Bulls

Bulls' defense bludgeons Pistons in workmanlike win

718660.png

Bulls' defense bludgeons Pistons in workmanlike win

It wasnt prettysince when was that a prerequisite for this team to win a game?but a combination of suffocating defense and a strong performance from the frontcourt propelled the Bulls to an 83-71 win over the Pistons at the United Center Friday night.

In yet another game in which they were short-handedstarting shooting guard Rip Hamilton was apparently a late scratchthe Bulls used their trademarks, offensive balance and stingy defense, to bludgeon an inferior opponent and their Central Division rival.

A balanced Pistons (18-33) attack, helmed by rookie point guard Brandon Knight (16 points), put the Bulls in an early hole in the opening period.

For the hosts, Carlos Boozer (13 points, 11 rebounds, three assists) was an active force from the outset, finishing with bounce and power, as well as attacking the boards alongside Joakim Noah (19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists).

The typical, unselfish brand of offense the Bulls (42-11) are accustomed to playing quickly made it a close-knit affair, subsequently followed by the deficit being completely erased.

By virtue of solid play from all five startersthe perimeter trio of All-Star Luol Deng (20 points, nine rebounds, five assists) and backcourt partners C.J. Watson (11 points, five assists) and Ronnie Brewer were also strong contributorsthe first quarter ended with the Bulls holding a 28-25 advantage.

The hot shooting of both teams tailed off dramatically in the second stanza, as a combination of good defense and bad offense prevailed. However, the Bulls maintained their lead, as Deng helped hold things together with the Bench Mob and the Pistons struggled to score, with the exception of veteran Tayshaun Prince (14 points, six rebounds).

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau eventually reinserted the bulk of his regulars and Noah provided a spark, aiding the Bulls in holding on to the breathing room they had obtained.

At the intermission, the Bulls were up, 44-35.

Deng excelled after the break, scoring by attacking the basket, but also proving his value as a elite-level defender and all-around talent. Noah also chipped in, giving the Bulls a scoring presence, in addition to his usual work on the glass and defensive end, all of which helped the Bulls keep some distance between themselves and their guests.

But the skilled play of much-improved second-year big man Greg Monroe (14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) helped the Pistons gradually climb back into the contest, something aided by the Bulls issues with ball security.

Still, through three periods of play, the Bulls led, 65-61.

A strong effort from Taj Gibson propelled a Bulls run that yielded a double-digit advantage for the hosts, again putting them comfortably in front of the visitors.

However, the Pistons werent through and with the likes of Knight and versatile backup forward Jonas Jerebko providing a boost of energy, Detroit was once again right on the heels of the home team.

The visitors comeback was aborted, however, as timely plays from Boozer and Noah extended the Bulls lead as the game entered its stretch run and with under a minute remaining, a thunderous Noah dunk over Pistons veteran Jason Maxiell sealed the deal.

With yet another home win under their belt, the Bulls now look ahead to Sundays marquee matchup against the Western Conference-leading Thunder in Oklahoma City.

Zach LaVine not daunted by chasing ‘Black Jesus’

Zach LaVine not daunted by chasing ‘Black Jesus’

The statue doesn’t sit out front of the United Center anymore, but the statute remains the same for any player good enough to be on the marquee for the Chicago Bulls.

Zach LaVine, while awed by the specter of Michael Jordan, isn’t spooked by chasing a ghost. Weeks away from a debut as a Bull—returning from ACL surgery—LaVine is aware of the standard set by the man who called himself “Black Jesus”.

“Black Jesus played here for so long. I’m not putting myself in that category,” LaVine said, unaware Jordan gave himself that nickname as a young player in Chicago. “He lived up to it. They (fans) want to get back to that pinnacle.”

He hears the hopes and wishes of fans when he walks off the United Center floor two hours before every home game after getting shots up as part of his rehab. LaVine knows what’s expected from him—what’s more, he expects that from himself.

He’s a two-time slam dunk champion, certainly, but the Seattle area native wants to be known as a complete player, someone a franchise can build around.

And if it’s Black Jesus’ franchise, so be it.

“You try not to let it mess with you,” LaVine said. “I feel like I’m strong minded, I’m confident in myself. Everybody is gonna have their own opinions. All that matters is how you feel about yourself.”

Not that he’s not holding himself to the standard set by the standard bearer himself, but he’s aware the responsibility that comes with playing at Jordan’s position for a franchise still largely synonymous with Jordan—even though this spring will mark 20 years since Jordan actually wore Bulls red.

“No one’s trying to compare you to him, that’s out there,” LaVine said. “You’re just trying to be the best you, coming into this situation. You have the opportunity to be the face of the franchise. To be that guy. You want to embrace that. You want everybody to know you’re prepared and capable of doing that.”

Simply being identified as a player a franchise will commit to building around as opposed to the third wheel, as he was believed to be in Minnesota behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, is warming for him.

Derrick Rose believed he was up for the challenge until his body betrayed him. Jimmy Butler wanted it, but the Bulls thought otherwise leading to the chain of events that brought LaVine to Chicago.

In the first season of a full-fledged rebuild, LaVine knows the prevailing belief is that the next franchise carrier is more likely in the coming draft than on the Bulls roster.

“People gonna put a name on everything. I’m gonna hoop, do what I do,” LaVine said. “I know I’m talented, I think the Bulls organization knows I’m talented. Whatever we do with the pick or free agency, that’s their side of basketball operations. I’m gonna do what I do. I put in the work.”

He’ll return to full contact practice next week and if one had to guess, finally be introduced as an active player in the middle of December once he works the kinks out and gains confidence in taking real contact.

But then again, confidence has never been a problem for LaVine. Whether it was instilled in him by a vocal father who had him chart every shot he took as a high schooler or simply innate, LaVine isn’t shying away from the challenge.

“He had a plan, for sure,” LaVine said of his father, Paul, who once played linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks. “I have binders of shots. I was doing workouts the day before games. I was doing professional workouts before (college). I embraced being a hard worker.”

Whether it’s the rehab or a road that’s had plenty of twists and turns for him to be 22, he’s experienced enough not to be naïve but young enough to have admirable wide-eyed optimism.

“You put in that much hard work, it can’t fail. It can’t.”

The Bulls first quarter was historically terrible

jerian.jpg
USA TODAY

The Bulls first quarter was historically terrible

Rebuilds can be ugly, but the first quarter of Wednesday's Bulls-Thunder game was downright disgusting. 

The Bulls scored single digits(!) in the historically awful opening 12 minutes. Here's a closer look at the numbers: 

7 - Amount of points scored. That's the worst opening quarter in franchise history and just one point better than the worst overall quarter. 

8 - Number of turnovers, which included three shot clock violations. 

13 - The Bulls shot 13 percent from the field. Woof. 

2 - Consecutive games Fred Hoiberg's squad has trailed by 20 after the first. 

3 - Carmelo Anthony outscored the Bulls by three points in the opening quarter (10-7). 

It's safe to assume that the lineup of Jerian Grant, Kris Dunn, Quincy Pondexter, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez was not ready to play.