Being so good, maybe too good, in the preseason, raised the expectations bar from the Chicago Bulls and especially Derrick Rose heading into opening night. But facing an elite defense while Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng struggle with injury issues isn’t the best recipe for an easy start to the 2013-2014 NBA Season.
The Chicago Bulls just weren’t up for the challenge the Miami Heat presented to them, losing 95-107 in a game that hovered around the 20-point margin from the second quarter and onward before some improved defense and Jimmy Butler getting hot made the scoreline look more respectable.
If Derrick Rose expected to have an easy time on his return, it was quite the opposite. The Heat trapped him on almost every opportunity, and kept him on only 12 points, finishing with an abysmal 4-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, clearly frustrated by the lack of space he was able to find. Rose finished with 4 assists and 5 turnovers, showing that his talk about being a higher IQ player than before isn’t justified just yet, needing to work on that issue that has always been somewhat of an Achilles heel for him.
Rose did drive to the basket whenever he could shake off the double team, but was only 3-of-8 and was forced to turn the ball over three times. However, despite the less than remarkable return to the league, Rose wasn’t the Bulls’ biggest problem – their bench not keeping up with the Miami Heat was probably greater, and the loss puppy look on some players faces when their starting point guard wasn’t on the floor.
Taj Gibson finished with 10 points and so did Mike Dunleavy, but the Bulls can’t afford to be in certain lineups, especially against the Miami Heat, who have the luxury to include LeBron James and Dwyane Wade around with four subs. Derrick Rose can’t be on the floor for 48 minutes (he played 34) and the Bulls, who Thibodeau admitted were behind when it comes to offensive form, will have to find ways of looking much better with the ball even when Rose isn’t playing.
For now, they have the right to make excuses. Joakim Noah isn’t healthy, and his 2 points in 20 minutes were a perfect demonstration. He did grab 11 rebounds, but was limited in his motion on both ends of the floor. It did give Carlos Boozer more touches than normal, finishing with a game-high 31 points, adding 7 rebounds, but the Bulls could live with Boozer muscling his way in the paint while the Bulls continue to struggle when it comes to ball movement and three point shooting, hitting only 26.9% of their 26 attempts.
Jimmy Butler proved that it’s good to have faith in his ability to make the most of his expanded role, scoring 20 points and adding 5 steals on a sloppy display from the Heat in the final quarter, but he’ll need to add the ability of scoring while moving in order for the slow moving Bulls to add another layer of threat to their offense.
We’re not trying to pull close. There were a lot of corrections that we have to make. It always comes back to the same thing: our defense and our rebounding. And if we could have taken better care of the ball early on, we would have been in position to win down the stretch.