NEW YORK, NY-- All that matters is the result, and the Bulls can worry about style points later.
Two games into the Fred Hoiberg era, the Chicago Bulls haven’t played consistent or pretty basketball for extended stretches but they’ve yet to register a loss, as they took care of the Brooklyn Nets, 115-100 at Barclays Center.
The first several minutes produced Bulls basketball at peak efficiency, ball movement, open shots and an over-matched opponent, as they should’ve run the Nets out of their own building.
And although it looked that way, the Nets gathered themselves after some early timeouts and didn’t stammer after a couple big Bulls runs in each half.
“We took our foot off the gas a little bit, Brooklyn got back into the game,” Hoiberg said. “They were hitting a lot of shots, a lot of long twos.”
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
The Bulls led by 16 in the first quarter and 19 in the third but found themselves only leading by six with a little over 3 minutes left, as the ball rolled near halfcourt with the shot clock down to three.
Then Derrick Rose, who missed six straight shots after making his first four, scooped it up and went on a blur to the basket, with a burst of speed that usually isn’t displayed.
The floater went in before the shot clock had a chance to go off, the second such occurrence the Bulls cheated fate or flat-out bad possessions with singular offensive plays before the shot clock expired.
Jimmy Butler did it first a few minutes earlier, hitting a triple in front of the Bulls bench without so much as taking a dribble with eight on the clock, with Joe Johnson in his face.
“He was phenomenal tonight,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy handled the ball, headed down a few times and we wanted to get the ball in his hands to make some plays. He hit Niko for a 3, had a great drive to the basket and hit a big shot.”
Rose finished with 15 and three assists while Butler had a much better shooting night considering he didn’t have to play the role of LeBron James’ shadow, hitting all three of his 3-point attempts and hitting nine of 11 overall for 24 points.
“I’m not gonna lie about it, I had a lot of energy,” Butler said. “We were making shots tonight so it made it a lot easier to drive to the rim. Everybody’s taking and making a lot of threes so it leaves me and Derrick to do what we do best, which is driving to the rim.”
Nikola Mirotic again created room as the threat of the long ball kept the Nets bigs at bay, and he still produced 18 points on just 10 shots, including four triples while adding nine rebounds.
[HONDA ROAD AHEAD: Rose, Mirotic impress in the early going]
Some generous shot making negated some bad poor spacing and the Nets being devoid of superior talent prevented them from making the Bulls truly sweat, shooting just 42 percent from the field.
The Bulls shot a sterling 53 percent, including 13 triples but Hoiberg will likely find a few holes in the statistics to harp on before their next contest in Detroit. The 20 overall turnovers prevented it from being a complete offensive showing.
They couldn’t make things easy for themselves, either because they were playing on a travel back to back or continued a trend that was on display last year of playing down to the competition.
An easy, breezy 16-point first quarter lead was whittled down in the second as the Bulls’ defense yielded 11 scores in 13 possessions from the Nets, a team that will clearly struggle to score this season.
“When we get stops we’re pretty good flowing into our offense,” Hoiberg said. “But when we’re taking the ball out the net, it’s tough. I thought besides that second quarter, we were solid but we have to build on what we’re doing right and getting better on things we need to work on.”
Being a bit too casual with the ball was a firm illustration, with 11 turnovers essentially negating perfect first halves from Butler and Rose, who didn’t miss from the field and each had three assists.
Hoiberg couldn’t have been pleased with the early defensive play of Pau Gasol, who allowed open look after look to Brook Lopez and didn’t box out on defense either. Lopez scored 26 with seven rebounds and former No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani scored 17 with seven boards in 22 minutes off the bench.
Gasol rebounded from a two-point performance on opening night to score 16 with nine boards.
As was the case in the opener, it wasn’t pretty but the Bulls will take it.