It seemed like it would never be here, but 526 days later, #TheReturn finally came. Derrick Rose is back. The Chicago Bulls are back, and although it is only preseason, they opened the season on a strong note with a 82-76 win over the Indiana Pacers.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau went with a starting lineup of Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Nazr Mohammed. Just as expected, Joakim Noah sat out Saturday night’s game with a groin injury.
Both teams struggled to score, as neither team was able to shoot above 40% from the field. The defensive mindset was evident on both sides, leading to the all-around offensive struggles. Chicago was able to achieve slightly more dominance defensively, and it helped them stay in the game early on.
The Bulls had their troubles finding the bottom of the basket in the first quarter. There would be offensive possessions that included three shots attempts near the rim followed by a foul and made free throws. This is what allowed Chicago to stay close to Indiana in the first quarter, with the period ending 23-19.
In the second quarter, the Bulls were able to get their offense running better. They were also able to get out in the open court for easy baskets more, but the Pacers were never too far behind. In fact, the Pacers were able to get the Bulls into more offensive troubles when the third quarter came around.
Indiana defended the Bulls in a way that forced jumpers and prevented plays in the paint. Chicago was unable to flourish offensively in the way that they had been doing throughout the game. But eventually, the Pacers were forced to defend on the perimeter once the Bulls put in a lineup consisting of Kirk Hinrich, Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Erik Murphy, and Taj Gibson. This helped Chicago to get back out on top.
What mattered most though would have been Gibson’s play. Not only did he do well defensively, as expected, but he also did well on the post and taking advantage of mid-range jumpers. He ended up finishing the night with a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds to go along with three blocks.
In terms of Rose’s play, he appeared very aggressive. Initially, he wasn’t seen attacking the basket too much, but as the game continued, Rose used his talents to his advantage, contorting his way through the paint to score. His first points of the night even came as a result of penetrating in the lane.
The former MVP even had a dunk in his return, but as expected, he wasn’t given too many minutes. Rose played 20:26, and in that time, he was able to put up 13 points, three assists, two rebounds, and two assists.
Indiana had a return of their own in Danny Granger, but unlike Rose, Granger showed struggles. Granger had 6 points on 2-10 shooting in 28:47. However, David West and Paul George each had 14 points to lead their team.
It’s only preseason, so obviously a lot can change from here, but from what was seen Saturday night, it’s safe to say Rose will be just fine despite doubts. Each team also has their troubles, but with their defense already in good form, the battle for the Central Division title will be an exciting one.
Chicago’s next preseason game will be a neutral-site game on Monday, Oct. 7th at 7 p.m. in St. Louis, Mo. The Bulls will be up against the Memphis Grizzlies.