A few observations from the Bulls’ 118-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night at the United Center.
Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers: It’s become a mantra for the preseason so far, as the Bulls can’t seem to help themselves at giving the ball away to the other team. A 22-turnover performance against a Cavaliers team that won’t be anywhere near the squad the Bulls will see when they meet up in the regular season. Starting with Rajon Rondo, who had six turnovers after having five in each of his first two preseason games.
It was a big factor, along with general lethargy that contributed to a 14-point lead for the Cavaliers in the first half.
“It was ugly. It was ugly,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We were trying to play like the Harlem Globetrotters out there. Between the legs, behind the back, looking the other way before making the pass. Eleven assists, 16 turnovers in the first half.”
Most of them were unforced, not caused by any pressure defensively. Being an ongoing theme, one wonders if the Bulls will just flip the switch when the regular season begins, but given the margin for error the Bulls have, it could be alarming.
“I’m the point guard so it starts with myself,” Rondo said. “I have to do a better job of taking care of the ball. I think we tried to make the home run play. Or the pass that weren’t there.”
Rondo got it going in the third quarter when the Bulls woke up, hitting both of his triples on the way to a 20-point, six-assist and six-rebound performance. Hoiberg called his 10-point third quarter Rondo’s best of the preseason.
“One thing I don’t wanna take away is his basketball instincts,” Hoiberg said. “He made a couple great passes to the corner and he made them at the right time. Sometimes he holds it a split second too long. Or he doesn’t hit the open man. It’s not just him, we had several guys doing it tonight.”
So…the balancing act continues.
Who are these guys?
The Cavaliers were without most of their top players. Well, all of their top players, as nine members didn’t make the trip to Chicago, staying home after a preseason game in Cleveland Thursday night.
No LeBron, no Kyrie, no Kevin Love, not even a guy like Iman Shumpert made the trip, which in essence makes it hard for the Bulls to evaluate themselves against actual NBA competition.
Jordan McRae, Kay Felder, Jonathan Holmes and John Holland, not exactly household names, took it to a Bulls team that was only without Jimmy Butler for most of the night, as the Bulls didn’t take a lead until it was 79-77 in the third quarter.
Whether it was the opponent or the grueling days of practice, only the Bulls know.
And in a copycat move that isn’t quite copycat, the Bulls are leaving at least Butler, Dwyane Wade, Rondo, and Taj Gibson back from Milwaukee for their preseason game tomorrow night.
We know this guy:
It’s getting harder and harder for the Bulls to ignore Taj Gibson’s play, especially with the starting lineup. Gibson put together another double-double in 20 effective minutes, scoring 18 with 11 rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot.
With Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis again being ineffective in their time, specifically Mirotic, one wonders if the Bulls will have an issue on their hands in a couple weeks when the regular season begins.
Mirotic is the best fit in theory; in application, Gibson is the better player who adds a dimension of defense to the first group, setting clean screens for Rondo and Dwyane Wade and rolling hard to the basket.
He plays with an awareness on both ends and his consistency of playing alongside the other veterans cannot be overlooked.
One player who has shown he can play, at least in the preseason, is rookie second-round pick Paul Zipser. In 25 minutes, Zipser scored 18 points with five rebounds, including a pair of 3-pointers as the Bulls shot 41 percent and hit nine overall. He scored on cuts to the basket, hit a pull-up jumper with a hand in his face and came from the weakside to block a shot in transition.
“He does a little bit of everything for you,” Hoiberg said. “He has toughness and plays with a swagger. He has versatility. He made good, simple plays. He’s going to have a chance.”
Zipser will start Saturday night in Milwaukee with many of the veterans staying back or making the drive up at some point to show support. But with so much uncertainty, Hoiberg could be keying in on the guys who are making the “good, simple plays”.