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Rose's first triple-double elevates injured Bulls

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Rose's first triple-double elevates injured Bulls

Monday, Jan. 17, 2011
Posted 2:38 p.m. Updated 6:14 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

MEMPHIS Tom Thibodeau received an excellent birthday present Monday afternoon at the FedEx Forum. His shorthanded squad gave him a 96-84 win, most likely the only thing he wished for.

Led by Derrick Roses first career triple-double and the marksmanship of reserve sharpshooter Kyle Korver, the Bulls (28-13) cruised past the Grizzlies (19-22), without either center Joakim Noah or power forward Carlos Boozer, both starters, on an earlier-than-usual holiday matinee.

WATCH: Triple-double doesn't mean much to Rose

I thought the way we came out to start the game, we got established defensively and we were able to get into the paint a little bit off the dribble. I thought our bench played well, Luol was terrific and of course, Derrick, excellent. Great team win, said Thibodeau. Obviously wed rather be whole and healthy, but were very confident in the guys that we have.

Added Rose: We lost two great players for us Joakim and Booz we just wanted to come out and let them know it was going to be a tough game. We just played together and played defense.

Playing with an edge, knowing that its going to be tough. We played with a lot of intensity. They made their run, we held them off and we won the game, continued Rose, when asked about the teams approach while missing their top two interior players. Its no big deal. We were talking about it in the locker room: Playing with an edge. Coach put it on the board: We have to play with an edge. Knowing that were missing some key players, weve still got to go out there and hustle, and make up for missing them.

A quick start by Luol Deng (game-high 28 points, five rebounds, four assists) not to mention an unexpected contribution from light-scoring starting shooting guard Keith Bogans propelled the Bulls to an early lead over the home team.

Despite Chicago not having either Boozer or Noah in the lineup, the Grizzlies sizable frontcourt couldnt take advantage, as starting center Marc Gasol and backup Darrell Arthur each picked up a pair of fouls in quick succession, forcing raw second-year center Hasheem Thabeet into the contest before he gave way to Iranian big man Hamed Haddadi.

Rose (22 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) struggled to find his touch early, but he remained aggressive and got to the free-throw line, and with Deng sharing the offensive load, the Bulls led, 25-17, after a quarter.

Reserve sharpshooter Korver (22 points, 6-for-10 3-pointers) helped the Bulls extend their led upon entering the contest, hitting two consecutive triples hed later hit a driving bank shot, a rarity for Korver to give the visitors a comfortable double-figure winning margin.

It feels very good. It does. Its been a pretty frustrating stretch and it definitely feels good to come out here and do well, said Korver. As a shooter, you need rhythm and when you play off a guy like Derrick, who gives you space and time to get rhythm, it means everything. You dont always need that rhythm, but it helps a lot and when youve got Derrick guys are trying to double him, theyre blitzing him, theyre always worried about him and youre able to kind of swing open it means everything.

Taj Gibson (10 points, seven rebounds, career-high six blocks) told CSNChicago.com, This team didnt get to him as fast as most teams did in the past, so theyre going to watch film and regret that because Kyle can really shoot the ball.

Thibodeau chimed in: Korver has had a number of shots in the last few games go in and out on him, and even when hes not shooting well, he still helps us because he spaces the floor for us. Nobody leaves him, so it gives Carlos more room in the post, gives Derrick more room off the dribble and he helps everybody.

Korver acknowledged that his clutch 3-pointer in the Bulls win Saturday over the Miami Heat helped his confidence.

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Its hard to say that it didnt because I shot terrible for a month and then you have a decent game. Ive felt good the last week or so, shooting the ball in practice. I just havent gotten good looks in games, he explained. Sometimes you just have to see the ball go in and it was nice to hit the first couple shots tonight.

Said Rose: If that shot didnt get him going, I didnt know what will. He has a lot of confidence in his jump shottonight he came out huge.

Despite a late second-quarter push from the home team, Chicago went into halftime with a 53-42 advantage.

Led by Zach Randolph's (team-high 21 points, 13 rebounds) interior scoring and offensive rebounding, Memphis started the second half in strong fashion, but the individual stylings of Rose in a semi-homecoming, as he spent his lone season of college playing home games at the FedEx Forum gave the Bulls a major boost and once again put a wide distance between them and the home team.

Deng was also a major contributor, showing his effectiveness in pick-and-roll situations with Rose and locking down small-forward counterpart Rudy Gay on the defensive end of the floor.

Really our defense is a team defense. Im just sticking to our game plan. Those guys can shoot the ball, Im really sticking to their body, but the help is really there. Guys are just in the right places and our game plan on Rudy really worked for us, said Deng. When Carlos was out, thats Deng as the screener in pick-and-rolls with Rose what we were doing and I knew Coach was going to back to thatI knew there were going to be a lot more pick-and-rolls and weve been there before, so with the adjustment, we did a good job.

Added Thibodeau: The thing about Luol is hes so solid. Rudy Gay is a great player. He got some good looks that he normally makes and I think Luol played him well. The thing that Luol does so well is hes going to make a guy work and as long as hes on the body and hes challenging the shot and the team defense is there to help and support, guys can score, but you want them to do it on volume shots and tonight, we were fortunate.

Rose chimed in: Deng and Gay always have a battle like that. Both of them are good athletes, play hard especially when they play against each other we just made sure that we keyed in on Rudy, making sure that all his shots and all his drives were contested.

With Gay shut down, Grizzlies reserve shooting guard O.J. Mayo (15 points) the subject of some Bulls fans affections sparked Memphis early in the final stanza, as the home team scored the first eight points of the period, leading to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau calling a timeout to stop the bleeding.

Chicago finally found the mark offensively, but Mayos hot hand didnt go away and Memphis chipped away at its deficit, making it a single-digit contest for the first time since the second quarter.

As the games stretch run approached, Roses scintillating drives to the rim, as usual, were important to the team rebuffing the Grizzlies advances, with Korvers marksmanship, Dengs versatile offensive game and timely shooting and solid defense from the post tandem of Kurt Thomas and Gibson factoring in.

Of his approach, Gibson told CSNChicago.com, Just bring energy Im a high-energy player just bring energy, contest shots, rebound and just play really aggressive, and I just brought that tonight.

It just showed that we can beat anybody any given night, as long as we play our style of basketball, play hard and theres a lot of players capable of playing, he continued. If you look at our bench, everyone on our bench has had a big-time starting role at one point in his career. Weve just got a lot of guys ready to step up when they have an opportunity to play.

Deng also credited the teams depth.

Even when Jo is out and Carlos is out and now theyre out at the same time, we feel like we have enough guys. I thought Taj was great tonight. His defense was good. Kurt has been playing great for us. We have guys who can step up as soon as they get the opportunity, he said. Its good to see Kyle shooting the ball that well and guys coming in like Taj is stepping up I think its just good for the team as we go on forward and we have everyone back, guys will have the confidence when you go in there.

Added Korver: It says were a really deep team. We can do this here and there; we couldnt do this all season long. Taj played his heart out tonight. He played so hard. Kurt, same thing. Those two guys really set the tone for us on defense. Thats where it all started.

Chicago cruised in the games waning moments and with the only thing left to accomplish was Rose notching his first career triple-double, the All-Star point guard grabbed his 10th rebound of the contest on the games final possession, corralling a Gibson miss after Thomas kept the ball alive.

It feels the same, said Rose, who previously expressed skepticism that hed achieve the feat anytime soon. A win is a win, no matter how my stats are. Im just happy that we got the win without some of the key players on this team.

Not at all. I was too caught up in the game, he continued, when asked if he was aware that he was close to getting a triple-double late in the game. My whole concern was trying to stop them, so that led to a triple-double, I guess.

Thibodeau was just as matter-of-fact when discussing it.

Obviously the scoring is there all the time and the assists are usually there, and Ive said this all along: I think hes made much more of a concerted effort to rebound the ball, so now when you add the rebounding component, thats where I think the triple-doubles will come, he explained. The better he rebounds the ball, the more well be able to get out into the open floor and get some easy transition scores. I think those fast breaks, the ones in which he rebounds and busts out with the ball, theyre impossible to stop

Gibson told CSNChicago.com, Rose just played the way he normally playshe came out aggressive leading the charge. It was a great win for us and a great thing for him.

Rose indicated his comfort level with the arena helped with his performance.

I played 20-something games on that court and kind of know everything about it, where you should shoot the ball. Tonight I didnt shoot the ball that well, but tonight everybody else was shooting the ball well. Just being back on this court felt good, said Rose. Just to be back here, be around the city brings back a lot of memories, but this time, we came here for business and we wanted to win this game.

Business as usual indeed, with the added bonus of pleasing the birthday boy, Thibodeau. Forget a cake, a defensive-oriented victory while facing adversity is enough for him.

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.

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.