Bulls

Unconcerned with style, Bulls look to go up 3-0

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Unconcerned with style, Bulls look to go up 3-0

Thursday, April 21, 2011Posted: 12:35 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLISThe mood in the visiting locker room at Conseco Fieldhouse was one of weariness. After three off days between Games 2 and 3 of their first-round series, the Bulls were sick and tired.

Not literally, of course, but of the same general tone of reporters questions. To paraphrase the overall content: How come you havent dominated the Pacers?

Were not worried about that. We have our own belief. If we win the game, we win, said a testy Carlos Boozer before the teams Thursday morning shootaround. Obviously we want to play better, but at the end of the day, were up 2-0 and were looking forward to Game 3.

Added Joakim Noah: Ive never been up 2-0 in a playoff series in my lifeso, letdownI wouldnt call that a letdown at all. I understand that theres high expectations for this team, but at the end of the day, were up 2-0 and we have areas we can improve in, and we can do that and thats whats so exciting. We know that we can get better.

READ: Pacers' Collison a game-time decision

Were the No. 1 seed, but were still hunting. Weve never been in this position before, so I think it doesnt matter. I dont think anybodys lost their hunger because were a No. 1 seed, he continued. I feel like when you lose that hunger, youre never going to be in the hunt for a title. You dont make it far without hunger. You have to be a hungry group, regardless of the cards that are given.

The opinion of others doesnt matter. Its just people. Its just stories being written. At the end of the day, we understand what we need to do and we understand that were not playing our best basketball and the only thing that matters is what we think in this locker room. Theres a lot of speculation and things that are said, but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what we think of each other and going out there and winning ballgames.

Now, nobodys truly doubting that the Bulls will conquer Indianaexcept the bold young Pacersbut the manner in which theyve performed thus far in the series doesnt exactly inspire confidence, let alone championship hopes.

The so-called issues that have emerged for the Bullsa lack of a second scoring option, a mild downturn on defense, inconsistent play from the post tandem of Noah and Boozer and less productivity from the second unitare certainly problematic for the time being, but observers dont seem to be taking into account that maybe the Pacers are actually better than their losing regular-season record indicates.

WATCH: Leaning big on Rose? Bulls shrug off criticism

To me, its crazy because if you look at all the other teams and I keep saying, Indianas a good team. I think people are not giving them respect because theyre the eighth seed, but I think people forget that a couple years ago, when we were the eighth seed, we took Boston to Game 7. Teams get better as the year goes on, just because a lot goes into the season. They could be a great seven-game team and not a great 82-game team. Its sometimes focus. A lot goes into that, Luol Deng told CSNChicago.com. Defensively, theyre making us work. A lot of teams, we stop their first option and theyre gone. This team is going into their third, fourth option and you cant ask for more.

Theyre looking to shock the world and let everyone know, but I think theyve showed us enough. Theyve showed everyone enough that they could play with us and theyve earned our respect, he went on to say. A lot of other teams could have lost those games or one of those games and I really think that even though people arent happy with the way were winning, I just want to win. I really dont care how it comes, buzzer-beater or whatever, at the end of the day, as long as I go home with the win, thats all that matters.

Earlier in the season, even when expectations for the Bulls werent as high, there was grumbling about the closeness of contests against supposedly inferior competition and it seemed that their blue-collar style wasnt fully appreciated. As the squad continued to win games, improve and go on to secure the best record in the league, that talk ceased.

Maybe its time to take a trip down memory lane. Better yet, pay closer attention to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, the ultimate pragmatist.

READ: Deng all about defense against Pacers

Each game is important and if you start looking at all the other things, thats where you lose your focus. The way we approach it is we just concentrate on exactly whats in front of us. Theyre a hard-playing team, they had to play well and hard down the stretch to get in and Im expecting a tough game tonight, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose streamlined approach has filtered into the subconscious of his players. This is the playoffs. If you study whats going on in the playoffs and you study whats gone on in the past few years, this is not uncommon. Teams are good. Theres going to be tight games, theres going to be tough situations. You have to endure through everything.

You look at last year. The Lakers had a tough first-round series and they ended up winning the championship. I know in 08 with the Celtics, we had a tough first-round series, so thats all part of it. You have to be able to get through those things, he continued. Im just concerned with winning. Others may be more concerned with aesthetics. Im concerned with winning. As long as we win and we learn, and we correct and we improve, thats all I want us concentrating on.

There you have it. Keep worrying about the nature of the Bulls wins, while they remain concerned about the final result.

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.

Zach LaVine's conditioning at '70 percent' but still on schedule

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USA TODAY

Zach LaVine's conditioning at '70 percent' but still on schedule

Everybody saw the play, that awkward instance where Zach LaVine looked ready for his second dunk of the season but was fouled from behind by Atlanta’s Taurean Prince.

It looked as if LaVine was ready for liftoff but one of his jets misfired, sparking at least the thought of his recovery from his ACL injury being a bit off—but he laughed at the thought.

“I don’t know why everybody keeps talking about it,” LaVine said Sunday at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, where the Bulls held practice. “The dude stepped on the back of my foot, so I couldn’t get off the ground. Everybody’s wondering if I’m okay, yeah. I just missed a fouled layup.”

The adrenaline from his first two games have worn off a bit, and he missed his first four shots from the field Saturday before hitting a couple in the start of the third quarter in the Bulls’ 113-97 win over the Hawks.

He looked winded a few times during his stint and admitted his conditioning isn’t where it should be—as expected given he’s missed 11 months of real basketball. He said his conditioning is at about “70 percent”, and you can certainly see it in his jump shot not being as fluid as it was last season in Minnesota.

“It was feeling good in practice but in games it’s seventy,” LaVine said. “Playing defense, getting back, running the break, just getting used to it.”

Add to it, the Bulls cover the most halfcourt ground of any team in the NBA with their set offense and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has long said he’s not slowing down his offense while LaVine is in.

The shooting guard will have to catch up to the pace, and it’ll probably be better for him in the long run.

“I think it’s just ‘okay’ and rightfully so,” said Hoiberg about LaVine’s conditioning. “It’s impossible to simulate game action in practices when you’re doing individual workouts. Every time he plays that conditioning will ramp up. As he plays, it’ll get better and better. And he’s such a good and natural athlete, it’ll come back quickly.”

Hoiberg isn’t concerned about the variances in LaVine’s performances. He came out the gate with such force and adrenaline in his debut against Detroit and two days later against Miami, but it’s tailed off against Golden State and then Atlanta.

“I think Zach’s doing great,” Hoiberg said. “You look around the league where players have come back from significant injuries, he’s gonna be up and down. His first two games he’s been unbelievable. A couple games he hasn’t shot the ball great. He played unselfish basketball last night.”

LaVine’s minutes has been extended to 24 from 20, and he’ll still practice in the off-days as the Bulls want to keep his rehab on schedule as opposed to having him play heavy minutes initially.

He’ll be re-evaluated after Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia and could see his minutes rise before the Bulls host the Lakers Friday at the United Center.

“I should just get used to it,” LaVine said. “Just getting used to the swing of things. It takes a second for your body to get adjusted to it.”

Three Things to Watch: Bulls visit Pelicans

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls visit Pelicans

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Pregame Live.

1. Anthony Davis

The five-time All-Star just continues to improve. While he's not averaging career-highs in any major category, no one's going to scoff at his 26.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.1 blocks in 36 minutes per game. He's shooting nearly 56 percent from the field and is on pace for a career-best in 3-pointers made, which is a pretty impressive statistic. Lauri Markkanen will have his hands full, and it may be in the Bulls' best interest to get Nikola Mirotic some early minutes to try and get physical with Davis. There's no real way to slow him down.

2. DeMarcus Cousins

And if the Bulls should so happen to get lucky and slow down Davis, there's another All-Star starter waiting alongside him. Boogie Cousins has been every bit as good as Davis this season, averaging 25.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 36 minutes. He's certainly not as efficient as Davis (47 percent from the field, 5.0 turnovers) but is deadly inside. He's shooting a career-best 52.8 percent on 2-pointers this season, and his 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks make him a serviceable defender (although the Bulls could certainly stretch their offense to make him work more).

3. Rajon Rondo

Rondo hasn't been great in his first season with the Pellies, but perhaps he's turning things around. Beginning with his absurd 25-assist game just after Christmas, Rondo is averaging 7.4 points, 8.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game. He's allowed Jrue Holiday to play more off the ball, and while his defense is nothing to write home about he's logging solid minutes for a Pelicans team woefully short in the backcourt.