Bad sign? Bulls open preseason with some dismal defense
Sure, it was only preseason, but the Bulls got off to a horrible start Tuesday against New Orleans.
By the end of a late-starting game, everything felt a little better. Rookie Dalen Terry and two-way player Malcolm Hill led a late comeback, which fell short in a 129-125 loss.
But that first quarter, with the projected opening night starters on the floor, was a defensive disaster. The Pelicans scored 40 points while shooting 70% from the field, and Brandon Ingram, arguably their best player, didn't suit up.
"We were kind of just going through the motions, which is a little disappointing," Alex Caruso said. "It's preseason so it's hard to put too much weight into it, but that is something we talked about at halftime."
Coach Billy Donovan singled out open-side pick-and-rolls being a problem, but the majority of the New Orleans baskets started with Bulls getting beat off the dribble. Ayo Dosunmu against C.J. McCollum and Patrick Williams versus Zion Williamson were a couple matchups that didn't go well.
Then the Pelicans got some fast breaks off careless Bulls passes, and they knocked down 5 of 7 shots from 3-point land. It's OK to write this off as a meaningless preseason game, except the Bulls defense wasn't good at the end of the season, either, after losing Lonzo Ball and others to injuries.
"You're not going to replace Lonzo, it's just not going to happen," Zach LaVine said. "Now, guys can step up and play their role and play their game in that position, but we're going to have to pick up what he brings to the table -- his passing ability, his defensive ability, his shooting. There's a lot of things we miss."
LaVine played 17 minutes and scored 10 points, then chose to sit out the second half. This was his first game action since having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in May and he decided not to push it.
"I felt fine. I felt really fine," LaVine said. "I want to keep it that way."
Coby White left after three minutes due to a left knee contusion. Donovan said after the game White wanted to keep playing, but the training staff didn't want to risk it. White had an MRI exam Wednesday, with results pending.
It already looks like the playing rotation will be a challenge. Donovan used 10 players in the first quarter, including a second unit of Caruso, White, Goran Dragic, Javonte Green and Andre Drummond.
Most teams don't use a 10-man rotation, so will some of those guys pile up did not plays? Dragic had a night to forget in his unofficial Bulls debut, with 3 turnovers in 13 minutes, along with 2 points.
"I thought Goran uncharacteristically had some turnovers that he'd probably like to have back," Donovan said. "I think coming into a new situation, new team and learning to play with those guys is probably going to be a little bit normal. I don't worry about him."
Terry played a lively 18 minutes, all in the second half, finishing with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 turnovers. The rookie is already making a case for playing time as the versatile burst of energy the Bulls were expecting on draft night.
"I thought I played OK," Terry said. "Obviously we didn't play good enough to win the game, that's all I really want to do."
Without a better defensive effort, the Bulls will get buried at the start of games and it won't really matter who plays off the bench. The next preseason test is Friday at home against Denver.
"We've got to pick it up on that end," LaVine said. "We know what our shortcomings are. Don't try to jump too much at one preseason game. We'll watch the film and see what we can adjust. Right now I'm not concerned at all."