New Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has continued to preach during the preseason that his team must hang onto the ball in order to be successful – it’s one of the only messages that hasn’t gotten through over the first few weeks of training camp. Over the past three games, the Bulls have turned the ball over 58 times, including 21 in Friday night's 109-105 OT loss to Dallas.
“It’s a big problem,” Thibodeau said after the game. “Until we correct it, it’s going to cost us. We’re beating ourselves when we’re doing that so … we’ve been high-turnover three games in a row, it’s a close game, so it’s costly.”
Aside from the Bulls continued turnover problems, here are a few other things we learned during the Mavs 109-105 overtime win on Friday night:
D. Rose at the end of games: When the Bulls didn’t land LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this summer, there were plenty of people who wondered if the Bulls would be able to contend without a player who could close out games or hit a big shot when the Bulls needed it most. As I’ve been trying to tell people all summer, the Bulls already have that guy in place: His name is Derrick Rose. The 22 year-old All-Star point guard is getting better and better in those crucial situations at the end of games, as evidenced by his game-tying 3 with 1.6 seconds left to play which sent the game into overtime. Rose is playing with more confidence and swagger than at any other point in his young career. He wants to take and make those shots at the end of games. And that’s an extremely good sign for Thibodeau and the Bulls, despite the fact that Rose missed another game-tying three late in overtime.
When I asked him if he was starting to feel even more confident in the pressure situations, he just smiled and nodded.
“Yeah,” he said. “Especially just getting it all out of my system, like I said, if you leave me open, I’m shooting. No matter what. No matter how I’m dribbling, whatever, I’m shooting the ball. Just getting used to [late game situations] you grow as a player, and I can feel myself growing.”
Deng is finding his niche: As he did so many times last season, Luol Deng scored 13 point during the first quarter on Friday night and then disappeared for a while. The difference is that when the Bulls needed a few crucial buckets down the stretch, he was there to deliver. Deng had seven points in the fourth and clearly seems to be enjoying his new role in Tom Thibodeau’s offense. He was also 5-for-seven from behind the arc, a stat that has to make Bulls fans ecstatic.
“I’ve been shooting it well in practice,” he said of the three-pointer. With [the Mavs] zone defense today I had a lot of good looks. Because I’ve been shooting it well in practice, I had a lot of confidence when I was shooting it.”
Johnson is getting better: James Johnson has had an up-and-down year in the league, but there is no question that the second year forward from Wake Forest is starting to find his way. He made several athletic plays during the game, finishing with eight points and six rebounds. While he still makes a mental error here and there, he has clearly improved his basketball IQ over the summer.
Watson’s streaky: Everyone knew that C.J. Watson was a streak shooter, and now Bulls fans are getting a full taste of what they can expect at times this season. Watson was 2-for-13 on the night and consistently struggled to find his shot, even when he got an open look.
Noah feels fine … again: After playing 40 minutes on Tuesday night against the Raptors, you might have thought Thibodeau would pull back on Joakim Noah’s minutes. You would have been wrong. Noah played 35 minutes against the Mavericks and racked up yet another double-double (13 points, 15 rebounds) in the process. After the game was over, once again, Thibodeau didn’t seemed concerned, although I would be surprised if Noah played that many minutes against the Magic on Saturday night, in the second game of a back-to-back.
Rose feels fine, too: Speaking of minutes, Rose has been playing a lot of them as well lately. He played 37 on Friday night including the end of the fourth quarter and overtime. He says he feels good though. “I told [Thibodeau] I would love to play a lot of minutes,” Rose said. “Because it would get me back in my rhythm, because I don’t play pro-ams during the summer or anything, I just work on my game, so it’s different from working out and actually playing in games, so that’s what he’s doing right now, trying to give me my rhythm and my groove to go out there and play.”
Rose was reminded that he spent the better part of two months playing with Team USA. As usual, he just smiled and laughed.