CHICAGO – Get used to this grind-it-out version of the Bulls.
It’s no secret that Derrick Rose is sidelined indefinitely as he rehabs from left knee surgery. Without their most athletic and talented player, the Bulls have embraced the all-for-one philosophy. The new-look Bulls with their balanced offense and stifling defense carried them to a 93-87 win on opening night against the Sacramento Kings.
Wednesday's performance was exactly what Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau expected.
"Most games are going to be like this," Thibodeau said. "We have to find ways to win.
"I was pleased with our forced turnovers. We want to get the ball up the court quickly. ... I want us to be able to run 48 minutes."
Ten players scored at least two points for the Bulls, all of whom played at least 2:44 minutes in the win. Joakim Noah was the unlikely scoring leader for the Bulls, finishing with 23 points and 10 rebounds in front of 21,313 fans at the United Center. Carlos Boozer (18 points, eight rebounds) and Richard Hamilton (19 points) also reached double digits. The Bulls (1-0) improved to 26-21 all-time in season openers.
"Any time you win is a good night," Boozer said. "But we're going to continue to get better. ... Tonight we did a good job of getting the ball to Rip. Rip got us going early."
The Bulls won’t get away with playing as they did against the Kings (0-1) when they face the elite NBA teams. They committed 18 turnovers and allowed the Kings to pull back within five points late in the fourth quarter before converting 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
The Bulls won’t survive nightly shooting performances similar to Wednesday’s effort from Luol Deng (3 for 13) and Kirk Hinrich (1 for 7). But their dominance inside – Carlos Boozer and Noah combined for 41 of the Bulls' 93 points – made up for the Bulls shooting 22.2 percent behind the 3-point line.
"I think we have to continue to search him out," Thibodeau said of Boozer. "There are so many good things that happen for us when we throw the ball into him."
Consistency on both ends of the floor still missing, which is to be expected at this point in the season with six new players on the roster. The Bulls opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run but struggled to end the third, going 0 for 6 from the field in the final 4:55 of the quarter.
While it wasn’t a blowout win, the Bulls learned they’re capable of winning without Rose. More importantly, the Bulls proved they can still rely on their defense to carry them through rough stretches as they try to find rhythm offensively.
"The defense got better as the game went on and our rebounding was very good," Thibodeau said. "Our turnovers hurt us. When we played inside out, we were very effective."