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Bulls close preseason impressively in win over Pacers
by Sam Smith
Posted on Dec 21
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The Bulls concluded the 2011-12 two-game preseason technically tied for the preseason championship at 2-0 with Tuesday’s more-impressive-than-the-final score 93-85 victory over Indiana.
Richard Hamilton made his Bulls debut convincingly with 13 points and six assists, running the fast break beautifully with Derrick Rose and hitting his only three point attempt. Rose, who is expected to join the Bulls in announcing a five-year contract extension at a Berto Center press conference 11 a.m. Wednesday, was more facilitator with 12 points and nine assists in a game the Bulls led for all but the first three minutes.
Carlos Boozer bounced back offensively with 24 points and seven rebounds, shooting well, though Tyler Hansbrough continued to pester him and the Bulls with 24 points and 13 rebounds. The Bulls basically took every other Pacers player out of the game.
The Bulls defense was smothering and the Bulls threw the ball around like some combination of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers with 30 assists on 39 field goals. And they sure looked ready to open the season and very much like the championship contender hardly anyone outside Chicago seems to be noticing.
So here’s some of what I noticed as the Bulls remained undefeated:
- The Bulls look like they are finally intent on being a fast breaking team. It’s what they should have been more of last season, though it’s difficult to argue with 62 wins. But no point guard runs like Rose and no center runs like Joakim Noah. And few shooting guards run like Hamilton. Luol Deng runs. Run Lu, run. But last season first Boozer was out, then Noah, and Rose had to do so much. He probably rested in the half court game some and tended to take the ball in the backcourt. This time Rose was getting the ball more near midcourt and being able to attack faster. The Bulls were 18-4 over Indiana on fast break points, and there were some truly breathtaking fast breaks with Rose running with Hamilton. “It’s probably the first time I’ve ever played with someone faster than me,” said Hamilton, who started and will continue to do so. “Usually, I’m the guy outrunning everyone. I can get so many easy baskets running with him. He’s pushing. I try to run with him so I can bring the defense with me and it also allow him to get to the basket easier.”
- Rose isn’t winning the MVP this season. He’s just not going to score enough. Sure, there will be games. But Hamilton and his shooting and threat gives Rose such a big option. Plus, Deng is going to benefit from Rose, Hamilton, Noah and Boozer all being good passers. “With the players we have we can make the game easy,” said Rose. “It’s big for me. My biggest thing is defense now, helping. I think I can over help on everything now and (get back to) contest the shot.” Rose showed that with a nice strip of David West from the blind side, who was trying to bully Gibson down low midway through the fourth when the Pacers were making a final run. “I’m a winner. That’s the way I think of myself,” said Rose. “Anything to win. If I’m passing the ball, that’s what it is. If anything I love to have a game like this (like in college), seeing my teammates happy.”
- The Bulls will make Rose and his family very happy as the team scheduled what it said was a major announcement for Wednesday and it is expected to be Rose’s five-year extension worth about $95 million. Because it is tied to the salary cap, which can change every year, at 30 percent, there is no total amount yet and could rise to $100 million. Rose didn’t want to comment specifically, he said, until he’s with his family at the scheduled announcement Wednesday, but typically said: “I don’t think about money. The Bulls were loyal to me. They showed me (faith) in picking me. I feel blessed and happy just to be here. I’m not thinking about money. I know if I keep working hard and keep treating people the right way good things will happen to me. I think I live a humble life. I know I’ll be able to afford whatever I want. (There) aren’t too many things that excite me. Winning, being around my family. Money, that’s the last thing I think about.”
- Boozer shot the ball well, 11 of 17, and also passed impressively, a nifty pass to Deng for an easy score in the second quarter. Though Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau went much of the last part of the fourth quarter with Taj Gibson for Boozer and the other four starters, a defensive rotation I think we may see more of. It’s not like Boozer is going to be a latter day version of Eddy Curry, who generally scored for three quarters and sat down. But you can see Thibodeau going to the shot blocking Gibson, who had a nice one on David West at the end of the first quarter, more often. As I suspected, Rose said Boozer hadn’t played much pickup ball in the summer and was mostly in the gym and Boozer said it’s been just getting the rust off his offensive game. Said Thibodeau: “The first game I thought Carlos played a great floor game. He was posting deep and passed the ball well. He did a lot of things well. He just did not score the ball well and we tend to judge on that. This is the way he’s been practicing. He did a good job running the floor, getting deep postups. He’s in great shape. I’m not surprised by his play.”
- I thought Noah played a Jason Kidd type game, virtually dominating without scoring. Noah had five points, eight rebounds and five blocks. But especially early when the Bulls took an 11-point late first quarter lead, Noah basically took Roy Hibbert out of the game with physical play, was fronting, helping, recovering. He had a big block on Hansbrough in the third quarter when the Bulls began to pull away leading by 16 three minutes into the second half and by double digits most of the rest of the way. Hansbrough tried to go right back at Noah on the next Pacers’ possession and Noah denied the only real Pacers’ threat once again. The Bulls held the Pacers to 36.8 percent shooting. “We know if we defend, rebound and keep turnovers down we’ll be in position to win,” said Thibodeau. Rose had nine assists and just one turnover. Noah’s outlet passing to Rose also triggered several blazing breaks, like a first quarter highlight to Rose and then Hamilton which seemed to take about two seconds.
- Hamilton showed a flashy ability to pass the ball with a highlight behind the back pass along the baseline to Gibson for a dunk after the Pacers briefly cut it under 10 early in the fourth. I loved another in the first half when Hamilton fired to Noah who hit Boozer for the score with uncanny all around ball movement. Hamilton helped close the half with the Bulls up 50-42 with a fast break pass back to Rose, who converted on a reverse.
- While the second unit is talented and deep, there’s appears to be a hole there. They have to shoot the ball well, especially C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver, who didn’t Tuesday. The biggest issue seems to be the lack of a facilitator as Watson is more a shooting point. Rose only played 28 minutes, so he’ll play more with that group. But they coughed up big leads twice as the ball doesn’t move as well when it was just the reserves playing together.
- Rookie Jimmy Butler played just 17 seconds, and I wasn’t surprised. For now with the Bulls depth, a major advantage over most teams, I don’t see Butler playing much as Thibodeau has said he’ll basically use 10 players, meaning off the bench Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Gibson, Korver and Omer Asik, who had a nice putback and six rebounds in 11 minutes.
- Brian Scalabrine got in for 21 first half seconds to a large ovation and several fans standing to bow. I’m told he’s known among many fans as “the White Mamba,” though I’ll stick with “Scal” for now.
- Hamilton hit the first shot he attempted, an 18 footer off Rose penetration and the fans exploded. I think he is the best all around shooting guard even at 33 the Bulls have had since Michael Jordan with my sincere apologies to Jamal Crawford, Ben Gordon, John Salmons, Fred Hoiberg, Kendall Gill, Brent Barry, Larry Hughes, Trenton Hassell, Corey Benjamin, Rusty LaRue, A.J. Guyton, Hersey Hawkins and Ron Mercer.
– And away we go.