Bulls top Pacers again, end preseason on high note


Bulls top Pacers again, end preseason on high note

It's just one game, an exhibition at that, but if Tuesday's 93-85 win over the Pacers was any indication, this season's edition of the Bulls won't just be Derrick Rose, his supporting cast and a dominant defense.

On some nights, they'll be a balanced offensive squad that's fun to watch.

Back in the United Center for the first time since losing the Eastern Conference Finals, Chicago dispatched last spring's first-round playoff opponent, Indiana, and while it couldn't be called picture-perfect or up to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau's impossibly high standards, it was at least a positive sign for the upcoming campaign.

"I thought the whole team played very unselfishly. Everyone made the extra pass," said Thibodeau, whose squad dished out 30 assists in the outing. "We got easy baskets, we got the ball up the floor quickly, we were inside-out, our post guys played very unselfishly--they kicked the ball out--so offensively, I thought it was excellent."

Perhaps learning from their lackluster start in the preseason opener in Indianapolis, the Bulls played high-energy basketball from the outset. Carlos Boozer (24 points, seven rebounds, three assists), in particular, opened the game on a positive note--the power forward made an early impact with his low-post scoring--as did Luol Deng (14 points, seven rebounds), for whom beginning the game with a flourish is a fairly consistent habit.

The team's newest addition, Rip Hamilton (13 points, six assists, four rebounds), gave the home crowd something to look forward to, connecting on his first attempt as a Bull, then sprinting out in transition--ahead of even the speedy Rose (12 points, nine assists, five rebounds), who fed him the ball--for a fast-break layup.

"Probably the first time I ever played with somebody that was faster than me, so trying to keep up with him every time he pushed the ball on the break, it was fun, it was exciting, because I could get so many easy baskets," said Hamilton. "Everything's new. Everything is on the fly. But this is my 13th season and basketball's basketball. Once the ball is thrown up, when you've got good guys on your team like I have here, they helped me through the whole time, so it makes my job a lot easier."

Solid defense, that held the visitors to a paltry 23.8 shooting percentage for the quarter, resulted in a 24-15 Bulls advantage after the opening period.

When backup power forward Taj Gibson picked up three early fouls in the second quarter while guarding Pacers counterpart Tyler Hansbrough (24 points, 13 rebounds), Indiana's primary offensive source, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau re-inserted Boozer, who resumed his productivity as both a scorer and facilitator.

Ronnie Brewer (11 points, four rebounds), despite being relegated again to a reserve role, provided additional firepower, showing he either didn't take the demotion too hard or he didn't mind sacrificing his starting spot for the team's benefit.

Meanwhile, Deng and Pacers go-to scorer Danny Granger (12 points on 4-for-11 shooting) waged their usual small-forward battle--Deng was more efficient, but Granger got hot late in the quarter--and Rose showed his maturity and development by orchestrating Chicago's offense to perfection as a distributor.

"I'm a winner. That's the way that I think of myself. Anything to win and if that's me passing the ball, that's just what it is and being in situations, I know Thibs is going to give me the ball, but I'm not rushing," said Rose, the recipient of a new five-year, 94-million contract extension. "If anything, I love a game like this every night, especially seeing my teammates happy."

Added Thibodeau: "That's what the game was dictating. Derrick can beat you a lot of different ways. He can beat you with scoring, passing, active with his defense, pushing the ball up the floor, getting easy baskets. So, I thought he was real patient. He got into the post one time, so he'll be excited about that, but overall, he played terrific. The way he ran the team, I think his help defensively is vastly improved from last year, so we're encouraged by that."

Following Indiana fighting back from a double-digit deficit when the second unit was in the game, the starters again gave the home team some breathing room, and at the intermission, the Bulls had a 50-42 lead.

Boozer picked up where he left off in the the third quarter, producing points in a variety of fashions--agile post moves, mid-range jumpers and putbacks after offensive boards--and helping the Bulls extend their cushion.

"I think he was very aggressive. In the first game, I thought he played a great floor game. He was posting deep, he passed the ball well, did a lot of good things in that game--he didn't score well and we tend to judge him that way--and this is the way he's been practicing in training camp," explained Thibodeau. "He's done a great job with running the floor and getting deep post-ups. He had good balance, he's in great shape, so I'm not surprised by his play."

Hamilton also showcased his proven scoring ability, while center Joakim Noah (five points, eight rebounds, five blocked shots, three assists)--besides Rose, the only starter not to reach double figures by the time Thibodeau began to mix in his reserves--made his presence felt on the defensive end by either altering or outright denying multiple Pacers' shot attempts.

Hansbrough was again a bright spot for the visitors, as was second-year swingman Paul George (14 points, six rebounds), who flashed his talent and versatility, along with an improved perimeter stroke. This time around, however, Chicago's reserves withstood Indiana's push and took a 78-66 winning margin into the final stanza.

Gibson finally got into an offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter--his most aesthetically-pleasing play was a dunk off a Hamilton behind-the-back pass--and with Brewer continuing to contribute as a scorer, the Bulls maintained their comfortable double-digit lead. Thibodeau inserted his regulars (sans Boozer, who earned a well-deserved break; he'd eventually replace Gibson later, after his understudy fouled out) back into the contest.

Chicago cruised during the game's stretch run and Pacers head coach Frank Vogel eventually waved the white flag, sending in his deep reserves, although the majority of Bulls starters would play out the string.

After concluding a brief, yet undefeated preseason, the Bulls head to Los Angeles for their Christmas Day season opener Sunday against the Lakers.

"For Thibs, he was in a pretty good mood," Boozer said. "But again, it's preseason and the 25th, things will change."

Rationalized Thibodeau: "You can't get carried away with this. This is preseason. David West is a heck of a player and he's working his way back off an injury. That team is an excellent team. They play hard and they play unselfishly, they're very well-coached. We're not going to get too excited about a preseason win.

"Well, there's still a lot of work to be done. I like the attitude of our team. They're serious-minded, they come to work every day, they strive for improvement and we know we have a long way to go. In this type of season, you have to keep grinding. Sometimes the schedule will be going your way, sometimes it won't," he continued. "But the games will keep coming. We really believe that if we defend, rebound and keep our turnovers down, we'll be in position to win. So, those are three things that we want to do every night and we've got to keep working towards that every day."

Zach LaVine puts on rare scoring display in Bulls' win over Atlanta Hawks

Zach LaVine puts on rare scoring display in Bulls' win over Atlanta Hawks

On some nights, basketball can be pretty simple. For the Bulls’ offense — a unit in desperate need of a breakout — tonight was one of those nights.

“I told him, whenever you get it, just shoot it. No matter where you at,” Coby White said of Zach LaVine (who else?) after the Bulls routed the Hawks 136-102. “It just seems like when he gets in a rhythm, he's impossible to stop.”

At present, that sentiment resonates strongly. LaVine scorched the Hawks Wednesday night to the tune of 35 points on 12-for-15 shooting, 7-for-7 from 3-point range. And he did it all in just 25 minutes, sitting the entire fourth quarter of a resounding victory that the Bulls, mercifully, polished off early.

“You know, I get it going. And I want it to stay that way,” LaVine said. “It finally got all put together… It feels good. You wanna have wins like that. It does good for the team and obviously for the body [resting the entire fourth quarter].”

Trouncing the Hawks simultaneously snaps a three-game losing streak for the team, and a shooting funk for LaVine. He shot only 33.3% from the field on 19 attempts per game in the three games that comprised that scheid — hard-fought losses to the Warriors, Heat and Raptors. The Bulls’ total margin of defeat from those three contests was eight points.

“That's what we've been trying to put together,” LaVine said of the Hawks game. “Even though we've had our losses, we’ve been competing every game, we've had stretches where we look really good, where we look like the better team. But we're coming out with the losses.”

Not so tonight. But of course, it’s facetious to call the type of display LaVine put on ‘simple’. Every NBA game, no matter what colors the competing teams sport, features the best basketball players in the world. There are no easy nights at the office in this profession.

Which makes just how easy he can make it look all the more astounding. And all the more worth appreciating.

“Zach's efficiency obviously is just unbelievable,” Jim Boylen said. “He wants to be great, and he's working, and his habits are good. So I'm happy for him.”

LaVine joins a list of only 13 players in NBA history to score 35 points in 25 minutes of play with this performance, including Ben Gordon and *drum roll* Michael Jordan. He is also now the 20th player in league history to shoot 100% on 3-pointers on seven or more attempts in a game. When he’s on, it’s a spectacle. Appointment television.

But, for LaVine, the focus remains on the team. And the future.

“I don't think every game's gonna be like this, obviously,” he said. “But we need to have more of them.”

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine drops 35 in blowout win over Hawks


Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine drops 35 in blowout win over Hawks

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson react to the Bulls 136-102 win over the Hawks

0:45 - Reaction to blowout win over Hawks, no cookies though?

3:30 - Viewer comments on Matt being angry, and admitting being wrong on LaVine

5:00 - Zach LaVine highlites by Big Dave

8:10 - On Denzel Valentine and the potential for starting

9:35 - Viewer comment asking for Coby White to start, Matt gets annoyed

10:05 - Viewer comment on trading for Michael Porter Jr

11:30 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine in 3-point contest

14:30 - Viewer comment making fun of Sabine’s Cowboys

15:15 - Viewer comment on Markkanen

17:15 - On Otto Porter Jr and missing at least another month

20:55 - Viewer comment on LaVine being the most athletic player in the NBA

23:30 - Viewer comment on Kris Dunn

24:30 - What was your life ‘It’s Over’ moment when you were overconfident?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders


Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.