Bulls make the Spurs cool their heels in Chicago October 29, 2009 by Max Rottenstein
Many Bulls fans openly wondered how the team debut in the first game of the regular season. Among other things, guard Ben Gordon departed to the Pistons. and the Bulls were going up against what is considered to be one of the top teams in the NBA. But the Bulls charged hard and on Thursday night delivered to their fans a powerful first reason to stay amongst the faithful as they dealt a 92-85 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs in front on a capacity crowd of 21,412 at the United Center in Chicago.
The Bulls started fast off the jump taking an 8-2 lead in the first minutes; but the Spurs evened the score, fighting back with an unanswered 8-point run and would edge out the Bulls 23-22 at the end of the 1st quarter. The lead changed hands many times until the end of the 2nd half with the Bulls leading 47-46.
In the 3rd quarter the Bulls pulled away from the Spurs by as many as 14 points. Forward Tyrus Thomas exploded, scoring 10 of his 13 points on the night. At the end of the quarter the Bulls led 74-64.
Despite strong performances from center Tim Duncan (28 points, 16 rebounds) and guard Manu Ginobili (12 points), the Spurs were unable to kick up their horses and only pulled within seven points of the Bulls by the end of the game.
Derrick Rose returned from an ankle injury that sidelined the Bulls' point guard for three weeks and answered many questions about his health by going 5-for-12 from the field and scoring 13 points while gaining seven assists and seven rebounds in 33 minutes of playing time.
Bulls head coach Vinnie Del Negro was pleased with Rose's play in the home opener. "I like to use him," said Del Negro, "but I also want to be careful with his ankle."
Of his own performance on the night Rose said, "It felt good. It takes a while to warm up but my veterans helped me out." Although he missed most of the preseason games and practices, Rose said that in the first real game of the season, that "[as a team] we gelled together."
Indeed the Bulls victory was a team effort with six players in double-digit scoring. Luol Deng led offensively, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds. The Bulls dominated the boards with 52 rebounds altogether; Joakin Noah led here with six offensive rebounds and four defensive rebounds.
This seemed to be a testament to how the Bulls followed Del Negro's coaching. During a timeout in the 3rd quarter Del Negro was heard telling his team, "How did we get the lead in this game? Defense and running! Tyrus and Taj, you have to run!"
''The guys have worked hard,'' Del Negro said before the game. ''I'm pleased with their effort, and now it's a matter of taking what we've done in practice and start off this difficult early schedule.''
This was a positive start to the Bulls' season and many will continue to watch as tomorrow they head to Boston. The Bulls will have to keep up further down the road as they prepare for the always arduous circus road trip to the west coast which kicks off on November 11th.