Bulls 95, Pacers 86 — FINAL
INDIANA — The Bulls started out rocky but recovered in typical fashion to beat the Pacers in the preseason opener. Luol Deng matched the reigning MVP Derrick Rose in total points at 16 and C.J Watson posted 15 points off the bench to keep the mantra of winning alive in Chicago.
There were plenty of negatives in the game, but they can and will be passed off as ‘shaking off the rust’. But nevertheless they should be monitored for a repeat performance Tuesday in the United Center. One of the big issues to watch is foul trouble, as the Bulls found themselves deep within it early.
Derrick Rose had to miss a majority of the first quarter due to foul trouble and Joakim Noah joined him not too long after. At one point in the first half Rose, Noah and C.J. Watson all had two fouls. Chicago finished with 30 fouls to Indiana’s 25.
Another thing that was troubling was Carlos Boozer’s performance. Boozer finished the game with seven points, all of which coming in the second half. Boozer didn’t make very many friends with his playoff performance but pleased many magicians with his ability to disappear so flawlessly.
But aside from the negatives which will no doubt get better, the positives are the highlights of the game. These come in the form of the Bench Mob and in particular Jimmy Butler.
C.J. Watson impressed the most off the bench, proving his worth as the leader of the Mob. Watson was aided by extra time with Rose in foul trouble, but there is nothing wrong with that. All that was proven was that should Rose leave the game, Watson will be there to resonate the pulse and keep the offense alive.
But Jimmy Butler gets the biggest props off the bench because he immediately made an impact. The rookie came in and made his first three buckets and tacked on two free throws. The Bulls drafted Butler for his experience as a starter and wanted him to jump right in and pick things up as though he was always here. He did that Friday and made a lot of new fans in the process. Butler adds depth at small forward and shooting guard and can expect a lot of minutes due to the condensed season. Bulls fans knew this prior to the game but are breathing sighs of relief and confidence after.
Another plus was the defense. Tom Thibodeau won Coach of the Year last year for transforming this team into a defensive force and the numbers the pounded the Pacers down are brining back fond memories from last year.
Indiana shot just 32 percent Friday night, a low total the Bulls are used to holding teams to. There was questions as to whether or not this team would be able to pick right up where they left off due to the lockout, and all those doubts and fears were squashed with the dominating performance. The Bulls let the Pacers run loose and wild early, but that’s nothing new. The fact that they recovered, regained the lead and kept it says a lot more then how they started.
The Bulls are gearing up for their final preseason game of the year on Tuesday and then it’s full preparation for the Christmas Day opener in Los Angeles. The kinks are minor for now and if they don’t reoccur Tuesday, feel confident that the Bulls are ready for the 2011-12 NBA season.