Bulls 88 Lakers 87
There was a lot not to like in the Bulls dramatic season opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas evening. The team shot only 40.5% from the field and went through cold spells in the second half that may have reminded loyal fans of the Corey Benjamin and Dragan Tarlac days. Joakim Noah and Richard Hamilton picked up ticky tack fouls that limited their minutes. Kyle Korver made a strong case in ten minutes of action that his role on this squad should be as Brian Scalabrine’s drinking buddy and nothing more.
Yet, the Bulls conducted a dramatic rally to quite literally steal one from the Lakers at Staples Center in L.A., and the positives are immense. For one Luol Deng had the sort of game that had folks projected superstardom for him a few years ago. He was stout on defense, stellar on offense and rose (so to speak) to the occasion at crunch time making both of the pivotal defensive plays in the game’s final seconds. Derrick Rose picked up where he left off from last season’s MVP campaign. In addition to hitting the game winning shot, he hit four of six from behind the arc, and his stroke showed continued improvement in this area (though that percentage is obviously unsustainable). Coach Thibodeau made a key move to not call a timeout after Deng’s steal set up the Bulls final possession with 16 seconds left. After some fumbling about, the Bulls got the ball to Rose who was guarded by Derek Fisher, the Lakers 37 year old point guard who has lost most of his lateral mobility. Thibodeau is a by the book coach and a time out in that circumstance is almost a reflex, yet he had exactly the matchup he wanted so he let his team play on and success ensued; Rose blew past Fisher
and lofted a floater over Laker center Pau Gasol for the winning basket.
Next up for the Bulls is the Golden State Warriors, a team that beat them soundly in Oakland last year. In that game the Warriors doubled Rose early and often and the Bulls, who were playing without Noah, were helpless to find an alternative route for their offense. The win over Lakers was a big W, but tonight’s game poses many interesting and just as important challenges.