It’s a long time until April. By then, we will know if the Bulls are on-track to make the post-season.
Right now, it’s early in the NBA schedule so Coach Hoiberg and the Chicago Bulls are in a process of self-discovery, to find out what works, and who plays well with whom. Hoiberg has the benefit of having a lot of talented pieces. A former MVP in Derrick Rose, a former Defensive player of the year in Joakim Noah. A stalwart All-Star in Pau Gasol, and emerging star in Jimmy Butler; the reigning Most Improved Player in the NBA.
Friday night, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, as the Bulls had enough to turn back a stubborn Hornets squad at the United Center, 102-97. The Bulls did a lot of things right, and withstood a terrific game from Charlotte’s Nicholas Batum who scored 28 points, 12 in the third quarter. Kemba Walker had 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists to aid in Charlotte’s cause. But Chicago got a strong game from Jimmy Butler who scored 27 points and made good defensive plays. Pau Gasol chipped in with another double-double, 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Joakim Noah, apparently rested from a sore knee, grabbed 18 boards, 7 on the offensive glass, and had 6 assists.
Derrick Rose shot 4-14 from the floor, but his driving layup put the Bulls up by 7 points with 4:32 to go in the the 4th quarter. Rose led the team with 8 assists. He still is recovering from the effects of a broken orbital bone above his left eye.
The Bulls held on for their 6th win of the season (6-3). The team is learning about each other. Hoiberg has given minutes to many players on the bench and is currently starting Doug McDermott at the Forward position. It is a work in progress.
“We’re a team of talent,” said Gasol. “When we play well and play hard and play together, we’re a tough team to beat. We try to play uptempo, to play with pace, good offensively but I am not sure there is an identity per se.”
The Bulls have some time to find out. When Mike Dunleavy, the three-point shooter returns from a back injury, that will be a new wrinkle to the lineup. In the meantime, other Bulls are contributing. Taj Gibson scored 12 points near the low post and E’Twaun Moore added 11 points as back-up guard.
Chicago lost to the Hornets by 25 points in early November and that loss stung. The Bulls gave a more concentrated effort last night, out-rebounded Charlotte, and came out on top.