As is true for most season openers, you can always start talk yourself into your team.
That was true until the Bulls mysteriously ruled Zach LaVine out for Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat with “injury management.”
And after a few hours to marinate in the news before tip, this season opener had all the makings of a disaster. An already fragile team losing one of its two All-Stars after dealing with the injury roller coaster from last season. It felt like it was heading that direction when the Bulls went down by nine points early in the game. Tyler Herro made three straight threes to start the game. The Bulls couldn’t access the randomness and pace of play that proved successful during the preseason.
But the bench mob came into the game, and sparked by Goran Dragic who made his first four three point attempts, the Bulls clawed their way back into the game. And then, DeMar DeRozan took over, finishing with 37 points, six rebounds and nine assists on 14-of-22 shooting and leading the Bulls to a 116-108 win against the Miami Heat.
Usually I like to play in the minutiae of the game for these recaps, find a unique play to break down or a stat that highlights why something may have happened. But on nights like these, it’s just better to appreciate the greatness you’re witnessing.
Let’s start with the third quarter, in which DeRozan scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting. It was the same DeRozan who torched everyone in his path last season. Pump fakes and pull-ups.
Does this stuff get old? Apparently not. It’s the same thing every time. You know the pump fake is coming. He does it. Then he does it again. He has no clear shot at the rim, all you need to do is not jump. Another pump and you bite. Bucket. And the foul. Unstoppable.
So at this point, the Bulls have built up a decent lead and the Heat have a run coming. Hold the line.
LaVine can take the commentary on this one:
Here’s the dagger.
And another for good measure.
This is a game the Bulls probably would not have won last year. A game in which they fell behind early and came back. One in which they held onto their late-game lead and didn’t let the run catch them. And one against one of the top four seeds in the East from last season.
Not a bad start.
I’m no expert and certainly do not want to look for another job or do something like that, but I will say I had some concerns. Not that DeRozan wouldn’t be great this season, of course he will be. But what if he’s only 95 percent of how good he was last year? What about 90 percent? What does that mean for the Bulls if DeRozan isn’t breaking Wilt Chamberlain records every other week?
Now I wonder why he can’t be just as good.
Why can’t he be even better?