Chicago Bulls defeat Cleveland Cavaliers in Season Opener, 97-95 (Full Box Score and Thoughts)

Going into tonight’s contest and season opener, if there is one thing I wasn’t anticipating to happen, it was for Pau Gasol to have an absolute abysmal offensive night but actually end up making a key defensive play late. Of course, this did happen and ultimately I have no idea how I felt about tonight’s game. A few thoughts, condensed (as to not ramble on and frustrate people with disjointed opinions):

  • Pau Gasol had an absolutely horrible night, shooting 1-7 (ending with only 2 points), grabbing 2 boards but getting 6 blocks, including a key one with seconds left in regulation to prevent LeBron James from tying the game. While it was nice to see, Pau absolutely needs to step up his performance moving forward should he want to hold onto starting minutes for this team.
    • Seriously, Pau’s effort level seemed minimal tonight as he didn’t crash the boards as much as I would’ve liked (often times not even being boxed out, rather not even trying). I’m not sure if it was somehow related to how the floor was spaced or what, but it’s frustrating to see him play with such little drive. Again, nothing to panic about. The season is only one game old!
  • Nikola Mirotic showed off both his offensive capabilities and also his defensive. Niko shot 3-4 from deep and ended up with 19 points, placing him as the Bulls leading scorer. However, what I’m more intrigued by was Niko’s defense. There’s no doubt that there were points in the game itself where he was shaky in playing perimeter defense on Love (as Love dropped 18 points in the game), but Niko’s help defense was something that surprised me. While sometimes it was misguided and unnecessary, there were a handful of occasions where Niko would leave his man to help coverage on another player. The results were mixed, but this demonstrates Mirotic’s awareness of all situations on the court. There’s no doubt that Hoiberg will review tape with Niko about this matter, praising his ability to switch onto other players when necessary, but not doing it so frequently.
  • Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler both had shakey games tonight, a combined 14-36 shooting. This can be attributed to trying to shake rust off still, but for a backcourt that is touted as being one of the best in the NBA (which it absolutely is), these kind of performances have to be called out. Admittedly, there were a few shot attempts in the first half that Rose was clearly hacked on and didn’t get a foul call his way.
    • When Butler was the nearest defender on LeBron, he held Lebron 5-10 shooting on the night.
  • Let’s talk about Doug McDermott’s confidence this game and be cautiously optimistic for his future. Doug ended up shoot 75% for the game, 50% from deep (making 1 of 2 attempts), resulting in 8 points and 4 boards in 16 minutes of play. This is encouraging for the Bulls sophomore backup small forward, and hopefully results in him performing as well (or better) in the future.
  • Joakim Noah had no opportunities to really be an offensive threat in this game and left early due to a knee contusion. He managed to draw a foul, but missed both free throws. Again, the purpose of Jo coming onto the court is to play lockdown defense, which he certainly did.
    • Taj Gibson, who Joakim is often substituted in with, looked decent tonight but ended up with only 5 points. He managed to grab 10 boards as well.
  • The Bulls offense looked smooth throughout the game, but when the shots aren’t falling for the team it’s absolutely brutal. This perhaps summarized the game for both teams: shots just not falling.
  • Defensively, the Bulls looked sound at points but yet again allowed the Cavaliers to creep back into this game late in the 3rd quarter, all the way through the 4th. Frustrating from a team that was coached by one of the best defensive minds in the NBA.
    • Transitioning onto defense needs to be worked on. Too many easy buckets for the Cavaliers off of inbounds passes, following a Bulls score.
  • This Cavaliers squad is absolutely terrifying, even with Kyrie out. With Varejao back and Tristan Thompson signing his contract to remain on the team, they have a certain amount of front court depth that could prove to be hard for the Bulls to battle against.

The Bulls next game will be against the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow (10/28/15), the Cavaliers against the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow as well (10/28/15).

Full Box Score:


Jonathan Slusar

Jonathan Slusar is a podcaster, NBA analyst, and post-game writer for the Chicago Bulls on He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in English, and is an avid opponent to radio jingles.

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