Tom Thibodeau said before Friday’s contest against the Jazz that his Bulls would need to find good shots against an athletic Jazz defense. They did that and then some, despite some sloppy play early.
The Bulls shot 53 percent from the field, Luol Deng led the way with 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists and Carlos Boozer added 18 points and 10 rebounds in Chicago’s 97-73 win over Utah.
Derrick Rose, who entered Friday with the lowest field-goal percentage among qualified players, looked good in the early going, connecting on a 3-pointer from the left corner, driving left for a layup and finding Deng for a jumper to give the Bulls a 9-5 lead. Joakim Noah (14 points, eight rebounds) was active early around the basket, scoring twice on nice feeds from Deng.
The Bulls made nine of their first 11 shots, assisting on seven of them to take a nine-point lead just five minutes in. All five Bulls starters had scored midway through the first quarter, with Deng (19 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists) facilitating for five assists in the quarter.
Gordon Hayward, coming off a 29-point outing against the Celtics, had seven early points while playing suffocating defense on Jimmy Butler (five points, two rebounds, three assists). A Deng steal and ensuing three-point play gave the Bulls a 12-point lead, 30-18, at the end of the first quarter. Deng, Boozer and Rose (12 points, five assists, four turnovers) all finished with seven in the first as the team shot better than 72 percent from the field.
After an efficient first quarter, the Bulls came out sloppy in the second quarter. Midway through the quarter they had accumulated seven turnovers and wound up giving away 10 possessions, which the Jazz turned in to nine points to cut the lead down to as few as nine. Taj Gibson (12 points, four rebounds) got on the board twice, helping the Bulls shoot 46 percent in the quarter to help cushion the blow of so many giveaways. Thibodeau’s group remained stingy on the defensive end, holding the Jazz to 23 percent shooting in the quarter, though fouls (the Bulls committed seven) and offensive rebounds (Utah grabbed seven) kept Ty Corbin’s group in the contest.
A Richard Jefferson (eight points, one rebound) steal and breakaway slam pulled the Jazz within eight, 41-33, and marked the 13th Bulls turnover, but after a timeout Deng connected and was fouled on a 17-footer, and completed the three-point play to push the Bulls lead back out to double-digits. Deng hit a pair of three throws the next trip down and finished the first half with 14 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
At the end of the half, Rose handed off to Deng, who drove to the basket and drew two defenders and found Noah for a slam dunk with 1 second remaining, giving the Bulls a 51-40 lead at intermission.
It was more first-quarter efficiency for the Bulls coming out of halftime, as the home team rushed out to an 18-point lead behind buckets from Deng, Boozer and Noah. A Butler layup pushed the lead to 22 following a missed layup from Hayward, who struggled mightily after his impressive start.
The Bulls put their emphasis on the quarter – and perhaps the game – when Deng stole a pass from Marvin Williams and took it the distance, dunking over the outstretched arms of Hayward to give the Bulls a 21-point lead, their largest of the night. They would push that lead to 26 and not look back.
Gibson opened the final stanza with a huge slam and Mike Dunleavy added five quick points – his first of the game – to give the Bulls an 85-58 lead. Kirk Hinrich also got in on the action with a layup, putting all nine Bulls’ regulars in the point column. The Bulls were clearly attempting to get Deng his 10th and final assist late in the game, though a pair of misses from Nazr Mohammed didn’t allow Deng to secure it. When Thibodeau took Deng out at the 6:15 mark, it drew boos from the remaining 21,946 in attendance. Thibodeau emptied the bench with 3:37 to play.
Derrick Favors filled the stat sheet with 10 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Enes Kanter contributed eight points and four rebounds in the loss. The Jazz’s 0-6 record is the franchise’s worst mark to begin the season since their inaugural season in 1974-75, when they began 0-11.