Bulls fall to 0-2 but with a better effort vs. Mavs


Oct 8

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Well, it looks like the Bulls are getting them right where they want them. Losing 88-83 Thursday in Dallas left the Bulls 0-2 for the preseason, though when they lose we’ll now call it the exhibition season.

The loss and margin, really, were fairly irrelevant given the Mavericks used three of their top players most of the fourth quarter, Caron Butler burning James Johnson for 14 of his 22 points, Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 30 and came back for the last five minutes, and Jason Terry. The only Bulls starter to play in the fourth was Derrick Rose, three minutes early while the Bulls had the lead, while the likes of Johnson, Omer Asik, Kyle Korver, John Lucas and Brian Scalabrine basically played the fourth quarter for the Bulls.

So the result, obviously, could have been very different given Rose with 17 points in 31 minutes and Noah with 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in 19 minutes were very good.

I should keep this sentence to just insert in every game recap until December: The Bulls really missed Carlos Boozer.

They were outrebounded badly once again, which inhibits them from running. Dallas committed 17 turnovers, eight fewer than the Bucks, so the running chances were less, and this Bulls group without Boozer needs to get in transition more to score. Their half court game is a wreck when Noah and Rose are off the floor.

Actually, the best thing they had going in the half court again was Rose breaking down the defense on the perimeter and driving and missing and Noah crashing in to follow. Also, Noah was uncanny with six assists, finding cutters and teammates with sharp interior passing.

The most pleasant surprise of the game, I thought, was the play of free agent Kyle Weaver. He only had a seven-minute stint in the second quarter, but made things happen.

He had a terrific backdoor cut on Jason Kidd for a layup, the pass from Noah who may be the team’s best passer in the half court. He drew an offensive foul on Tyson Chandler by going over the screen on defense and ran down a missed Noah free throw for an extra possession which led to a Rose score. He also did a good job moving his feet and staying in front of Kidd or J.J. Barea.

The 6-5 Weaver was probably most impressive passing the ball on the move and looked like he could play some backup point. He beat Kidd off the dribble and when the defense came and Taj Gibson flicked open for an instant, Weaver found him with a laser pass for a strong dunk. He also hit Noah with a terrific pass off a screen/roll with Noah for a score.

Conversely, John Lucas in his first real play in the preseason after seven seconds Tuesday had major issues. The offense ground to a halt when he was in as he over dribbled and kept shooting, taking 10 shots in 17 minutes, more than everyone but Rose. It often took out Luol Deng, who found himself in more of those isolation faceups like last season instead of the swift cutting moves of the opener in Milwaukee. Deng was a quiet three of nine for eight points.

It was no surprise that Lucas’ plus/minus for margin when he was on the floor was the worst on the team.

It seems fairly obvious to me, though it is early, that the two free agent roster spots should go to Scalabrine and Weaver, especially given Weaver’s apparent ability to play both guard positions as C.J. Watson was out with a tweaked quad and Ronnie Brewer remained sidelined with his hamstring problems.

I thought Keith Bogans recovered nicely from his inconsistent play in the first game as he played the poor man’s Bruce Bowen role he was supposed to play with the Spurs last season. Bogans finished with 10 as he hit three three pointers in the Bulls poor six of 24 three point shooting. He disrupted a couple of passes to Nowitzki, who pretty much abused Gibson and Scalabrine, though he does that to most fours. After Rose drove and found Bogans for a corner three, the Bulls were on the way to a 16-7 opening in a game they could have pulled away for more had they went with regular season minutes.

“The defense was a little bit better. I liked the start of the game,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “I thought we got off to a good start. We were executing the play on both ends of the floor. But we’re nowhere near being a 48-minute team, and that’s what we have to do to be successful. We have to gang rebound. Our smalls aren’t helping, our bigs aren’t driving back, so right now (rebounding is) a team problem that we’ve got to work on. It’s hard to run if you are not rebounding. I’d like to see us get to the line more. I think we have to drive the ball with more force. We’ve got to make the officials make the calls. We’re bailing out at the end and flipping the ball up. You’re not going to get calls when you play like that.”

Dallas did a better job than the Bucks on Kyle Korver, staying with him tougher over screens and he was three of eight shooting and had 10 points, solid if not spectacular. Korver’s issue will remain trying to contain speed on the perimeter, which he struggled with.

Similarly with Johnson, who has improved his shot and lost a lot of that bad high arcing balloon he was shooting last season. He made three nice jumpers, but he was lost trying to contain Butler and doesn’t seem like he can guard threes. Thibodeau tried him briefly on Nowitzki, and I thought Johnson did much better with a bigger guy who wasn’t as quick. I think he needs to play more fours to be effective and has a mismatch as his shot was better.

The Bulls had more difficulty getting Korver open off the staggered screens they were running and though Korver said after the Bucks game he doesn’t want to just stand around and spot up, he may have to and then take some step in jumpers.

I thought Omer Asik showed well as he had a nice block when helping and moved pretty well in catching the ball rolling toward the basket. He took one fading shot which missed the rim by about four feet, but his free throw stroke looked pretty good. He should become a decent free throw shooter.

After making that nice run to halftime with Weaver playing with the starters, the Bulls came out strong after halftime highlighted by a terrific play for a score with Bogans curling around screens off the baseline and screening as Noah rolled in for a score on a pass from Rose. Thibodeau’s actions on offense seem very creative, though it will make a big difference with Boozer in there.

It was a 73-70 Bulls lead with eight minutes left when the Bulls went with bottom of the roster reserves and the Mavs went with Butler (37 minutes), Nowitzki (35 minutes) and Terry. I know they didn’t want to lose two straight at home, but, geez, Nowitzki is 32 and it’s preseason. What could they be thinking?

The Bulls offense bogged down with almost no movement and Butler pretty much got whatever he wanted.

Overall, I thought the Bulls defense was good, more scrambling with activity than attached to a system. They seemed to work on the movement and help Thibodeau thought was lacking against Milwaukee. The players were working at it, and they’ll have to again Friday with the jet speed of rookie No, 1 overall pick John Wall and Kirk Hinrich’s Washington Wizards.

You can be sure only we’ll be calling them that.

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