Chicago native Brown spoils Rose's show


Chicago native Brown spoils Rose's show

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010
Updated 2:41 AM

By Aggrey Sam

LOS ANGELES Its far too early in the season to call this a pivotal game, but the Bulls (7-5) ability to hang with the Lakers (13-2) throughout Tuesdays 98-91 loss yielded the premise of a team capable of matching upper-echelon competition through the first three quarters and change, that is.

A tooth-and-nail battle morphed into a case of Chicago playing catch-up late, as Los Angeles bench was the difference outscoring the Bulls reserves, 39-10 as the visitors faded late at the Staples Center.

They put a lot of pressure on us. I thought they made the right plays and they shot the three extremely well. We were closing short and theyve been shooting the three great all seasonthey got uncontested looks and they made shots, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Overall, in the first three quarters, I thought we played well. But again, to win on the road against a quality opponent, you have to play for 48 minutes and were still not there.

A hot start by the Lakers was immediately countered by the visitors, who appeared unfazed by the bright lights of the Staples Center, complete with courtside celebrities like Denzel Washington and the ever-present Jack Nicholson.

Taj Gibson (16 points, 12 rebounds) a game-time decision after suffering a foot injury in the days leading up to the game who played his college ball at nearby USC, was particularly active early, proving that his slump-busting outing against Dallas Saturday was a start of a trend and not a fluke.

Luol Deng (13 points; 11 in the first quarter and none in the second half), due for a good game after a few quiet nights, was aggressive offensively, leading to one of his subsequent hot starts.

The Bulls were aggressive in pushing the tempo early, resulting in a slim cushion over the home team, with Derrick Rose (30 points, eight assists) serving as a facilitator and Joakim Noah (19 points, 13 rebounds), while not offensive proficient initially, providing his trademark energy, playing compression shorts-tight defense on Lakers big man Pau Gasol (12 points, 11 rebounds), creating for others as a playmaker and being a factor on the backboards.

Meanwhile, the Lakers were sparked by who else? superstar Kobe Bryant (20 points), who carried the offensive load for the two-time defending champions while his running mates found their collective stride, although the versatile Lamar Odom (21 points, eight rebounds) would make more of an impact as time went on.

Following a Shannon Brown (21 points) triple with 0.4 seconds to go in the opening period, things were tied at 26 apiece.

Brown, a reserve guard and Chicago native, put his stamp on the game in the second quarter, but for the most part, the Bulls reserves held serve against their Lakers counterparts, although the visitors would face a light deficit.

"All I know is my teammates got me the ball in a position where I can help the team win and I knocked down shots for them," said Brown, who attended Proviso East High School -- the alma mater of former NBA players Michael Finley and Doc Rivers, the Boston Celtics coach -- in Maywood, Ill., in Chicago's western suburbs. "I dont know if they were prepared or what, but I know Dec. 10 or whatever the case is, however it goes, theyre going to be prepared and they played great today."

We knew going in he Brown was playing at a very high level. Youre concerned with him in transition, but youre concerned with the way hes cutting right now and you cant go under on screens, and youve got to stay on his body and you also cant allow him any spot-up threes, said Thibodeau. Hes shooting the ball right now with a lot of confidence; you can see it when hes raising up.

Concurred Rose: Hes shooting the ball well this year, got a lot of confidence, doing great for them, but we should have made him a driver.

Upon Roses re-entry into the contest, the All-Star point guard took a more aggressive approach, putting pressure on the defense with quick jaunts to the rim.

Despite Browns continued surprise offensive output (18 first-half points), the game remained a tight-knit affair, mostly due to Noahs dominance on the glass, his tag-team partner Gibsons quiet efficiency and Roses offensive presence.

The Lakers wouldnt make it easy with their active hands and solid shot-blocking defensively, and Chicago was down by a pair, 51-49, at the break.

Keeping in line with their habit of slow third-quarter starts, the Bulls were on the wrong end of an 8-0 run to start the second half.

We tried to make (Gasol's) catches hard, we tried to make him work and also, he missed some shots he normally makes, but again, I think the way they run their offense its not a one-dimensional offense they move the ball, they have Kobe off the dribble and they have Pau inside. It forces your defense to collapse, explained Thibodeau. I think they took 25 threes, so youre pulling people in when the ball does go in and when Kobes isolated, youre committing help to him, as well.

A cold-shooting performance was partially offset by Noahs efforts on the offensive glass, as well as Roses scoring efforts, which allowed the visitors to slice into the deficit.

The contest evolved into a virtual tte--tte between Rose and Bryant, with the respective superstars going bucket for bucket the youngster actually took the upper hand as the quarter went on although the contributions of Odom and Noah were also major factors. Chicago battled back to trail by a lone point, 74-73, heading into the final stanza.

The Bulls remained in close contact in the fourth quarter, with Browns continued heroics and Odoms all-around play spurring the Lakers, although surviving a stretch without Rose and Noah proved to be key for Chicago.

The Lakers, however, got timely plays from reserves outside of Brown such as swingman Matt Barnes (10 points), backup point guard Steve Blake and rookie bruiser Derrick Caracter aiding the home team in slightly widening their winning margin.

I think they Brown, Barnes and Blake add a lot to the team. Experience, shooting and they have quality backups at all their perimeter positions now, said Thibodeau. All three are very good defenders. I think that sometimes gets overlooked.

Of course, everybody in the league knows their bench is like a transition team, added Rose. They get out in the open court, trot ahead, shoot a lot of threes and they were hitting them tonight.

Theyve got a great team. Theyre a deep team. They went small tonight, they had a lot of shooters out there and we didnt do enough job of closing outtheyve got some guys who werent really known as great shooters shooting some high percentages, Kyle Korver chimed in. Theyre a tough team. Youve got to give them credit. Nights when you dont focus on Kobe or Gasol, they obviously go off. Those guys have been shooting the ball well all year. Its not like its the first night those guys have hit shots. Your natural tendency is to sink in and weve talked the last few days about sinking in and clogging the paint, but youve also got to chase them off the 3-point line. Most of them werent wide open, but weve got to jump with them and make them take a couple dribbles, and we didnt do that tonight.

Suddenly, the home team would display why they are the two-time defending champions, going on an extended run with a small-ball lineup (the Lakers shot 10-for-25 behind the arc for the game) and stout defense (limiting the Bulls to 18 fourth-quarter points) to blow the game open and push their once slim lead to double figures, with the collective effort of Los Angeles second unit playing the role of catalyst.

The Bulls simply couldnt mount another late, Rose-propelled comeback, and the Lakers cruised to the home win, despite tough defense on Bryant by Deng down the stretch.

The Lakers, theyre a heck of a defensive team. Youve got to make quick decisions against them, observed Thibodeau. Youve got to move their size and when they finished the game, they were small and quick. I thought we settled sometimes, too.

Opined Rose: We were just making sure every shot that they took was contested. Everybody that played Kobe did a good job, especially Lu toward the end, making sure that he contested shots and making sure he didnt get the open looks. Their bench just did the job tonight They were hitting tough shots. They went small and a lot of players for them stepped up their game.

It kind of tells us where we are exactly. It tells you where you are and if you can compete against them and we feel like we can compete against everybody, said Noah. It was tough because youre trying to double team Kobe and trying to get the ball out of his hands, but we work on it and its something were trying to do better. I feel like defensively, we did a pretty good job, but there are still areas we have to improve on and I think thats the great thing about this team. Everybody wants to improve and everybody wants to compete with the elite teams. Were not there yet, but were pretty close.

When guys are hitting shots the way they are; those were some contested shots, as well. If you look at the way we played and the things that we can control, I feel like we didnt shoot the ball particularly well, but well see them in a couple weeks, he continued. When you play a game like that, the way we played, I feel confident that we have a chance in a couple weeks to maybe beat them at home.

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.

LeBron James' brilliance overpowers Denzel Valentine's career night for Bulls


LeBron James' brilliance overpowers Denzel Valentine's career night for Bulls

It look a little longer than perhaps LeBron James expected—or maybe not, given the recent woes from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But it happens in a flash—no matter if it is a fadeaway jumper, darting pass through multiple defenders or a swat into the third row for an unsuspecting Cameron Payne, who acted like he hadn’t seen James’ movies.

It took an almost Herculean effort from the game’s best player to put away a pesky Bulls team, 114-109 Saturday at the United Center. James was without several regulars, including Rodney Hood, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Kyle Korver—and his coach, Tyronn Lue, didn’t join the bench in the second half after getting ill.

The no-look passes, the easy drives to the basket, it’s hard to realize he’s playing in his 15th season but he’s at a level few can match, even if his team struggles to keep up.

Whatever he’s lost in athleticism, he’s gained in mastering the game and making sure it’s played at his pace.

Of course, we can quibble with his indifference to defense at times and make note of how that permeates to the rest of the team, as they let the Bulls back in way too many times.

But when you say that, it’s just as easy to see his passing makes his teams unselfish. The Cavs routinely swing the ball from a good shot to a great shot, even if it’s facilitated by James himself, as they had 25 assists on 44 field goals.

“Right now the game is effortless,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “LeBron wants to be a passer first and that’s where he was hurting us early. And then he got loose and got to the rim.”

James led them with 12 in addition to his 33 points and 13 rebounds in 39 minutes, and the Cavaliers needed every bit of his production as the Bulls emptied the reservoir with four of their five regular starters out.

“I just want to get healthy,” James said. “It’s unfamiliar territory for a lot of guys, going in and out the lineup and having six guys out…I think it was a good (road) trip for us.”

The Bulls were missing Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez for various reasons.

Denzel Valentine filled in admirably for a career night and luckily, didn’t throw a cringing behind-the-back pass to the expensive seats. Buoyed by a lax defense from the opposition, he led the Bulls with 34 points, seven rebounds and six assists, hitting eight of 11 from long range in 34 minutes.

If it wasn’t for a late foul on Jordan Clarkson when the Bulls improbably tied the game at 105 with 1:41 left, the Bulls would’ve made things very interesting. But he made contact with Clarkson in the corner and the Cavaliers took a four-point lead.

James got a steal on the next possession and hit a fadeaway to complete his night, his 15th triple-double of the season.

“As soon as I went in a little bit he threw it out there,” Valentine said of James. “And I went to close out and boom. It’s just a learning moment.”

Valentine has earned praise from Hoiberg for filling a leadership void while Lopez and Justin Holiday have taken a backseat due to the organization’s wishes to evaluate young players for the rest of the season.

In the meantime, Valentine hopes he’s proving to be a starter at this level, not just a plug-and-play role player.

“I believe I’m a starter in this league,” Valentine said. “I believe I can be an important piece of an NBA team. But whatever my role on the team is that they want me to do, the organization wants me to do, I’ll do. But personally, I believe I’m a starter and I can contribute in major ways. I just got to keep working and keep getting better.”

Whether he’s a fringe starter or valuable piece off the bench, Valentine has at least shown to develop a consistent jump shot—which in today’s game puts him as a fit on any team. Shooting 39 percent on the season means if the Bulls make him available this offseason, they will have callers.

“It just shows what I’m capable of,” Valentine said. “I believe in myself even when I’m out there playing bad. But I put the work in no matter what happens, if I’m playing well [or], if I’m playing bad.”

His fearlessness, along with Bobby Portis and Cameron Payne, pulled the Bulls back from the brink after the Cavaliers took a 17-point lead before halftime.

Sixteen of his points came in the third, sending the United Center into a frenzy despite the fact a loss would be more beneficial for the franchise considering the New York Knicks destroyed the Charlotte Hornets, paving the way for the Bulls to slide back into eighth in the lottery standings.

Payne did his best to undermine the tank, with a career-high 10 assists go to with 13 points on five of 11 shooting. Portis was solid with 15 points and 15 rebounds, but had a late dunk blocked by Jeff Green.

And combined with Antonio Blakeney getting his shots up anytime he touched the ball, including on fast breaks when the Bulls had multiple-man advantages, just enough was done to give the Cavs the necessary room to end their 13-day road trip on a high note.

“We’ve got a lot of guys in positions they haven’t been in all year,” Hoiberg said. “I thought Cam was unbelievable pushing the pace, especially early in the game.”

Green added 21 and Clarkson came off the bench to score 19. All can thank James for their night—along with a fan he threw his armband to afterward, who was left in tears.

And had the Bulls actually won this game, both James and the Bulls fans would’ve been in tears.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Should the Bulls consider Trae Young?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Should the Bulls consider Trae Young?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Vincent Goodwill, and Kendall Gill discuss the concern over Zach Lavine’s inconsistent play, plus is it smart for the Bulls to offer him a max contract? Kendall also explains why the Bulls need to be careful not to lowball Lavine, like the Hornets did with him early in his career. Plus the trio discuss the early exit for Oklahoma and Trae Young. He’s likely to be there when the Bulls make their first pick, should they take him? And Vincent shares who the consensus top 5 picks are after talking with several NBA talent evaluators.