If Scott Skiles was looking to exact some quiet revenge at the United Center it will have to wait. The Bulls and Bucks both looked rusty for much of the teams' season opener, but the Bulls' superior energy eventually won out as they pulled away late to win 108-95.
Playing nine men, the Bulls had six players in double figures and got key contributions from former starters Kirk Hinrich (15 pts) and Ben Gordon (18 pts) in addition to a solid debut from first overall pick Derrick Rose (11 pts, nine assists, four turnovers). While Rose wasn't blowing by Luke Ridnour, he and the Bulls' other perimeter players always seemed to be getting enough daylight to hurt the Bucks--whether it was by drawing a foul from a late-arriving help defender or by kicking it out to an open teammate. As for the Bucks, 30 points from Mike Redd weren't enough, as newcomers Richard Jefferson (5/17 fg, 15 pts, 4 rebs) and Ridnour (7 pts, 6 rebs, 4 asts, 5 to) put in forgettable performances in their regular season debuts.
- Michael Redd. The Bucks got a vintage performance from Redd--in both the good and bad senses. Redd's three triples early in the third keyed a promising start to the half that saw the Bucks build a slim lead, and the sharpshooter finished with an efficient 30 points (10/19 fg, 4/8 3fg, 6/8 ft). Beyond that, Redd grabbed just two rebounds and handed out one assist (albeit a nice one) while providing his usual doses of ill-advised shots. Defensively he looked to be working hard, but Kirk Hinrich (while playing SG in the first half) and Ben Gordon (in the second) each put up good numbers against Redd.
- Andrew Bogut. If only Bogut could have stayed on the court...and gotten some touches. Having missed the final two preseason games with a bum ankle, Bogut looked reasonably mobile early on but barely got a look in the first quarter (he turned it over the one time he did) before heading to the bench with two fouls. Foul trouble was a continuing theme in the second and third quarters, as Bogut spent the majority of his night watching from the bench and tallied just nine points (4/4 fg) and seven boards in 26 minutes. Given the Bulls were mostly single-teaming Bogut with the undersized Drew Gooden, using an inside/outside strategy seemed the obvious way to go. But except for a couple trips early in the third the Bucks never took advantage of Bogut's size.
- Malik Allen. I fully expect Allen to take his share of abuse this year from Bucks fans--after all, no one likes a teacher's pet. But let's give him some credit. In knocking down 5/7 shots and generally avoiding mistakes he did what he's supposed to do...which on a night like this is sadly enough to gain recognition.
- 44. The Bulls seemed a step quicker getting to the hoop all night, getting some occasional help from the zebras but mostly earning their 44-20 advantage in free throw attempts.
5/17. That was Richard Jefferson's line from the field, which summarized a disappointing debut for the former Arizona hitman. Ironically Jefferson's finishing seemed worse than his jump-shooting, but either way he didn't stack up to Luol Deng's tidy 8/13 shooting performance for 21 points.
8:47. Of the 20 players who made an appearance on the United Center hardwood Tuesday night, only one played less than 14 minutes: Charlie Villanueva. Despite some last-minute noise that Malik Allen or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute might nick his starting spot, Villanueva was indeed there for tipoff, but he didn't last long before Skiles subbed in old standby Malik Allen. Villanueva's last burn came early in the third, when a lazy outlet pass got Derrick Rose a breakaway dunk--and earned CV a seat on the pine the rest of the night. Ironically, his non-participation the rest of the way helpd him earn the distinction of being the only Buck to finish with a positive +/- differential.
- Young Buck. While Joe Alexander didn't take off his warmup, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute barely kept it on, playing 26 minutes of solid ball. He made just 3/7 shots and got swatted twice, but showed a glimpse of what he might be capable offensively with a long jumper early and a nice drive and spin for two in the third. Defensively he held his own and was the only sub to finish with a decent differential: -2 compared to -11 or worse for Lue, Allen, Gadzuric, and Bell.
- Gadzuric's jumper. Don't worry folks: just because the Bucks now have a legitimate head coach, it doesn't mean Dan Gadzuric is retiring his penchant for ill-advised jumpers. He broke it out early in this one and predictably...buried it? Aside from an overly ambitious pass intended for Bell, Gadzuric actually looked pretty solid, justifying Skiles' decision to give him the backup center minutes over Francisco Elson. Now he just needs to knock it off with the jump shooting.
It's early. Deep breaths, people. While game one was nothing to write home about, they're only a game below .500!
Stag-nation. Though the Bulls led just 55-52 at half, the teams were a lesson in contrasts offensively. The Bulls were slashing, moving the ball and alley-ooping, looking for contact and being rewarded with 29 free throw attempts in the first 24 minutes alone. The Bucks' offense was stagnant in comparison, relying mostly on jump-shots while getting nothing from the foul-plagued Bogut, who barely got a touch in the half court aside from some good work on the glass. Not surprisingly the Bulls' aggression paid off in the end, as the Bucks started shooting blanks while Ben Gordon got hot with all 18 of his points in the second half.
- Running of the Bulls. The Bucks had been hoping to take a more up-tempo approach in '08, but on opening night they were mostly just spectators as Rose, Deng and Thomas helped the Bulls run-and-gun their way to a commanding 20-1 edge in transition points. And it wasn't just that the Bucks weren't scoring on the break--they also were giving it away needlessly when they did try to push the ball.
Pick a stat. Look at the bottom line of the box score and it's obvious which team deserved to win. The Bulls made a higher percentage from the field (.507 to .474), grabbed more rebounds (40-32), were slightly less careless (19-18 TO), blocked more shots (6-3) and collected more steals (9-5).