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Bulls put on clinic, set record with 33-point win

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Bulls put on clinic, set record with 33-point win

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted 9:49 p.m. Updated 11:17 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
ATLANTA All Bulls, all the time.

At least thats how it felt Tuesday night in Phillips Arena, where the Bulls (51-19) dismantled the Hawks (40-31), 114-81, sparked by a first half in which they shot 73.8 percent from the field.

Derrick Rose (30 points, 10 assists, 6-for-8 from three-point range) and Luol Deng (27 points) served as ringleaders in the teams second consecutive blowout victory.

Bulls do something Rose has never seen before

Chicago emphasized its interior offense early, with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus preference of penetration and post-ups being followed, as both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah (eight points, seven rebounds) established themselves scoring the ball, as did Rose and Deng via the drive.

Boozer and Noah would depart the former was replaced by an energetic and productive Taj Gibson (nine points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots) - leading Rose and Deng to redouble their efforts to ensure the visitors maintained their advantage.

We came out ready to play. We had good balance. Carlos really got us going with his post-up early. Derrick very aggressive, Luol very aggressive. Great leadership from those guys, sharing the ball. Its good stuff, said Thibodeau, who joked Thats who we are when reporters asked him about the Bulls high point totals in back-to-back games, the first time the team won by 30 in consecutive outings since 1995.

We just want to be consistent with our approach, we want to be able to count on the defense, he continued. If we play the right away offensively, where we push the ball up the floor, get some easy baskets, go inside-out, share the ball and take care of the ball dont turn it over were going to be in position to win. I liked how unselfish we were. I thought the ball was hopping.

In fact, as Chicago buckled down defensively, Deng drove and finished at will and Roses blend of playmaking and scoring continued to baffle the Hawks with his former backcourt mate, Kirk Hinrich, guarding him.

Sometimes it gets hard, but to win games to win a championship it takes defense. Were just trying to stay together on defense, knowing that we cant take any steps back right now, stated Rose. I think that were moving in the right direction.

Echoed Deng: It starts with our defense. When our mindset is right on defense, we seem to work harder on offense. When were not as focused on defense, it kind of leads to our offense. Were kind of just going through the motions. It always starts with defense.

Dengs hot hand carried over to the second quarter, as he helped the Bulls second unit extend the teams advantage over their hosts. As productive as Deng was he scored 16 points before a well-deserved rest the reserves didnt miss a beat after his exit, further extending the lead with their torrid shooting from the floor.

Luol is Ive said this all year you cant say enough about what that guy does for our team and often times, it goes unnoticed, but to none of us. The way hes playing is spectacular, said Thibodeau. Our bench is playing great. Cant say enough about the bench, all of them C.J., Ronnie, Kyle, Taj was great, Omer, Kurt did a great job in limited minutes but everybody on the bench played great for us.

Every Chicago basket seemed to demoralize Atlanta who wasnt shooting poorly, but simply couldnt stop the Bulls and the gap continued to widen, as Bulls starters and reserves alike appeared to be incapable of missing a shot.

Rose and understudy C.J. Watson (eight points, six assists) had their way off the dribble as did Deng when he wasnt knocking down three-pointers, along with Kyle Korver Boozer took advantage of his bulk to abuse Hawks defenders and Gibson did the dirty work with flair.

Behind a team-wide unselfishness (16 first-half assists) leading to 73 percent shooting from the field, the Bulls, in their refusal to take their foot off the gas, took a commanding 72-43 lead into the intermission.

Perhaps the strongest indication that the Bulls had it rolling was the final play of the half. Following an Atlanta turnover with 4.3 seconds remaining, Rose took an inbounds pass full speed, stopping at the three-point line to size up Hinrich, then stepping back to bury his fourth triple (in four attempts; three in the period) of the half at the buzzer, tying him with Deng for a team-high 20 points at the break.

Im happy to be on the team thats doing it. Its better than being on the other side. Its just one of those games, said Rose of the quarter, in which the Bulls shot 81 percent from the field, missed only four shot attempts and scored 41 points.

You feel it as a player. Everything is going right, especially when youre playing defense. I think our defense really gets everything started the fast break, easy points then, weve got a lot of players on our team that when they get going, it can really take us to another level.

Thats what they were giving me. I told you, Im not going to stop shooting, no matter what, he continued, describing his individual efforts from long range. If they go under a screen or if Im open, Coach tells me to shoot the game tells me to shoot so Im putting a shot up.

Chimed in Deng: Just the way that the game went, I thought all of us did a good job with being smart, driving. We just did a good job of really moving the ball. They did a lot of switching out there and we had a good game plan for that.

Chicago didnt let up in the third quarter, as Roses individual three-point barrage persisted and the Bulls made a concerted effort to get Noahs offensive game going early in the period.

Although their ridiculous percentage dropped a tad, the Bulls lead - which surged above the 30-point mark, gradually grew. Roses penetration, Dengs versatile scoring and Noahs activity on the boards enabled the visitors to keep their substantial winning margin intact, by the count of 98-60 at the conclusion of three quarters.

The onslaught continued in the final stanza, as Chicago s bench kept pouring it on against a shamefully effortless Hawks squad. The extended garbage time rendered what was left of the Phillips Arena crowd lifeless, as they were well aware that unlike the Bulls last trip to Atlanta on March 2, there was no remarkable comeback in store.

When we came in, we knew that we were going to have to come in and play. Right when we got the lead, we were just telling each other that its not going to happen again, recounted Rose. When we get the lead, thats when we have to be tough.

Added Deng: Weve been there before. Its not the first time we had a huge lead. The main focus was to really come out in the beginning of the third quarter and just play, dont look at the score. Tonight we didnt play to our opponent. We just played Bulls basketball, just like we do in practice. Play defense, move the ball and execute.

At this time of the season Coach keeps talking about it its time to really get better. Its time for everyone to lock in, he continued.

We know the playoffs are coming up and were trying to do great things in the playoffs.

Box Score

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

The Zach LaVine timeline for a Bulls debut remains the same, although he’s ahead of schedule in every metric of his return from ACL surgery this past February.

It doesn’t mean he isn’t angling for more work and pushing his limits to learn the offense he’ll be featured in, along with taking contact “here and there,” in his words. He’s supposed to wait nine months from the day of his February 14 surgery before taking contact, which would put him at a November 14 practice before the Bulls go to Oklahoma City.

“I should be doing contact really soon. It all depends on them,” LaVine said in his first public words since media day several weeks ago. “I’m pushing them as hard as I can, but at the end of the day we still gotta be careful. I feel great. I’m doing everything I was doing before. I’m pretty sure I can do contact, but we’ve got to stick to that schedule. But every day I’m just getting back, trying to as close to 100 percent as I can before I come back.”

LaVine was at Air Canada Centre getting a workout in before the Bulls opener against the Raptors and has gotten in heavy workouts on the off days with the assistant coaches in the meantime.

Sticking to the schedule will be on both LaVine and the Bulls, although both sides could be tempted to cut corners a bit. It would be human nature for the Bulls to show the NBA world their centerpiece from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night, as well as LaVine to want to be the frontline player he feels he deserves to be.

“Yeah, it’s definitely hard. I don’t like missing games,” LaVine said. “Before the injury I didn’t really miss any games. I think I missed one or two in my career, so it really sucks just sitting there, not being able to help. I try to help as much as I can from the sideline. You know, give a little advice here and there, but yeah it hurts.”

He’s also in line for a big-time extension, having passed the deadline for extensions for players in his 2014 draft class. He’ll have to wait until the summer, especially since it didn’t make sense for him to extend unless it was a max deal.

“Obviously, I want to be here for a long time,” LaVine said. “And I feel the deal is going to get done, either then or next summer. I don’t have any fear in that. I think I know I’ll be in black and red for a little bit longer. I’m very happy and looking forward to that day as well. The main concern is just getting back on the court, get my legs ready and try to help the team as much as possible until then.”

LaVine was averaging a career-high 18.9 points as a third option behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but will be featured in Fred Hoiberg’s offense as a first and maybe even second option, too—especially seeing how anemic the Bulls offense has looked in the first two games.

“With the team that we have and the system that (Fred Hoiberg) put in, we’re going to get up a lot of threes,” LaVine said. “When we’re on we’re going to blow some teams out with those threes. When we’re off, as the last couple games have shown, it’s going to be a struggle to score sometimes, but I think that’s where I can come in and help, and I can’t wait to get out there and start playing.”

Never lacking for confidence, LaVine hasn’t been deterred by the losing or even the unfortunate Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic incident from last week.

“We’re building something here. People understand we’re going through a little bit of that process,” LaVine said. “But we’re going to play and win. When I’m on the court, I’m trying to win. Wins and losses do happen. We can always take positives from both of those. That’s how you grow.”

As for Mirotic, LaVine hasn’t spoken to him but has sent texts—as it seems many of the Bulls have reached out to their teammate over the last several days.

“It was unfortunate. That’s what happens when two players are battling I guess,” LaVine said. “I don’t think either of them were in the wrong. It was just something that happened, an altercation. Men are men sometimes. We never should have that happen. But I think we’ve moved past it. Bobby’s in a good spot. We’ve all tried to contact Niko. I think we’ll all be able to move forward.”