Chicago Bulls 104, Oklahoma City Thunder 95: What did we learn last night?


His offense gets all the attention, but Derrick Rose’s defense has taken a major step forward.

Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls managed yet another preseason win, coming from behind to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Witchita, Kan. They’re now 7-0 in the preseason, which means essentially nothing, but wins are fun so whatever.

Here’s what we learned from last night, in the estimation of this blogger, at any rate.

1. Derrick Rose is awesome, just in general.

Rose was far from perfect, shooting just 40 percent from the field and committing 5 turnovers, but he still scored 26 points on 15 shots by going 10/10 from the foul line and 4/8 from beyond the arc. He scored 13 of his 26 in the final 4:32 of the fourth quarter, going 3/3 on threes and 4/4 from the line. Everything we heard about his jumper being improved appears to have been correct, and this little tidbit from KC Johnson should have the rest of the league very concerned:

One of the things that stuck out to me was Rose’s defense. I happened across Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals on YouTube on Tuesday, and the contrast between Rose’s defense then and now was jarring. 2011-Rose got hung up on screens constantly and ended up trailing the play nine times out of 10. 2013-Rose gets over screens without any particular difficulty and generally is much more active on that end than he used to be. He’s always had the athletic gifts to be a difference-maker on that end, but he’s finally starting to tap into them.

Also, I hadn’t totally realized how much I missed him doing things like this. Or this. NEVER LEAVE ME AGAIN, DERRICK.

2. Small lineups rule.

One of the many, many things I loved about the signing of Mike Dunleavy was the potential of lineups featuring all three of Jimmy Butler, Dunleavy and Luol Deng together with Rose and a big man. To this point, we have not seen much of that configuration — it hasn’t helped that Jimmy missed three preseason games — but we finally got a glimpse last night. And it was glorious.

For the final 5:51 of the first half, the Bulls rolled with Rose/Jimmy/Dunleavy/Deng/Gibson to counter the Thunder’s small lineup with Kevin Durant at the four. They outscored the Thunder 16-9 (Durant had 7 of those 9). They got out in transition. They made threes. Rose got to the rim. It was everything I could have wanted and more. Hopefully Tom Thibodeau goes small in the regular season, at least from time to time.

3. Can we stop with pretending Carlos Boozer should be featured in this offense?

Look, I understand that he’s being paid a lot of money. But for the love of god, this business with coming down the floor and immediately going into a clearout for Boozer in the post has to stop. Even when it’s working — which it was last night, more or less — it’s ugly, as Boozer shot under 50 percent from the field and committed 5 turnovers. It’s like the team doesn’t realize Derrick Rose is back. As I tweeted last night, I understand that I just had to endure it last year — what else were they gonna do? — but I will not put up with it this year. It’s inefficient and ugly and just no.

That’s about all I got. Good win, yada yada yada.

Bulls next game is tomorrow, at home against the Denver Nuggets. Tip-off will be around 7 p.m. central time. After that, they’ll have the weekend off before taking their talents to South Beach for the season opener with the Miami Heat.

5 days, folks. Get excited.