Bulls

Bulls put on show in 40-point romp over Kings

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Bulls put on show in 40-point romp over Kings

Monday, March 21, 2011
Posted: 9:31 p.m. Updated: 11:21 p.m.

By Chris Cason
CSNChicago.com Contributor

After taking a "step backwards" in Fridays overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers the Bulls put their best foot forward and clobbered the Sacramento Kings Monday night, 132-92, for their 13th straight win at home.

Chicago is now 31-4 at the United Center and the win keeps them tied for first place in the Eastern Conference after the Boston Celtics 96-86 victory over the New York Knicks.

WATCH: Derrick Rose makes a poster

Eight players scored in double figures for the Bulls, including all five starters with Derrick Rose leading the way with 18 points and 8 assists. Luol Deng contributed 17 and Carlos Boozer scored 16 points in his return after missing the last five games recovering from a sprained left ankle.

Korver knows Bulls are tough to guard

I think we came out and did what we were supposed to do," said Rose. "In the beginning, we werent playing defense like were supposed to and we just got things rolling. Guys were hitting shots, we were playing defense, getting a lot of steals and pushing the ball.

After holding a 34-28 lead through one quarter, the Bulls seized control of the game in the second with the bench going on a 15-6 run in a period that saw the Bulls outscore their opponents 30-19 and take a 64-47 lead going into halftime.

It would be more of the same in the second half as the Bulls lead climbed over 20 and with a comfortable margin of 98-72 after the third, all the starters would rest in the final stanza.

The Bulls were able to convert 22 of the Kings turnovers into 35 points and accumulated an astonishing 16 steals and 10 blocked shots.

"I didnt like our defense in the first half," admitted Coach Tom Thibodeau. "I thought it was better in the second half. I thought we moved the ball really well and thought we played unselfishly. I thought our bench was very good.

With such a thorough beating, even the opposition had to take their hats off to an all around performance.

"Beno Udrih, at the end of the game told me 'You guys are playing great basketball,'" said Kyle Korver, who scored 18 points and went 4-for-5 from three-point range.

The Bulls hope to continue their strong play when they travel to Atlanta to face a Hawks team that probably has revenge on its mind after being embarrassed 94-76 the last time the two clubs matched up on March 11.

With a race for the top seed and with 40-point wins, the Bulls are definitely enjoying the ride.

Its fun," said Rose. I cant complain about anything right now. Were winning games, playing good basketball, the city is going crazy, and we have good fans everywhere. In every arena we play in, we have a good amount of fans there and were loving it.

NOTES

After missing the last five games, Boozer had much more bounce in his step and was very aggressive when looking for his offense, something that had become somewhat of a concern since Joakim Noah returned from injury.

WATCH: Boozer's ankle feeling good

"I was excited," said Boozer. "I hadn't played in such a long time. It's like a kid, being on punishment and you ask your mom, can I go outside and play and she says no and you're still grounded and you get a chance to go outside. That's how it felt."

He was also pleased by how his ankle held up after admitting he felt some soreness after practice on Saturday.

"I didnt have any pain or soreness," said the power forward. "It felt great. I thought we did a job rehabbing it. We didnt push it too soon, let it heal itself and today happened to be the day.

After being a game-time decision because of turf toe on his right foot, Taj Gibson warmed up and elected to play.

Gibson only scored two points, but his activity on the defensive end helped disrupt the Kings offense during his 18 minutes on the floor. He finished the game with three steals.

I just want to go out there and prove myself to my teammates," said Gibson about not sitting out for what he feels is just a bum toe.

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

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USA TODAY

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

Denzel Valentine corralled a rebound and casually dribbled up the right side of the floor, unaware of the final 5 seconds ticking off the clock in the third quarter. The second-year shooting guard moved toward the basket as the buzzer sounded, only realizing his gaffe as the red lights behind the backboard lit up. It was that kind of night for the Bulls offense, and one that highlighted carelessness, a lack of talent and obvious growing pains as the rebuild begins.

Fred Hoiberg’s group finished with more turnovers (20) than assists (18), shot 38 percent from the field and were doubled up on points in the paint in an ugly 87-77 loss to the Spurs on Saturday night. Adding to the issues were only nine free-throw attempts and 28 percent shooting from deep on a night where the Bulls played well enough defensively to earn a win.

But they couldn’t take advantage of a Spurs team playing without Kawhi Leonard. The ball stopped for long periods of time in the halfcourt, the fast break was non-existent and miscommunications were frequent, even when they didn’t result in one of those 20 turnovers.

“We had 20 turnovers that led to 23 points…that’s what kills you,” Hoiberg said. “A team goes on a run and they get easy ones, pick-sixes, you’re all of a sudden in a big hole. And obviously did not shoot the ball well today.”

The struggles came from across the board. Only Cris Felicio was turnover-less of the nine Bulls who played. The backcourt tandem of Jerian Grant and Justin Holiday combined for 11 of 32 shooting. Rookie Lauri Markkanen showed flashes with eight first-half points, but finished 5 of 14 and committed three ugly turnovers. Robin Lopez made the first 3-pointer of his career 630 games in, but a 29-year-old leading the way for a young rebuilding group could be deemed bittersweet at best.

It capped off a whirlwind first week for the Bulls, who dealt on the fly with the fallout of the altercation between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis. Losing Mirotic and Portis hurt from a talent standpoint, but it also threw a wrench into Hoiberg’s rotation and scheme. It thrust 20-year-old Markkanen into the starting lineup; Paul Zipser has shifted to playing more power forward (while also starting at small forward); Lopez is being asked to score more than ever, and at times be the primary option.

“With everything we’ve had going on the past week, with playing guys different positions that they haven’t played yet,” Hoiberg said, “we’re still trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to go out there and play. We’re getting stuck at times because guys are in the wrong spots.”

The Bulls opened Saturday night with a solid first quarter, scoring 21 points, assisting on nine of 12 baskets and committing just three turnovers.

The final three quarters couldn’t have been more different. The second unit again struggled like it did in allowing the Raptors a 20-2 second-quarter run on Tuesday. Even without Leonard the Spurs’ defensive length cut off passing and driving lanes, forcing the Bulls to dribble down the shot clock and turn to isolation basketball or contested 3-pointers.

The Spurs couldn’t pull away thanks to an inspired defensive effort by the Bulls, but the offensive stalling rendered it moot; the Bulls took 28 3-pointers and 37 shots in the paint, an ugly ratio when considering the nine free-throw attempts. The bench shot 7-for-19, but most of that came in garbage time.

“One thing we definitely need to work on is attacking the basket,” Lopez said. “I think there are times where we all get a little jumper-happy on the perimeter. I think we need to have a good balance.

We need to be aware of that. We’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of room for error so any time we concede the ball like that, we don’t get up a shot attempt, tat’s going to really hurt us.”

Kris Dunn may be closer than expected to returning to the lineup after dislocating his finger in the preseason. It would give the Bulls help on that dismayed second unit, knocking Kay Felder (3 turnovers in 15 minutes) out of the rotation. Once Mirotic and Portis return in November, Hoiberg will have more flexibility with his rotations as well as some insurance if frontcourt foul trouble arrives.

None are go-to scorers, and not even Zach LaVine's 19.8 points per game last season will save the Bulls once he's healthy. Season-long struggles like Saturday night are on the way for a young team searching for pieces of the future. That's expected, and in the long term it benefits them as more Lottery balls roll toward Chicago.

But in a season in which success will be judged not on wins and losses but improvement from game-to-game, but the Bulls have set the bar low in the season's first week.