The Bulls defeated the Denver Nuggets 94-89 to finish the preseason undefeated. It is just the fourth time in franchise history that the team has gone without a loss in preseason play, but it didn’t come easy.
Thanks to a sluggish and sloppy start by the Bulls, the Nuggets jumped out to a 19 point advantage. They battled back to take their first lead of the game in the third quarter, only to see the Nuggets tie at 85 with 2:03 remaining before two Derrick Rose assists to Carlos Boozer to seal preserve their winning ways.
It was a good game to test the resolve of the Bulls in preparation for their season opener in Miami on Tuesday.
“We have to be ready to play,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to understand what goes into winning. As they say, the battle is won before the fight. That comes from preparation. Without proper preparation, it is going to show. We have to be mentally, physically and emotionally ready. We still have a lot of work to do. The preseason tells you where your team stands. We did some things Ok and other things not so well. But regardless, the moment of truth is coming. We have to put hard work into it and be ready.”
Luol Deng led the Bulls with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Carlos Boozer added 24 and 10 and Derrick Rose finished with 15 points and eight assists.
Even though there’s no adulation for a perfect preseason record and injuries limited the chances for full team chemistry with injuries suffered by Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich. For Rose, getting his rhythm and back to the level of play he’s used to was good for the himself and the team.
“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish and that’s to go out there and win every game,” he said. “We start over now, the season is coming up. We know that we have an important game coming up, it’s the first game of the season, so we’re trying to get prepared for that.
“I’m happy we played this many (preseason) games and it gave me some time to shake some of the rust off. Just playing with my teammates, getting used to playing with them, knowing where they’ll be on the floor, having to get back communicating to them…I think it’s going to help e be a better player.”
Thibodeau sounded optimistic that Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich would be ready for the opener and the team will have two practices before departing for Miami.
With Rose’s return out of the way, the journey towards a special season begins. With the work that has been put in starting this summer for this process, it can’t come soon enough.
“I have a real good feeling about this year for some reason,” Taj Gibson said. “I’ve never seen so many guys stay late hours in the gym, really focused and putting their heart and soul into this game and everybody can feel it. We really work hard every day. There’s a lot of doubters, but we just have to take it one game at a time. This season, [there’s] going to be a lot of ups and downs and we understand that. But we’re a unit that’s been together for a long time now. We just have to keep pushing.”