The Chicago Bulls continued their quest for the preseason NBA Championship, as they moved to 5-0 with a win over the Indiana Pacers. Alas, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler didn’t play, but here’s what we can take away from the win.
1. Derrick Rose honestly might be better than he was before he tore his ACL.
32 points. 9/15 shooting (4/7 3PT, 1o/13 FT). 4 rebounds. 9 assists. 31:26 of court time.
That’s Rose’s stat line from last night. Yes, it’s preseason, but both teams treated this game like it was at least a regular season game if not a playoff game, with hard fouls and jawing at each other, the whole nine yards. Furthermore, preseason or not, that line is absolutely absurd.
Rose told us his jumper was improved and he showed that last night. He told us he wasn’t afraid to attack the basket, even with 7’2″ behemoth Roy Hibbert patrolling the paint, and he showed that last night. He found his teammates repeatedly, and showed excellent vision in doing so.
In short, it seems like Rose made the right move in holding off on #TheReturn until he was well and truly healthy. That sound you’re hearing is the rest of the league muttering curses.
2. Marquis Teague is good at basketball, I swear!
As I have said before, I will continue driving the “Marquis Teague can contribute to this team right now, dammit!” bandwagon until we drive off a cliff if I have to. Teague played 18 minutes last night — including about a minute or so alongside Rose, which was exciting — and looked solid at worst for about 15 of them. He scored 8 points on 2/3 FG (4/6 FT) and handed out 4 assists, which doesn’t even tell the full story, because — as usual — he made more than a few solid passes which he received absolutely no statistical credit for.
Teague really came alive in the fourth quarter, when he was allowed to actually run pick and roll — both his makes from the field were wide open layups off PnR — and push the pace in transition. Teague’s not really a good fit in Tom Thibodeau’s highly-regimented motion offense, but if you give him some freedom, he can get into the lane at will and/or dish to his teammates. The jumper’s still a work in progress, but his form is much improved from last year and he’s got some confidence now, so that’s encouraging.
With Kirk Hinrich suffering what certainly appeared to be a concussion last night, Teague should get a crack at some decent minutes. Hopefully he’ll take advantage.
3. Methinks Luol Deng likes playing with Rose.
The primary beneficiary of Rose’s passing was Deng, who racked up 22 points on 7/14 shooting (3/4 3PT, 5/5 FT) in 31 minutes. With Butler and Noah out, Deng had to step up offensively, and he did. His jumper looks solid, and he figures to get plenty of open looks playing with Rose, which is exactly what happened tonight. I wondered — not entirely seriously, but seriously enough to write 800 words on the subject — whether Deng might be overly aggressive and make poor decisions in a quest to earn himself money this summer, and there was a little of that last night, but overall those fears appear to be unfounded.
4. Tony Snell’s jumper turned back into a pumpkin, but he’s still a delightful player.
After recording his best offensive night of the preseason on Wednesday, Snell went back to not being able to hit any shot at all last night, finishing just 1/7 from the field and 0/3 from downtown. But he had 6 rebounds and 3 steals and continued to flash his basketball IQ, making solid passes, playing good defense and generally being in the correct spots at the correct times. He won’t see the court all that much this year, but at least we know that he can produce if called upon.
The Bulls next game is Monday, when they’ll host the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center. Tip-off will be around 7 central time.