The Brazilian crowd was disappointed to learn that Derrick Rose, who had a sore knee, wasn’t going to be playing, as there was a bit of a groan from the crowd when he wasn’t introduced. Joakim Noah, who has yet to play, also missed the game with a groin pull.
Kirk Hinrich and Nazr Mohammed capably started in their places. They were sufficient to carry the Bulls to victory, although they missed their dynamic duo—more because of the lack of Mohammed and Hinrich on the bench than because of any struggles from the starters.
Here are game grades for each member of the starting five, as well as one for the bench as a whole.
Hinrich scored just eight points on five shots and had five assists, so offensively he was a long way from spectacular. However, he was guarding John Wall, who is one of the better point guards in the league, and did a superb job.
Wall scored only three points on nine shots and turned the ball over four times. He was a complete non-factor in the game, and anytime you can make the other team’s superstar an afterthought, you’ve done something well. Hinrich gets a B+ because of his marginal offensive performance and his outstanding defense.
Jimmy Butler has shown improved handles over the course of the preseason and continues to grow as a player. His defense was once again outstanding. While Bradley Beal did score 16 points, it seemed that many of those came while Butler was on the bench.
He had a pair of back-to-back baskets where he sank a jumper and then promptly jumped the lane for the steal and easy transition bucket. (See the video above.)
On the downside, he had 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting, which wasn’t up to his normal efficient standard. He didn’t get to the line at all, which is where he normally lives. There were a couple of calls that he normally gets that went the other way.
He filled up the rest of the box score well, though, adding in six boards, four assists and three steals, including an excellent jump on a pass that he drove down. He’s been a big part of the Bulls' improved fast break during the preseason.
Luol Deng had an interesting game. It was one of those games where he didn't appear to be doing that much until you examined the box score and realized he stuffed the stat sheet.
He scored 14 points on seven shots and added five boards, six assists and a steal. His defense was at its usual stellar level.
Unfortunately, Deng continues to struggle with his shot. From the stripe he was just 8-of-12. Overall he was 3-of-7. He is trending below 50 percent from the field and below 70 percent from the stripe over the course of the preseason.
This is compounded by him being more aggressive while he's on the court. Being more aggressive and less efficient is not a good combination. Deng needs to start making his shots or taking fewer of them.
Carlos Boozer wasn’t to be found until the end of the game when he started scoring a bit, which was the inverse of what normally happens. He usually plays big in the first quarter and then goes missing in the fourth.
He scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds in 26 minutes. There weren’t a lot of awful defensive plays, which isn’t bad for Boozer.
All things considered, it could have been worse. At least he showed up near the end of the game for a change. However, his backup outplayed him for the third straight game. More on that later.
Nazr Mohammed aka "Nasty Nazr" had a brilliant opening quarter, throwing down a dunk off a sick up-and-under move that was a true rewind-the-DVR moment. He knocked down a couple of fluid jumpers. He played excellent defense.
Then the rest of the game happened, and we didn’t see much from him after that.
The difference between last year and this year in the preseason for Mohammed is night and day, though. He is more comfortable in the defense, and as a result, coach Tom Thibodeau seems more comfortable with him.
If he can continue to give the Bulls that kind of performance after Joakim Noah comes back, the Bulls should be able to limit Noah’s minutes without any problems.
The story of the bench, the story of the Bulls and the under-the-radar story of the NBA preseason has been the improvement of Taj Gibson, who has been blowing up every team he faces. Not only has he continued to play stellar defense, he’s turned into a productive scorer.
He scored 18 points on nine shots, grabbed eight boards and blocked four shots.
Normally, when you hear that players worked on their jumper over the season, you shrug them off. When that player hits on 21 of his first 30 shots, playing against three of last year’s top-five defenses (as measured by defensive rating), you perk up and pay attention.
Gibson is averaging 17 points a game off the bench for the Bulls this preseason, and that’s with him already being one of the best defensive power forwards in the league. He’s also led all scorers, from either team, in all three games. He’s led the Bulls in blocks for all three games. He’s also tied for the team-lead in rebounds.
Not just average, mind you, but in each individual game.
If he becomes a viable offensive threat, then Boozer is living on borrowed time. It might not be long before he’s replaced in the starting lineup.
Mike Dunleavy was decent. He hit a couple of threes, made a nice fast-break pass for one of his three assists and grabbed eight rebounds.
As far as the rest of the bench goes, it was a disappointing performance. The backups nearly gave away the lead. Tony Snell continues to have a shot that looks pretty but doesn’t go in. Sooner or later, something has to show up on the scoreboard.
Marquis Teague showed improvement, particularly on defense, but he had a costly turnover that nearly cost them the game and ultimately cost him playing time on the court.
The bench nearly choked away the lead, but Chicago held on to win. And to be fair, having two of the five bench players take the place of starters impacted them as well.