Bulls

Rose, Bulls grind out win over Hornets

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Rose, Bulls grind out win over Hornets

Monday, March 7, 2011
Posted: 9:26 p.m. Updated: 11:43 p.m.

By Chris Cason
CSNChicago.com contributor

One day after an emotional win over the Miami Heat, the Bulls defeated the New Orleans Hornets 85-77, winning their ninth-straight at home and improving to 27-4 at the United Center.

Derrick Rose scored 24 points and handed out nine assists and Carlos Boozer finished with 19 points to go along with nine rebounds.

Both teams were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and make up two of the top three teams in the league in opponents points allowed. Adding to that, the Hornets were without All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who sat out after suffering a concussion in the Hornets Monday night win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were also without starting forward Trevor Ariza, who sat out his third-straight game due to a sore groin.

Even with New Orleans being short-handed, they managed to keep the game at a pace where they were comfortable. Chicago built up a six-point lead in the first half, only for the Hornets to come back and tie the game at 43 going into halftime.

The Bulls seemed poised to break away from the Hornets in the third quarter after holding them to 4-of-18 shooting from the field, but as has been the case in Chicagos previous three contest, the game came down to the final few minutes.

The Bulls built a 77-71 lead with under five minutes remaining in the fourth but the Hornets went on a 6-0 run to tie the score with 3:18 left. After a Chicago timeout, Rose was denied at the rim but Joakim Noah (6 points, 13 rebounds) regained possession and lais the ball in while being fouled.

Noah missed the free throw, but the Hornets werent able to convert on their final seven possessions and Chicago drained its free throws to seal the deal.

A good team finds different ways to win, so you have to be able to win with a low-pace and it was a grind-it-out-game," said Tom Thibodeau about both teams shooting under 40 percent for the game. Both teams are playing really good defense so youre going deep into the clock and sometimes, you can score more and you can win that way. The big thing is when its not going well offensively, you have to be able to count on your defense and rebounding and I thought the fact that were able to keep our turnovers down was big for us.

Chicago only had a slight advantage in the rebounding category, 46-41, but managed to keep its turnovers down to nine and was able to move the ball extremely well (24 assists on 31 made field goals) against some pesky defense from New Orleans.

I thought we did a great job on David West, said Boozer about holding the Hornets' power forward to 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field. With Chris Paul being out tonight, we knew they were going to get the ball to him a lot. Our defense was phenomenal and thats why we won.

This was the fifth time in the last six games that the Bulls have scored under 90 points, with the only loss coming in a 83-80 loss against the Hawks last Wednesday. They have held seven straight opponents under 90 points, including three at under 77 and are 6-1 in that span. They also improved to 9-3 in games in which they dont score 90 or more points, which is a positive heading into the final weeks of the season.

They're the most complete team in the NBA right now, said Hornets coach Monty Williams before the game. Their starters can play inside-out, they can shoot, they have great point guard play, a post option, can play pick-and-roll, their bench comes in and does the same.

They can play in transition and play small. They can make you change what you want to do. All their role guys know their spots, to me, thats a complete team.

All they do is win

Boozer came into Mondays game averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds since the return of Noah to the lineup on Feb. 23. He finished with 24 points in one game, a 118-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors, but since that time, his offense has taken quite a dip in production.

Its no secret that teams do their best to keep the ball out of Roses hands as much as possible, but Boozer is also starting to see more attention defensively.

We have to continue to search him out more," said Thibodeau. "Defenses are digging down on him and we still have to get the re-post. We have to give him that second look when he kicks it out, so he can catch it close to the basket. Post-depth is so important, particularly when a team digs well or they double team.

Even with his numbers declining, the Bulls' defense has picked up as the number of possessions per game have declined and the team has won six out of eight games since Noahs return.

Its good, though, said Boozer about his numbers being down. We talk about it all the time with Rose because he gets doubled every game. Its easy basketball once they put two on the ball or they give attention to one or two guys, somebody else is going to be open, so we look for that.

Thats going to happen. If defenses give us a lot of attention, were going to make the right play for our team even if it doesnt lead to the assists, it may lead to the assists by the next person making the right play. Thats part of the game. If its two guys on you, somebodys open, you just have to find them.

Dengs play has picked up since Noahs return as he has benefited from the increased attention on Rose and Boozer and he was averaging 20 points per game coming into Mondays meeting with New Orleans at just under 50 percent shooting from the field.

Were a deep team, said Luol Deng. A lot of times we go out there in the first quarter..., most of the time were just trying to figure out what the defense is trying to do. Ive grown a lot as a player where I see what teams are trying to do and if theyre doubling on Boozer or paying a lot of attention to him, I just try and be more aggressive. If I come out and defenses are not focused on Boozer or Rose, I have to let those guys get going because most of the nights, they are going to carry us offensively.

The Bulls have sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference and have their eyes set on the number 1 seed going into the playoffs. With that said, as long as the wins keep coming, the team could care less about whos averaging what.

We win, said Boozer. Who cares about stats. All I want to do is win, the rest of it will take care of itself.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.