On Tuesday, the Chicago Bulls extended their win steak, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 94-89 on their home court. After a see-saw preseason, the team is building chemistry but it still faces challenges heading into the regular season.
Here's a look at Tuesday's positives and negatives.
Leadership and scoring
Positive: Carlos Boozer was the team's leader for the night. He stepped up, scoring 24 points with 12 rebounds and five assists. I think expectations are always high for Boozer but he doesn't always deliver. Without Derrick Rose, he will need to carry the load this season.
Tuesday's performance wasn't bad for the players are they dominated for most of the game and entered halftime leading 51-40. They ruled in the third quarter but after entering the final quarter ahead 73-67, it got harder to maintain the lead.
I was surprised to see the Bulls' dominant lead in the third quarter when I flipped the game on; I soon realized the team had caught a break: The Thunder rested its two top players, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Would it have made a difference if they two played? Absolutely.
My expectations are always higher for Luol Deng, who added 21 points with five rebounds. Joakim Noah is getting back up to speed with 15 points 10 rebounds with four assists. Rounding out the starting crew was Richard Hamilton with 13 points. These aren't bad numbers but here's where the story turns.
Kirk Hinrich Goes Down
Negative: After scoring eight points in the first half, Hinrich hit the bench for the remainder of the game thanks to a right groin injury. The seriousness of it and the possible length of time he could miss hasn't been determined. But it does raise a concern for this team: a lack of depth.
With a bench mob that once carried this team (see C.J. Watson and scrappy Jon Lucas), seamlessly entering the game for injured and resting starters, this season the Bulls will need to rely more on its veterans than usual.
This new bench mob is weak and I am worried. On Tuesday, it scored 13 points and from the floor, they went a dismal 5 for 20.
Journeyman Robinson is the bright spot in this trio (an 81-game regular season starter) as Teague is green and Jaric hasn't contributed much.
Jimmy Butler is still trying to find his way but I have faith in him.
In Hinrich's absence, Robinson will likely get the starting nod. He's confident to tackle the challenge and said on Tuesday, "That's what a team is for, that's what a teammate is for. One guy goes down, another guy steps up, same with Marquis (Teague.) If I go down, Marquis is ready. I've always been there to substitute for whichever guy needs to be subbed. I just go in and do my job and do it to the best of my abilities."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will need patience with this new Bench Mob. This isn't something I would call as his forte.
As a lifelong Bulls fan and long-time Chicago resident, I have low expectations for this year's team.
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