McGraw: Bulls' style of play is evolving
The Bulls have survived an early overload of injuries fairly well.
On Saturday, the team's injury update included just one entry: Taj Gibson out with a sprained ankle.
At one point during the circus road trip, the Bulls (10-6) were missing four regulars. Just 16 games into the regular season, the Bulls are down to four players who have appeared in every contest -- Mike Dunleavy, Aaron Brooks, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott.
Still, they can finish with a winning record on the circus trip by beating Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon at the Barclays Center.
Derrick Rose told reporters at Saturday's practice in New York he felt fine the day after a 109-102 victory in Boston. He said he's not feeling the hamstring strain that kept him out of four games recently, but the jammed finger on his left hand was a little sore.
Depth obviously has been an asset for the Bulls, but it also seems clear the team's style is evolving. For the past three years, they've won with dominant defense and rebounding.
Tom Thibodeau's teams usually have improved defensively as the season progressed. Through Friday, the Bulls ranked 13th in the league in points allowed (99.2) and 10th in defensive field-goal percentage (.444), after ranking first and second, respectively, in those categories last year.
The Bulls may never be a dominant rebounding team this season, though. They've been outrebounded in nine of 16 games.
The league statistics tell a harsh story. The Bulls are 28th in offensive rebounds allowed (12.1 per game), 20th in rebound percentage (.493) and 20th in rebound differential (minus-1.2). Last year they were 13th, fifth and seventh in those categories.
Why is this happening? The Bulls have plenty of good individual rebounders. Pau Gasol is averaging 10.8 per game, with Joakim Noah a little below his usual level at 9.5. Jimmy Butler is averaging a career-high 5.9 rebounds.
Against Boston on Friday, the Bulls won the boards 52-42 but gave up 5 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter when the outcome hung in the balance. Some of those were just getting outmanned under the rim; some were from a lack attention to detail.
On one Boston missed free throw, the ball rebounded to Noah's side of the lane, but he got a shove in the back from Jared Sullinger and was unable to control the ball. It bounced to the other side of the basket, where Gasol made no effort to box out Brandon Bass.
Rose ended up coming from the back to deflect the ball away from Bass but just knocked it out of bounds.
On the plus side, Gasol has helped make the Bulls a better shot-blocking team. They rejected 13 shots against the Celtics and rank third in the league with 6 blocks per game.
They're also much better offensively than they've been. The win at Boston was the 10th time this season the Bulls scored at least 100 points. Last season their 10th 100-point game happened on Feb. 11.
"We're going to be tough," Butler said Friday, according to bulls.com. "I like the direction we're headed. When everyone is healthy and we're clicking on all cylinders we are going to be all right."
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