The Chicago Bulls’ season hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing in Derrick Rose’s absence, but Chicago made a statement Friday night by going into Miami and earning a convincing win over the Heat. Despite a combined 66 points from Miami’s Big Three, the Bulls led throughout the second half and held on for a 96-89 win.
As both teams look ahead to the 2013 postseason, here are three key lessons to learn from Friday’s upset:
1. Carlos Boozer really can look like the player the Bulls paid him to be
The key reason that Chicago had the Heat playing from behind all night was that Carlos Boozer absolutely overwhelmed the Miami frontcourt. Whether Chris Bosh or Shane Battier was guarding him, Boozer had his shot dialed in to the tune of 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting from the floor.
Boozer also grabbed six offensive boards to key a monster Chicago effort that saw the Bulls total 19 rebounds on that end of the floor. Overall, Boozer outmuscled the lighter Miami frontcourt for 12 boards and a block on the night.
When the Chicago Bulls tipped off against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, the odds looked to be against the team reaching a deal with standout sixth man Taj Gibson. After holding off a Kings comeback at the United Center, though, Chicago secured an even bigger victory off the court.
As reported by ESPN Chicago, Gibson signed an extension worth a guaranteed $34 million over four years. The deal will keep Gibson in a Bulls uniform through his 31st birthday.
The Bulls have done an excellent job in general of locking up their core players for the long haul, and Gibson’s extension fits that pattern perfectly. He’ll never be a primary scoring option, but he does everything else well on the basketball court.
As ESPN observes, the one potential hitch in Gibson’s new deal—the combined $25 million-a-year investment in power forwards Gibson and Carlos Boozer—can easily be remedied by Chicago using the amnesty clause to get rid of Boozer’s hefty contract.
The Chicago Bulls wrapped up their preseason Friday night with a solid win over the Indiana Pacers, meaning that it’s time to look forward in earnest to how the Bulls will fare in the games that count. As Wednesday’s season opener against the Kings approaches, Chicago has good reason to believe they’ll hold their own—if not lead the league in wins—even in the absence of MVP Derrick Rose.
Here are the biggest factors to keep an eye on in the early going of the 2012-13 season for Tom Thibodeau’s team:
1. The offense is in surprisingly good shape
Rose’s absence increases the pressure on every other starter to make plays on offense, especially plays that would’ve been easy with Rose drawing the attention of the defense. One of the keys to that effort will be knocking down jump shots in one-on-one situations, an arena in which Chicago has displayed an uncharacteristic amount of confidence lately.
The NBA preseason is less than a week old, and the Chicago Bulls are still working out plenty of kinks after a regrettably long offseason. Early October basketball always needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but there are still some observations to be made about where Chicago stands in its quest to survive Derrick Rose’s knee injury and return to the playoffs.
Here are three conclusions that look safe enough to draw after two preseason contests:
1. This team can still win ugly
With Derrick Rose running the show, the Bulls’ offense can be a work of art. Without him, it’s barely functional, but that’s not to say that Chicago won’t get plenty of wins while Rose is out of action.
Chicago’s defense has been forcing plenty of turnovers (as usual) and converting many of those into fast-break points (as usual). Add in two wonderful offensive rebounders in Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, and even a team that will miss a lot of shots in the half-court can score enough points to ride its defense to victory.
2. The second-unit offense is a disaster