Last night was the first time we saw the new look Bulls versus Lebron's next super team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even though the Bulls lost, we still learned a few things about both teams:
- Derrick Rose is REALLY good: How freaking good was that to see last night?! 30 points on 12 of 18 shooting, 4 of 5 from three-point range, annihilating Kyrie Irving at will, in just 24 minutes and most importantly, this was done on the second end of a back-to-back and D-Rose had ZERO turnovers. This was awesome. Oh, here are the highlights:
- The Bulls shot 37.9% from three: The Bulls can actually shoot the ball! Why is this important against the Cavs? I watched Dallas destroy Cleveland's defense on Friday night and how did they do it? By moving the ball and constantly taking (and hitting) wide open threes. The Cavaliers aren't a good defensive team and are frankly a little lazy on that end. Moving the ball will make them work and eventually, you will get a good shot. The Bulls recognized this last night and did a good job moving the ball against this defense and getting the shots they wanted.
- The Cavaliers are going to struggle against the Bulls big men defensively: Pau Gasol finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds and Joakim Noah had a nice all-around game of 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in just 24 minutes. The biggest thing to take away from this is the Cavs had to choose where to hide Kevin Love...and they chose Joakim Noah with Varejao defending Pau (well, I might add). Noah, as you can see, went to work on Love. This is a huge advantage for the Bulls. Keep an eye on this on Halloween night.
- Taj Gibson: I said this on Twitter last night, but I used to send out a tweet criticizing Taj Gibson and a plethora of Bulls fans would tweet back at me bashing me, ripping me, and telling me just how greatTaj Gibson is because he dunked on Dwyane Wade. The general opinion on him seems to be changing. I've continuously called out his "black hole" style of basketball this preseason and only had one person call me out. Others have retweeted my tweets and I've seen people following suit with similar opinions. By the way, the one opponent said for me to chill, it's only the preseason and my response was he did the exact same thing for 82 games last year. It's not just the preseason. Here's what I said at the end of last season in my annual Can or Keep column:
I tweeted it and I'll say it again: He needs to work on his passing in the offseason. If he can develop a nice passing game out of the post, he will be dangerous.
This isn't a new development. He's been a black hole for a while and frankly, it killed the Bulls offense last night. As I said earlier, if you make this Cavs team work on defense they will crumble. They aren't committed to it. With Taj and Aaron Brooks, the ball just stuck when it came to them. Fun fact: Taj Gibson has six assists this entire preseason. Six! One per game! It's embarrassing. The Bulls are going to have issues with his style of play this season. If he refuses to pass out of the post, all the great shooters the Bulls have acquired are going to be wasted. This is a major subplot for the entire season. Taj is valuable to what the Bulls do, but his offense is killing the chemistry on the Bulls bench.
- The Rebounding: Somehow, the Bulls only lost the rebounding battle 47 to 40. It felt like the Cavaliers grabbed every single rebound. It was frustrating. The Bulls bench was particularly to blame. I've criticized Taj's rebounding in the past and have said before that Mirotic is not a great rebounder. Also, Pau Gasol looked lazy on the boards and you simply can't be lazy on the boards against this Cleveland team with Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao pounding the glass. I'm thinking it may have been a result of the back-to-back. This is another interesting subplot to watch on Halloween night. The Bulls have traditionally been a great rebounding team, but struggled last night. Having Jimmy Butler on the court will help with that. He's good for about 6 per game as well.
- Tony Snell: I said this on Twitter and I'll say it again: Tony Snell has had every opportunity to break into the rotation. He's a better defender than McDermott, he allegedly has a jumpshot, and he's more athletic, but he's been terrible. 1 for 6 last night from three-point range and 3 of 11 total for the game. Yikes. I even called him the x-factor for this season because he has the potential to be a nice two-way player, but I'm losing faith in him and more importantly, I think Thibs is too. I think Snell will have a nice career somewhere, but I don't think it's going to be in Chicago.
- They can rebound: I touched on this above.
- Kyrie (eventually) got his points: Kyrie finished with 28, but most of that came from Aaron Brooks. I'll talk more about this later.
- Lebron can make threes now: There was a lot of talk about Lebron's improved past game the past few years and to be honest, I never really saw it. I'm sure there's an advanced metric to prove it, but I simply don't care. What I did notice last night is that Lebron has a three-point shot. He went 2 for 3 from beyond the arc and made the Bulls pay for leaving him open. That's scary.
- The Cavaliers forced all of 10 turnovers on the Bulls: The Bulls have averaged 16 turnovers per game on the preseason and the Cavaliers couldn't force more than 10? That defense is just not going to be very good. Which brings me to this...
- The Cavaliers have no rim protection: The Bulls scored 42 points in the paint last night and frankly, would've had more if D-Rose and Joakim Noah had played normal minutes. When those two guys were in, the Bulls were getting to the rim at ease. The Cavaliers are going to struggle heavily at the rim. I wrote about this in my Eastern Conference preview, but their three big guys were 85th or worse in opponent's field goal percentage at the rim (minimum of 20 minutes played and at least 3 field goal attempts at the rim), with Varejao at 85th, Love at 99th, and Thompson at 102nd out of 109 players! If there were any team that needed a trade, it would be them. They need defense on this team if they want to seriously compete for a title.
- Kevin Love - 2 for 10: It's not like he didn't play regular minutes because he did - 35 minutes, but he struggled as usual against this Bulls team. What's even more concerning is Kyrie Irving finished with 28, but how many of those came against Derrick Rose? In the regular season and into the postseason, Rose will not play just 24 minutes and neither will Joakim Noah. The Cavaliers are going to have some serious struggles if Irving and Love can't score against this Bulls defense and history suggests they will have difficulty. And think about this: The Bulls didn't have Jimmy Butler, who's traditionally done a great job individually on Lebron James. In 3 games last year, Lebron shot worse against the Bulls than any other team in the league (39.2%) and averaged only 18 points per game. In the playoffs two years ago, Lebron shot only 43% while being guarded by Jimmy Butler virtually every second he was on the court. The Cavaliers might have some reason to worry. If any team can defend this high powered Cleveland offense, it's the improved Chicago Bulls. I can't wait for Halloween to see these teams square off again.