Winning on opening night is an isolated event, a one-time thing. The Chicago Bulls looked impressive at times, clunky at others, to kick off their season on a positive note, but it’s very imaginative linking their victory over the favorites to win the Eastern conference to their own chances of ending up as champions.
The Bulls, at the end of the process, are supposed to look smoother, more efficient and overall better on offense. For now, with Fred Hoiberg done with his first game as an NBA coach, it’s clear there’s some way to go. It’s still a lot of individualistic plays from Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler and less the flowing offense Hoiberg wants to see. The Bulls shot just 42.5% from the field, with Rose and Butler combining for only 14-of-36 from the field, and 35 points.
One of the good notes is that the defense hasn’t been breached or fallen apart over the offseason and the changes on the sidelines. Not just the clutch defensive play by Pau Gasol to keep the win in Chicago (blocking LeBron James), but overall doing a very good job in keeping the Cavaliers taking bad shots. They held the Cavs to just 40.4% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc, James being the only starting five player to shoot over 50% from the field on the Cavs.
It was interesting to see the new frontcourt pairings. Nikola Mirotic led the Bulls with 19 points and looked very comfortable next to Pau Gasol, as it helps open up the congestion in the paint, and doesn’t make Gasol wander around in offensive zones he’s less effective in. Joakim Noah might not be the happiest camper spending only 17 minutes on the court and coming off the bench, but there’s more than a bit of sense in putting him and Taj Gibson together, creating an excellent rebounding-blocking duo that makes up for Doug McDermott (8 points) and Aaron Brooks.
Gasol might have won all the accolades for blocking LeBron James, but Jimmy Butler denying James the ball on the inbound pass after the block was just as crucial. The whole his team, my team debate might be making the offense look sluggish (although there’s a good chance the media is making it all up), but defensively, be it team coordination or big individual plays, the Bulls have all the right tools to give every team in the league a lot of problems.