For all the ups and downs that are going to come with this Bulls rebuild, the 114-101 preseason victory over the Milwaukee Bucks showed just what coach Fred Hoiberg’s vaunted pace-and-space offense can look like when everything is clicking.
On Friday night at the United Center, the ball zipped around the court and 34 of the Bulls’ 83 shot attempts were three-pointers. It was a far cry from last year’s team, which finished 28th in the NBA in three-point attempts per game and 20th in pace.
Even though this version of the Bulls isn’t going to win many games, this style of play is exactly what the team envisioned when it brought in Hoiberg two summers ago, and with a young, rebuilding roster, he’ll finally get to implement it fully.
“We want to play with pace and we want to draw two to the ball and space the floor properly and make the right play,” Hoiberg said after the game. “When you can collapse the defense like that and make the right play on the backside, generally good things happen. We had a lot of what we call good-to-great plays, where a good shot turns into a great shot just from making the extra pass.”
Much of the Bulls’ shooting explosion came early on. As a team, they shot 13 of 22 from three-point range in the first half, including
9 of 11 in the second quarter.
They finished with 17 threes on the night, one more than the 16 they made in their preseason-opening win over the New Orleans Pelicans, and two more than their team-high of 15 last season. The shots were spread out, including five threes each for Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine and three for Nikola Mirotic.
Holiday led the Bulls in scoring with 21 points and Mirotic, Valentine and Bobby Portis added 15 apiece, along with 10 rebounds and two three-pointers of his own as he continues to battle with Mirotic for the starting power forward spot.
Even Kris Dunn, who shot 28.8 percent from long range in his rookie season in Minnesota, knocked one down in the fourth quarter.
Dunn, however, left for the locker room in the fourth quarter after suffering an open dislocation of his left index finger. The injury will require stitches, and Dunn is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks while the injury heals.
The injury came at the end of what had been a strong performance for Dunn, who had 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting and a couple of athletic finishes around the basket.
“Kris was unbelievable tonight,” Hoiberg said. “He went out there and was a ballhawk on defense, getting into the paint, making plays, his shot looked really good. He just looked really comfortable out there tonight. It’s unfortunate that it happened in this game.”
With Dunn likely out for the remainder of the preseason, Jerian Grant has an opportunity to solidify himself as the starting point guard. After a pair of solid performances in the first two preseason games, Grant struggled, shooting just 1 of 6 from the field in 23 minutes.
NOTES: Rookie forward Lauri
Markkanen participated in shootaround Friday morning and is questionable to play Sunday against New Orleans. Markkanen missed the first three preseason games due to back spasms.
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