I woke up with quite the nasty hangover this morning, and I only have myself to blame.
While I didn’t have a single sip of alcohol last night, I have to know better than to watch the new Chicago Bulls without a big old glass of water and crackers nearby. I took in all those dunks and highlights on an empty stomach. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Oh well, time to chug some coffee and get rid of this thi–
NEVERMIND. *THROWS COFFEE AGAINST THE WALL* THE BULLS HAVE SPOKEN!
Forget the coffee… watch this video!
Every single dunk from last night's W: pic.twitter.com/88uxB3Ix9H
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 6, 2021
• As far as preseason games go, the Chicago Bulls checked every box in their 131-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The goal was to come out and show opponents around the league the new brand this front office wanted to establish. Through high-pace transition offense, unselfish passing, scrappy defense, and multi-positional play, the Bulls did that and more. They chucked up an absurd 109 shots compared to the Cavaliers 84, knocking them down at a 46.8 percent clip from the field and 43.2 percent mark from downtown. They dished out 36 assists to go along with a 52-40 advantage in points in the paint. The team punched the Cavaliers in the month possession after possession with speed and ball movement. It was an offensive performance that immediately demonstrated the peak of this team’s power.
Zach wasn't surprised at how the team looked in tonight's game:
"We've been playing this way in practice. It looks like this." pic.twitter.com/9hoDK3IQd4
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 6, 2021
• Sure, it was only the first preseason performance, and we do need to proceed with cautious optimism. After years of disappointment and dysfunction, I’ve learned to walk around this team like I’m in a minefield covered with banana peels. But preseason basketball also isn’t a total wash. The Bulls’ starters clocked real minutes against the Cavaliers’ rotation, and they decimated the team from start to finish. They took care of business in a way this organization has struggled to the past five seasons. Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic all walked off the court with a +38 or higher plus-minus in just roughly 25 minutes of action. I don’t care whether the game counts or not, that’s an encouraging sign.
• Bucket-getting was expected, though. I enjoyed every last second of it, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure any of us found the highlight dunks that shocking. Instead, what caught me off guard was this team’s energy and investment on the defensive end. For this group to stampede opposing units in transition like they want to, it will all start on the defense. Forcing turnovers or grabbing rebounds to push the pace is key, considering the team’s lack of true size and the general defensive question marks around players like LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic, I was concerned about their ability to make that happen. Not to mention, add the absence of valuable frontcourt players like Patrick Williams, Derrick Jones Jr., and Tony Bradley into the mix, and the concern only grows. But, by golly, the Bulls took my concerns and flushed them down the toilet (for one game)!
• Despite a Cavaliers roster flooded with big men like Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkanen, and Kevin Love, the Bulls won the battle on the glass 57-51. Meanwhile, the defense forced Cleveland into 22 turnovers and blocked 11 shots! Like … wut! I was glad to hear head coach Billy Donovan harp investment on the defensive end during Media Day, but I didn’t expect to see results so soon. Now, with that said, it’s one preseason game against one bad team for an adrenaline-stuffed Bulls team. It’s not like the defensive side of the ball will not still be a major question mark going into this season. Getting complete buy-in on that end night in and night out is not going to be easy, and this undersized team will be challenged with much more physicality as the season goes on.
• The good news: LaVine and Ball said all the right things when asked about the team’s need for consistent defense last night.
“I think that should be a focus for us just because the guys we have on this team. Whenever we can get out in transition like we did tonight we can put ourselves in a good position to win. And, like I said, we have a lot of similar-sized guys on the court pretty much all the time, so we can switch a lot of things and get to the ball.” – Lonzo Ball
“I think that is where we have to set the tone: Defensively. Each and every game start off physical, we have a bunch of athletes and a bunch of guys that can play multiple positions or guard multiple positions, so we’re going to have to watch each others back, but if we play physical like that we’re going to be all right.” – Zach LaVine
• The last thing I will say about defense is that giving full effort on that side of the ball is so much easier when you have guys like Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso in the mix. Not only does their perimeter and POA defense just make everyone’s life easier, but hard work is contagious. When they are fighting over screens or swatting at the basketball, it shows the rest of the team what can happen when everyone is on board.
• If I had to pull out one negative from last night’s game it would easily be the fouling. Chicago sent the Cavaliers to the line for 35 free-throw attempts behind 24 personal fouls. Considering the margin of victory, it’s easy to live with that right now, but we don’t want to see fouling become a consistent problem for this team when the games become that much more competitive.
• Jones, Bradley, and Marko Simonovic all sat for last night’s game, but it seemed nothing more than a precautionary move for each player. Donovan said before the contest that all three are dealing with minor bumps and bruises and should be back soon.
Marko Simonovic banged up his thumb as well and is likely going to sit out tonight, Donovan says. It’s not a serious issue.
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) October 5, 2021
• Brb gonna go drool.
No, this is not a photoshop.
(📸 via zachlavine8 IG) pic.twitter.com/eDQUWuUx7l
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) October 6, 2021
• What an awesome moment.
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) October 6, 2021
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) October 6, 2021
• Make sure you’re following all the roster news ahead of the Blackhawks season-opener next week.
Blackhawks Place Brett Connolly on Waivers, Wyatt Kalynuk Could Miss “Weeks” with Ankle Injury https://t.co/zng6ZDtL59
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) October 5, 2021
• Do I even want to know?
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 6, 2021