Bulls

Bulls have no answer for New York's three party

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Bulls have no answer for New York's three party

Friday, Nov. 5, 2010
Updated 12:05 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

In a battle of two retooled squads, the old adage that offense wins games, but defense wins championships proved to be true.

The visiting Knicks, perhaps restless after having their previous game postponed due to asbestos concerns in historic Madison Square Garden, absolutely lit up the Bulls offensively, en route to a 120-112 road win. New York would shoot a blistering 16-for-24 from deep for the contest tying a record for most made three-pointers by an opponent, also set by the Knicks and despite Chicagos slight advantages in field-goal percentage and rebounding (the Bulls did commit more turnovers than the Knicks, as well as commit more fouls, two issues since the preseason) and Derrick Roses 14 assists, the United Center hosts fought an uphill battle all game long.

A quick start enabled the Bulls to pull out of the gates first in what the visitors wanted to be a track meet all evening, with the home team prevailing upon defense to be the deciding factor. However, careless and unforced Bulls turnovers allowed the Knicks to stay within close contact.

Taj Gibson, a native New Yorker perhaps inspired by facing his hometown team and a matchup with elite power forward Amare Stoudemire got off to an active and aggressive start, battling his All-Star counterpart tooth and nail in the early going.

New York would eventually take the lead, but a highlight-reel, powerful two-handed dunk by Derrick Rose his first poster of the young season followed by a nifty Rose dish to Joakim Noah for a powerful finish of his own would tie the game up with 2:28 left in the first quarter. A subsequent timeout from Knicks head coach Mike DAntoni quieted a buzzing United Center crowd and Chicago went back to its defenseless ways ensuring Tom Thibodeau wouldnt be happy; New York shot 5-for-7 from three-point range in the period leaving the Bulls at a 34-30 disadvantage heading into the second quarter.

The urgency has to be there to run them off that line. They dont need much space or time to get it off and theyre confident shooting it. I thought we allowed them to play to their strengths. Youve got to take something away. What are you going to be willing to live with? I thought we didnt take anything away. They had easy scoring opportunities, we didnt control the ball, we didnt close out to their shooters, our floor balance was bad in the first half and I thought a big part of that was because of what happened off our turnovers, observed Thibodeau.

They got their confidence going early. Gallinari was hurting us from the three-point line. Their guards Douglas was getting wide-open shots, Felton. Once a shooting team like that gets going, they get their confidence early, its a lot harder to shut them downby then, they had already gotten their confidence, so that put a lot of pressure on us," Thibodeau continued. "The other thing was our turnovers, I think we had 13 in the first half and now youre giving them easy transition opportunities out of transition.

"Thats a point in the game that we have to clean up. When we break the lineup at the end of the first quarter, start of the second, we have to do better.

We didnt get stops on D. It was just a rough night for us. We just didnt shut them down early. We gave them too much confidence from the jump. They were hitting a bunch of good shots. They were just taking their normal threes and hit a bunch, Gibson told CSNChicago.com. Theres no excuse in this league. We have to be a 48-minute team. That team just taught us a lesson we have to bounce back from.

We felt we could have got any shot that we wanted. The offense wasnt the problem. We can score points. It was the defense. The defense really didnt get stops when it counted. I speak for myself and a couple times down, we just couldnt get stops, continued Gibson, who scored 18 points and snatched 10 rebounds against his hometown team. In this league, youve got to bounce back. Nobodys going to feel sorry for you. I learned that last year in my rookie year, just bouncing back. We have guys capable of that, we have a good team. Were just still working out kinks. Thats all it is. Each game is just a lesson, its still early in the season, theres still a lot of basketball to play.

With its second unit in the contest at the outset of the second period, Chicago struggled to produce points. Complicating matters further was the Knicks ability to maintain their torrid shooting, burying the Bulls in a double-digit hole.

Even after Thibodeau reinserted Rose and Noah, the issue of New York getting wide-open looks from deep and virtually untouched jaunts to the rim persisted. Italian sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari was New Yorks catalyst, as he converted tough finishes on the inside and lit up Chicagos defense from the outside with his trio of first-half triples.

Noah and Rose came in with energy intended to get their teammates to follow their lead, but their efforts were unrequited on the defensive end, as the Knicks continued to score at will. Another cause of concern besides turnovers, lackluster defense and poor shooting was the Bulls subpar rebounding against a team that isnt exactly a juggernaut on the glass. By the end of the first half, a disjointed on both ends Bulls bunch would give up 70 points to the visitors.

I think they also shot the ball very well, but at the same time, I feel that we had to find a way to close out to them better. Our game plan was to make them shoot tough two-point shots and we couldnt get them off that three-point line tonight for whatever reason. So, that was definitely the game plan and we messed it up as players, said Noah, who had another double-double with 12 points and 13 boards. For whatever reason, our energy wasnt where it was supposed to be tonight. They played very well; got to give credit when credit is due. When you shoot 70 percent from the three-point line, its going to be tough to win the game. Theres definitely things that we should have done better and theres definitely a learning experience and we cant let this happen.

A Chicago run based upon improved defense, hustle, transition play and offensive execution would get the Bulls within 12 before a DAntoni timeout. It became clear that New Yorks intent was to keep the games pace at a high speed, while the Bulls desired to push the tempo in transition and off Knicks turnovers, but to keep it in the halfcourt otherwise.

Knicks reserve guard Toney Douglas and starter Raymond Felton both point guards played in tandem to maintain the visitors up-tempo, long ball-heavy attack. This was also the point at which Rose put his stamp on the game, blending playmaking although Chicagos maddening spate of turnovers didnt yet cease and diverse scoring, whether attacking the basket or showcasing his much-improved range and accuracy.

The respective deep games of Douglas and Felton, however, persisted, as the pair apparently inherited Gallinaris first-half hot hand, leaving the Bulls fighting an uphill battle, despite impressive showings on the interior from Gibson and Noah. After a late three-pointer from Deng, the Bulls faced a 93-83 deficit after three quarters of action.

Weve got to look at our turnovers and we kind of played to their strengths they dont mind us scoring, I dont think they mind us outrebounding them but we gave them the threes and thats their strength, said Deng, who scored 17 points on the evening. Im not taking anything away from New York they shot the ball well but I know we can play better defense. Second half, they scored 50 points. First half, I think they had 70.

I think we gave them confidence. Our defense was bad early on, they hit shots and we had to stick with our game plan. It was like an ocean out there; they hit some unbelievable shots and at times we did play good D, but they still hit them, Deng would tell CSNChicago.com.

Douglas unconscious play continued early in the final stanza, as he somewhat successfully went mano a mano with Rose. After initially making it a single-digit contest early in the period, Chicagos energy waned with its reserve also unable to prevent the Knicks onslaught.

Following Roses exit which appeared to be a white flag of surrender however, an all-bench group surprisingly sparked by swingman Ronnie Brewer clawed and fought its way back into the game, making it a single-digit contest. Despite the crowds fervent We want Rose, Thibodeau elected to stick with the unit that got the team to that point.

I thought that group was playing pretty well and we had gone with the starters a little longer than usual to start the second half, so when we got down 15, thats when I subbed them. The second unit, I thought, fought hard to close it and I wanted to see what they could get out of it, explained Thibodeau. They were closing a lot harder to the three-point line. The way their guards were shooting, I thought the energy needed to get out to the lineyoure going to use a lot of energy doing that. I thought about it, but I thought the group that was out there was covering the line pretty well.

You definitely want to be out there. I think that Coach is definitely trying to make a point and I think its pretty clear weve got to come out there with better energy and we cant let a team score at will like that. Its the starters responsibility to do a better job defensively, said Noah afterwards. I think its definitely more than that Thibodeaus explanation about closing out on New Yorks shooters okay, I understand that but at the same time, I feel that its our responsibility to play better defense. I think we could have definitely done a better job tonight. Its frustrating to lose the game the way that we lost it and theres definitely a lot of things that we could have done better as players to come back into this game.

Thibodeau told us before he said when Carlos got hurt, If youre on this team, if youre in this league, that just proves that you can help us win. You wouldnt be here if you couldnt help this team win. So he doesnt really care about whos on the court. His main focal point is on defense. He can live with bad shots and different kind of other mistakes, dribbling, but he doesnt want guys to get too lackadaisical on defense. He can live with a shot if thats your shot, take your shot but his main focal point is defense, Gibson, the lone starter to close out the game for Chicago after Rose exited with 9:30 to play, told CSNChicago.com. I really dont know Thibodeaus intentions because I know with the second group we had, we cut it down to eight and at points, we just couldnt get stops. We fouled, we had a couple letdowns on defense and it was just a tough night for us.

Rose led the Bulls with 24 points to go with his career-high assist total in defeat, with Korver sniping his way to 18 points on the night.

For the victorious Knicks, Douglas led the way with 30 points, Gallinari poured in 24, Felton put up 20 points and 10 assists and Stoudemire recorded a modest 14 points and eight boards before fouling out late.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal. 

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

The Zach LaVine comeback is one step closer as the shooting guard was cleared for contact practice after checking with his doctors in California. 

LaVine will go through a step by step process over the next few weeks and the Bulls will gauge his progress to see when the best time for his return will be. 

But, given the nine-month process from his ACL injury he suffered in February, he's right on track and there doesn't appear to be any setbacks. 

"There’s no real timeframe, I guess," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said at practice Monday. "It’s really going to be on how he feels. We’ll try to do a little more every day with him. We did a little bit, got him some light contact today just to get the process started.

"He’ll be able to play a little two-on-two with not a lot of practice time these next 10 days. But we’ll throw him out there and continue to try to get him feeling better. There’s going to be a mental hurdle that he’s going to have to clear as well. I know he’s excited. His teammates are excited and the coaches are obviously excited as well."

LaVine's recovery has gone as planned since his arrival in Chicago from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night. Targeting a mid-December return seems realistic but of course, the Bulls will take every precaution to make sure he's healthy for the long term, both for LaVine and the franchise, as he's a restricted free agent this summer--and they have no plans on letting him walk. 

LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago recently that he wants to get on the floor immediately but the Bulls know they'll have to protect him from himself in the meantime. 

"He’s going to have to string together a lot of really good days, and he knows that," Hoiberg said. "He understands that. The important thing is he’s right on track from where it was said after the injury. He’s been doing a great job with his rehab. He’s on time. He’s doing everything that’s asked of him. His strength numbers are where they’re supposed to be. I’m confident he’s going to keep making progress. But we’ll absolutely monitor it daily and hopefully it’ll just continue to get better."

The Bulls aren't sure if they'll send LaVine to the G-League but it's certain they have plans on not only how to use him when he steps on the floor but also a regimen they've stuck to, to ensure there are no real setbacks. 

Hoiberg has been salivating over having a true scorer at that position since trading for him, and LaVine has been eager since his arrival to prove to the Bulls and fans that he is a franchise player. 

Prudence in the moment of progression, though, appears to be the approach taken by both sides.