with 15 points and five rebounds while hitting all three of his 3-point attempts. He was active defensively as always and on offense he moved well without the ball, finding himself open for easy baskets off cuts to the rim. Ayo Dosunmu scored nine points with two assists and two rebounds as his jump shot continues to look better (2-of-3 on 3-pointers).
It was a double-digit lead at the end of the third as two great quarters of play essentially broke the game open. While the starters did play well to help the Bulls get to this point, the bench deserves a lot of credit as well.
After having a rough debut, Goran Dragic came back nicely in his second ever game with Chicago. He scored eight points, all in his first six minutes of action, along with adding two assists and a steal. Dragic looked a lot more comfortable running the offense and knowing what spots he should be in when the Bulls have the ball. He was more active defensively and was an outlet for whenever Chicago wanted to push on the break. This was a good game from him, but getting these types of outings from Dragic more consistently would be perfect
Coby White ended up being the leading scorer amongst the reserves with 15 points along with three assists. He hit two 3-pointers but struggled with ball control, committing four turnovers. Alex Caruso was super active defensively, grabbing three steals along with a block. He contributed offensively too, going perfect from the field for 11 points and two assists.
Patrick Williams played 19 minutes, scoring 11 points, with much of that coming in the second half. It was a weird game as he had to come off the bench, but he settled in as the game went on. He also continued to flash impact moments defensively with a block.
Andre Drummond was a force on the glass with five rebounds along with six points. Derrick Jones Jr. got some minutes late in the game, going scoreless but grabbing two rebounds. Carlik Jones, Javonte Freeman-Liberty, and Marko Simonovic all played the final six minutes.
Dalen Terry was one of the bench players who got to play the majority of the fourth quarter. He continued to display a great reading of the game along with bringing tremendous energy. One of his first plays after coming in was a nice reverse layup in semi-transition for an easy basket. He also knocked down his only 3-point attempt of the night. Although he is playing garbage time minutes, Terry continues to impress. He doesn’t look lost out there against NBA competition. It will be tough to crack this rotation, but it wouldn’t hurt the coaching staff to give him some minutes earlier in the coming games.
Denver was without their MVP in Jokic as he was out with a right wrist injury. Jamal Murray played just 13 minutes as he grabbed his left hamstring sometime during the second quarter and the Nuggets quickly pulled him off the court to in the area of precaution. Michael Porter Jr. scored 20 points, while Bones Hyland dropped 24 off the bench as the duo hit four 3-pointers each.
While it is just preseason, this was a much more complete performance from Chicago. Offensively they were humming and defensively they started out a bit sloppy but tightened up as the game went on. They started creating turnovers during the second quarter and the easy points started to come in bunches. This game highlighted the ideal recipe of success for the Bulls. Chaos on defense complementing an offense with multiple scorers who can make defenses pay.
It’s a quick turnaround for Chicago as they travel to Toronto in their next game to play the Raptors on Sunday.