The Bulls began the season putting the entire league on notice with their explosive offensive attack. Chicago was leading the league in offensive rating after jumping out to a 3-0 start. Dwyane Wade was looking like Steph Curry from deep. It appeared that perhaps all of the talk about spacing during the offseason was overblown.
But then, it seemed that could have been a mirage. Chicago came back down to earth, dropping three straight to fall to .500 after a promising start.
However, the Bulls looked much more like the team that started 3-0 as they took care of Orlando. Chicago took control after a game-changing timeout by coach Fred Hoiberg in first quarter.
Jimmy Butler was fantastic once again tonight. He put into focus his incredible ability to get to the free throw line. Additionally, Robin Lopez provided crucial scoring early on and helped Chicago stay in the game while they were giving a half-hearted effort on defense.
The bottom line: The Bulls utterly dismantled the Magic and it was never close after the aforementioned timeout.
Nov 5, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo (9) brings the ball up court against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Frenetic First Quarter
The first quarter of this game was the kind that Houston Rockets head coach, Mike D’Antoni dreams of. The teams were following the seven seconds or less strategy to a tee. It was incredibly strange to see a team coached by Frank Vogel (who was let go by the Indiana Pacers for not pushing the pace) fly up and down the court the way they did.
No semblance of defense could be found from either team, but the Bulls were particularly bad in that area early on. Chicago was letting Orlando get easy look after easy look. It was like watching a Harlem Globetrotters game as both teams marched up and down the floor with ease.
The Bulls were trailing 16-20 with just under seven minutes to play in the first quarter, and then Fred Hoiberg took a timeout. Hoiberg removed Rajon Rondo from the game and inserted Isaiah Canaan. From that moment on, the game was completely changed.
Chicago went on to allow only four points to the Magic in the final 6:39 of the first quarter and went on a 21-4 run on the other side of that timeout. This allowed the Bulls to take 37-24 lead going into the second quarter.
Oct 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) makes a move defended by Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
During training camp, the only starting position that was up for grabs was the power forward spot. With the lack of shooting the Bulls have in the front court, it was widely assumed that Nikola Mirotic was all but formally named the starting power forward.
As preseason went on, Mirotic struggled and Taj Gibson did Taj Gibson things. His effort earned him the starting job and he hasn’t looked back.
The veteran has continued his stellar play against the Magic. Gibson went 7-of-13 from the field, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. That was good enough for Taj Gibson’s fourth double-double of the season. Of course, Gibson was also solid on the defensive end tonight and he was a big part of the Bulls leaky defense getting on track midway through the first quarter.
It’s obvious that inserting Taj Gibson has worked better than anyone could have imagined. He has helped put the spacing issues to rest for now with the value he adds in other areas on the court. Gibson has been as reliable as any player on the Bulls roster this season, and he is an integral part of why this team has gotten off to the start they have.
Oct 15, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg talks to guard Isaiah Canaan (0) in the third quarter during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah Canaan had been quiet during the Bulls three-game losing streak, tallying just ten points combined in those three games. Against Orlando, Canaan matched that total, and he was a crucial part of the Bulls impressive end to the first quarter.
Canaan entered the game earlier than normal, and that was because Fred Hoiberg needed his defense. After the game, Fred Hoiberg stated that Rondo got the hook early because he wanted the Bulls to, “start guarding.” And start guarding the Bulls did: Chicago surrendered just four points during the final 6:39 of the first quarter. That was when Canaan entered the game.
Not only did he provide value on the defensive end, but he showed flashes of being the next in line of the Bulls backup point guards that get buckets. This dates back all the way to C.J. Watson and the likes of John Lucas III, D.J. Augustine, Nate Robinson, and Aaron Brooks have assumed this role.
Canaan might not be able to fill it up the way the others did, but he can be a valuable piece for the Bulls on certain nights.