The Bulls picked up their second win of the preseason, topping Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks 114-101 Friday night at the United Center.
Here are three observations from the victory:
Pace, pace, pace: Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wouldn’t definitively say whether he wanted this team to lead the league in pace in terms of the advanced stats, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say being a top-five team is a micro goal.
With that said, they got up shots early and often, not allowing the shot clock to get in the danger zone many times.
Eight of their 10 first-quarter field goals were assisted and they finished with 30 assists on the night.
“We want to play with pace and draw two to the ball. Our bigs were much better, our space was much better,” Hoiberg said. “When you can collapse the defense, generally good things happened. We had a lot of good to great plays, where we had a good shot and turned it to a great shot.”
The great equalizer? Denzel Valentine hit four triples in the first half, and Nikola Mirotic hit three of his own. Over half the Bulls’ 23 field goals came from behind the 3-point line in the first two quarters, enabling them to score 60 points. They only hit three in the second half but the tone was set.
Valentine was perfect with his first five 3-point looks before missing his final attempt. He scored 15 off the bench. Mirotic matched him and added seven rebounds.
“Playing unselfish and open shots came,” Valentine said. “I shot confidently and made my open looks. The trust factor, we’ll keep gaining that.
“We all believe in ourselves and trust ourselves. If we have an open shot, take it. Sometimes we’re almost too unselfish.”
Bouncing back from a bad loss: No matter if it’s preseason, regular season or CYO ball, getting outscored 44-11 like the Bulls were in the fourth quarter Wednesday to Dallas is bound to shake a team’s confidence, especially one as young as the Bulls.
Seeing them play with a consistent and confident effort bodes well for a season that’s sure to have more than its share of lumps.
“I give our guys a lot of credit for coming in with a great mentality this morning with practice. Our guys went out there and got better,” Fred Hoiberg said. “I think it really bothered them the way the game ended the other night. They came in focused and had a great teaching moment and carried that over to a good session on the floor.”
The Bulls played with energy and competed, two things they’ll need in full supply this season to keep the fans engaged and hopeful this rebuild is going in a position direction.
“We know we played uncharacteristic (Wednesday),” Valentine said. “We were taking shots that weren’t good shots. On the defensive end, they were doing whatever they wanted. It was right there for us, we gotta keep playing hard, keep playing together.”
Holiday: With Zach LaVine out until at least December, Justin Holiday is admirably filling in, being aggressive without being too thirsty with his shots and getting them into the flow of the offense.
Scoring 21 and looking for his offense, there will be shots to take and he’ll be glad to do so, which will be a necessity from the shooting guard and small forward spots no matter if LaVine is on the floor or not.
“The way Fred has been with us, play your game and take what the defense gives you,” Holiday said. “So we’re moving the ball to get a situation where we can attack or have an open shot. If you have it, you have to go.
“You don’t have to, but pick and choose your times. I’m the type of person where I’ll go. In attacking those slots, the ball will still move.”
Holiday recalled an instance where he caught the ball and swung it, then looked around to realize every player on the floor was a threat to hit an outside shot—not something that will happen all the time, but enough of an instance to see nights where the Bulls can be effective.
Being in this type of offense will certainly allow him to improve on that 5.7 career scoring average. No one should be surprised if it doubles this season.
“That’s something I’ve tried to work on, something I try to do, improving my game, moving forward in my career,” Holiday said. “This offense allows you to do that. It’s so many spots I can shoot, drive and open up things for other people.”