Bulls

Tag-team: Boozer, Rose too much for 'Wolves

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Tag-team: Boozer, Rose too much for 'Wolves

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Posted: 10:06 p.m. Updated: 10:58 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

MINNEAPOLISA trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes is apparently a temporary cure the for slow starts, as the Bulls (54-20) remedied their sluggish beginnings to games as of late and then maintained enough intensity to cruise to a 108-91 laugher over the lowly Timberwolves (17-58) Wednesday night at the Target Center. Led by strong performances from All-Star point guard Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer, the Bulls cruised to an easy victory, increasing their first-place Eastern Conference lead.

Even without the energetic Joakim Noahthe center missed the game with a sprained right ankle after missing the teams morning shootaround, then testing the injury in pregame warmupsthe Bulls got off to a much-improved start to the game, as Rose (23 points, 10 assists) scored Chicagos first six points, en route to an early 15-8 lead over the home team. Additionally, both the post duo of Boozer (24 points, 14 rebounds) and Kurt Thomasthe latter started in Noahs place and had his deadly mid-range jumper working, while Boozer mostly finished around the rim and was a rebounding forcehad it going early, enabling the visitors to increase their lead.

Carlos was very aggressive, praised Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. That set the tone and allowed us to play inside-out. He was great on the boards.

Kurt did a good job stepping in and starting, he continued. Thomas was terrific. When he has stepped in previously, he has anchored our defense and played well.

The Bulls played tough defense on their young opponents, won the battle of the boards and shared the ball on offense, all major tenets of Thibodeaus scheme. It was the focused scoring and playmaking efforts of Rose (13 first-quarter points, to go with five assists), however, that was main component in the Bulls 30-19 advantage through one quarter of play.

We went back and watched the tape of the last few games that we played, and we had bad first quarters. We talked about it in practice yesterday, we talked about it at practice this morning, observed Boozer. Its on the starting team to get our guys going and I thought we did a better job.

We played off Poohwe played off D. Roseand let him get busy. We made the secondary passes and we made plays from there. We did a better job spreading the floor and the spacing seemed better tonight. We did a good job of trying to hit the open man, he continued. We did a good rebounding, we did a good job sharing the ball, we did a good job playing D.

Added Rose: We came out, jumped on them, kept the lead for the whole game and kept it going tonight.

We looked at film. We knew that the ball was stopping. Tonight, we just made sure that we made the right passes, guys took the right shots and the game is going to tell you what to do.

Chicagos Bench Mob maintained the teams double-digit winning margin in the second period through balanced play and a continuance of the stout defense from the games outset. Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the contest by the quarters midway point and while they werent clicking on all cylinders offensively, Minnesotas own scoring struggles kept the Windy City crew ahead comfortably.

Our bench play was very good. C.J., Ronnie Brewer, Taj, all had good energy, said Thibodeau. Our bench has done a very good job for us all year. The more we play them, the more rest for our starters. That's always good. We have a lot of confidence in them. Every time we have an injury, the guys who step in are always ready.

We count on everybody.

While Boozer was effective as both a scorer and rebounder down low, the Bulls faced a lack of able bodies in the postThomas and rookie Omer Asik each picked up three first-half fouls, depleting an already Noah-less frontlinebut the Bulls depth accounted for it, as Taj Gibson capably filled in; the second-year USC products diving hustle play led to a particularly disappointing sequence for the home crowd. Following a Kyle Korver jumper at the halftime buzzer, the Bulls took a 57-44 lead into the break.

Defense was the name of the game after the intermission, as the Bulls length inside either dissuaded or denied Timberwolves attempts on the interior and coupled with a steady diet of Boozer on the other end, helped Chicago gradually build a bigger cushion, with Roses passing ability serving as an offensive catalyst. Boozer dominated his Minnesota counterparts with a combination of solid work on the glass, mid-range jumpers, proficient finishing and intelligent passing, exploiting the inexperience of his foes.

The last two days Carlos has practiced really well. I think he's starting to get healthier, said Thibodeau. When he's healthy and he's practicing hard, he's going to play well. He's proven that. We just need to keep building him as we move forward.

Chimed in Rose: Hes playing more aggressive. He changed the game totally with defenders having to double team. You can throw the ball into him in the post. When people double team him, it opens up almost everything on the court.
Luol Deng (13 points, five rebounds, five assists) also got into the scoring act and despite the efforts of third-year forwards Michael Beasley (12 points) and All-Star Kevin Love (16 points, nine rebounds), the Bulls remained in firm control of the contest, creating a gap of over 20 points between the two combatants. Heading into the final frame, the Bulls led, 86-66.

Thibodeau, a basketball purist even in the face of an ever-ballooning lead, called timeout following a Bulls turnover and uncontested fast-break dunk by Timberwolves forward Anthony Randolph (12 points), just 59 seconds into the fourth quarter. His team responded to their coachs displeasure by buckling down defensively, increasing their effort and pushing the tempo, which is logical, given the fresh legs of the Bulls second unit.

Thibs is not going to let you off the hook for anything, said Rose. Hes always going to yell, call timeouts, all that stuff. But were looking at the bigger picture.

Even Thibodeau, who is seemingly never sure of a win until the final horn sounds, tacitly acknowledged the blowout by not playing Rose or Boozer one minute in the fourth quarter and pulling Deng early in the period. Backup point guard C.J. Watson (13 points, three assists) was the catalyst for the reservesdespite high-energy play from Randolph and fellow backup forward Anthony Tolliver (14 points) on Minnesotas endand though Thibodeau again halted the action midway through the period to express his displeasure, his troops did enough to ensure the Timberwolves never even sniffed striking distance the rest of the way.

The ball was hopping from the start, the extra pass made a big difference, our rebounding was terrific and overall, our defense was good until the fourth. We had good balance to our game, said Thibodeau. It started yesterday. I thought our shootaround was intense and serious. Our locker room was serious and the start of the game was serious. I thought we established a defensive mindset and that got us going. It made us aggressive.

Boozer chimed in: We want to be a 48-minute team. We dont want to be a team that plays for two quarters or three quarters. We want to be a team that can compete for four quarters. Tonight was better, but we still have to make improvement in that area as a group.

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.

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

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ESPN

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

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.