Chicago Bulls 82, New York Knicks 81: What did we learn last night?


Oct 31, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (center) leaps between New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (left) and point guard Raymond Felton (right) during the second half at the United Center. Chicago won 82-81. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

One year, six months and three days.

That’s how long it had been since Derrick Rose stepped on the floor at the United Center in a game that mattered before last night. And sure, he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory out there for most of the game, but the Chicago Bulls beat the New York Knicks and that’s all that matters.

Now then, what can we glean from a fairly ugly win?

1. Rose still has a ways to go before he gets back to his MVP form.

Suppose, for a moment, that the preseason wasn’t a thing and Tuesday’s tilt in Miami was Rose’s first game back on the floor since he tore his ACL. Think about how differently we’d be talking about his performances. Because while Rose hasn’t shot well — he’s 11/38 from the floor in two games — and he’s turned the ball over too much, he looks just like his old self. He’s getting to the rim with relative ease, even if he has a tendency to dribble into traffic in search of a crease that doesn’t exist, he’s just not finishing. That will come back, eventually. That’s why it was nice to see Rose hit that game-winning floater. Circumstances notwithstanding, that’s the first floater Rose has made since he came back. Hopefully he can replicate it going forward.

It also has seemed like Rose is pressing a little bit. He’s trying to make things happen and be the guy who won the 2011 MVP but he’s not really there yet. That should come, but it is slightly problematic for the time being.

Short version: the bad things are mostly fixable. The good things figure to continue as they are. Stop freaking out.

2. The bench’s offense is nonexistent because Rose is the only legit playmaker Thibs seems interested in playing.

I admire Tom Thibodeau to a slightly embarrassing degree. He’s possibly the best coach in the NBA — top five, certainly — and I love watching his teams play defense. But his rotations confuse and sometimes worry me.

To a very large extent, I understand why Thibs would go into the season with Kirk Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy, one of Luol Deng or Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed as his bench unit. Hinrich, Deng/Butler and Gibson form a solid defensive nucleus and Mohammed (theoretically) keeps the Bulls in control of the boards. But there’s a slight problem in that this lineup is completely incapable of scoring, unless Dunleavy feels like actually making shots every now and again.

I touched on this briefly in examining the prospects of the Bulls playing small, but it bears repeating: I sincerely believe un-gluing Marquis Teague from the bench and inserting him in Nazr’s place would solve a lot of problems on that end. Teague is the only player besides Rose on this roster who is genuinely capable of penetrating and making plays for others. His shooting is probably not ideal, nor is his defense, but I have no idea how else the bench unit is going to score. In theory, Dunleavy was supposed to run around and come off screens a la Kyle Korver, but he hasn’t been able to hit much of anything and they’ve not really used him that much in that way, for some reason. Give Teague license to run pick and rolls and push the ball in transition and I guarantee things will become more bearable.

3. The Bulls shot distribution makes no sense.

Carlos Boozer went 4/5 from the field in the first quarter. He went 1/2 (and 4/4 from the FT line) in the final three quarters. Jimmy Butler took 11 shots. Deng took 15. Rose took 23, although that’s to be expected because that’s who he is and I can’t say as I had a problem with it. Joakim Noah — who looked good, by the way — took 7. Even Hinrich took 6 off the bench.

Look, I was vehemently against the idea of Boozer as an offensive centerpiece in the preseason, but the man is playing as well as he ever has since coming to Chicago and had good matchups all night. And he didn’t get more touches while the Bulls couldn’t score to save their lives because…? No, it’s OK, I’ll wait.

4. If Deng, Butler, Hinrich and Dunleavy are going to go a combined 1/11 from downtown on a regular basis, the Bulls are screwed.

I still believe that the Bulls have enough shooting to get by. If Rose can get his act together — he will, it’s just a question of how long it will take him — then there will be plenty of open looks for the other guys. And, in fact, there were last night. But nobody seemed to be able to take advantage. I think that will come around eventually, but if it doesn’t, well…you get the idea.

5. Jimmy Butler in the post is a thing and it is beautiful.

Butler didn’t shoot well, going 3/11 from the field and 0/4 from downtown, but the Bulls got him the ball in the post on a few separate occasions, and something good almost always seemed to happen. Jimmy’s big enough to post up nearly any two guard and he’s a good enough passer to make plays if teams send help. He’s also an excellent finisher at the rim and good at drawing fouls. What’s not to like?

The Bulls are off today and will take on the Philadelphia 76ers tomorrow night.