October 30, 2009
Chicago looked fluid and happy and potent offensively, but this wasn't the same team we saw scoring at will on the Celtics last spring. That just wasn't going to happen against San Antonio.
What did come through was way more surprising - for the
first time since the 2006-07 season, the Bulls played defense.
Great defense. Chicago's coaching staff had both guards and bigs alike ready to hedge properly and cut off all angles, the team was able to overplay the three-point line while denying penetration. It was quite the sight to see, as Chicago turned San Antonio into a one-man attack, overplaying without showing its hand. Everyone was on top of it.
All of this allowed Tim Duncan(notes) all sorts of room down low, and he took advantage. 13-19 shooting, 28 points, 16 rebounds, and a whole low of "whew!" after what was an iffy 2009-10 debut on Wednesday.
Still, you have to credit Chicago's preparedness, and the team's will to execute defensively.
On offense, Chicago had issues. The team was pretty terrible in the first half, riding its seven for seven mark on second chance points to a respectable one-point lead at halftime. But the ball kept moving, the spacing was sublime, and even if the payoff wasn't huge (about 102 points per 100 possessions), it was a fine showing.
Encouraging signs for both sides. The Spurs were slowed, the guards taken away, but San Antonio's thinking about May.
Chicago? This is what's expected. This is what's supposed to happen. This needs to be built upon, rather than warmly reflected upon a week later.
I am so, so impressed by the Nuggets right now.
I understand that Le Big Letdown could occur once the malaise sets in, once the eyes shift to the other 29 teams. But for now, to pull off back-to-back wins against the Jazz and Trail Blazers? To work 35 fourth quarter points (even with all those free throws) against a Portland team that has improved considerably on defense?
All that depth?
All that Carmelo?
You have to love the Nuggets, at this point.
And the Blazers, too. I don't think people should fret over the team's point guard showing - Steve Blake(notes) and Andre Miller(notes) combined for 3-14 shooting - or Greg Oden's(notes) missed free throws. Portland is still figuring things out.
Should LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) have shown up? Sure. He was embarrassed by Kenyon Martin(notes) and needed 15 shots to score nine points; but while expectations are high, this is still a Trail Blazer team that's in the learning stage. Patience, please.
Forty-one points for Denver's go-to guy, mostly against Martell Webster(notes), a Portland wing who looks all the part of a first-team All-Defense guy. Webster was brilliant defensively, and it hardly mattered to Melo, who was potent from every conceivable angle.
Lots of free throws for either team, but plenty of fouls for either team. Portland owned the offensive glass, but Denver was too good offensively to fade away.
It's early, so don't overreact to either side. Don't get too high, or too low. Just enjoy what either side is giving you.