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Vengeful Bulls crush Knicks, share best record

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Vengeful Bulls crush Knicks, share best record

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 9:49 p.m. Updated: 11:25 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
NEW YORK Vengeance is the Bulls, after Tuesday evenings 103-90 thrashing of the Knicks in Madison Square Garden . The win gave Chicago a victory over every team in the NBA this season. A 26-2 run to start the second half blew away New York in a game that featured a series of highlight-reel dunks from Derrick Rose and returns to the Bulls ownership of the backboardsled by Carlos Boozers yeomans effortand Joakim Noahs high-activity level, respectively.

New York s run-and-gun, freewheeling style of play set the tone from the games outset, with new Knicks Carmelo Anthony (21 points) and Chauncey Billups (10 points, eight assists) the prime beneficiary and benefactors early. Mike DAntonis team spread the floor on its' guests and looked to push the tempo, resulting in the Bulls having to stay on their toes defensively, especially in transition.
Watch: Thibodeau on defending Anthony and Billups

With Billups and Anthony, it puts a lot of pressure on your defenseyou have to have clean pick-and-roll coveragesand then the way they shoot the three, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. If you dont have a multiple-effort mentality against them, youre going to give up open looks at the three-point line, and if they start making, it could be a long night for you.

With All-Star power forward Amare Stoudemire out of the Knicks lineup, Thibodeau looked to Boozer (14 points, 22 rebounds) to use his blend of bulk and skill to score in the low post, and he responded with an eight-point, nine rebound quarter.

Thats the way that he plays. If it wasnt for some bunnies missed layups, he would have had 30 points tonight, said Rose. We were just trying to work inside-out.

Added Thibodeau: His rebounding was off the charts.

He and Derrick are doing a great job with that, he continued. Derrick making the play to Carlos, and then Carlos making the simple play to get us the open shot.

His partner inside, Noah (13 points), made a solid initial showing in his hometown, playing with the gusto and underrated skill that made him so effective when healthy.

Still, although Rose (26 points) put his MVP-worthy skills on display for the Madison Garden crowda jaw-dropping windmill finish of an alley-oop in transition certainly will be on his season highlight reelthe visitors trailed, 27-24, after the opening period.

New York (42-39) extended its lead behind its second unit, which outplayed the Bulls Bench Mob, beating them to the punch for loose balls and taking advantage of transition scoring opportunities.

Adjustments via Thibodeau and a 20-second timeoutand a significant increase in energybrought the Bulls back, as Luol Deng (23 points, 10 rebounds) carried the offensive loadthe heavily-used small forward played extended minutes, due to the Bulls losing swingman Ronnie Brewer to a sprained thumbwith C.J. Watson also contributing, putting the Knicks on their heels.

Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the suddenly close-knit affair and with his starterssans shooting guard Keith Boganssharing the scoring load almost evenly, Chicago (61-20) found its groove against the offensively-potent home team. But even with another Rose postera vicious two-handed flush on the baselinethrilling the Garden audience, the Bulls went into the half on the wrong side of a 55-52 score.

After a Bogans basket to start the third quarter, Rose went on an individual spurt to cap an 9-0 Bulls runincluding a technical foul on New Yorks Shawne Williamsprompting a Knicks timeout. Deng then stepped into his role of co-starNoah might be the second-most popular Bull and Boozer the next most-accomplished (both after Rose, of course), but Deng has been the second-most valuable player all seasontaking a charge on Anthony and scoring three baskets before a Bogans triple from the corner made the befuddled home team press pause on the growing snowball.

It didnt stop there, as the visitors eventually extended the run to 26-2, giving themselves a comfortable advantage, mostly by virtue of their swarming defense leading to easy fast-break scoresincluding yet another Rose poster-worthy dunk, this one an unchallenged double-pump reverseand crisp offensive execution in the halfcourt.

We had good energy, I thought we rebounded the ball well, so we got out into the open floor and got some easy scoring opportunities and I thought that energized us. that gave us some life, said Thibodeau. We put more into it, more effort and they missed some shots that they normally make, too. Once we started challenging shots, it got better. Our pick-and-roll defense was better in the second half. But you can never relax against this team because even if you get a lead, the way they shoot the three, they can make up ground quickly.

Concurred Rose: We came out focused and we knew that in the beginning of the game, we let things kind of get easy on them. They got confidence and we just had to keep playing defense.

Watch: Rose on the Bulls' focus
We hadnt won in this building or beat this team and when we came out, we came out kind oflong pause soft, Ill say. We werent into them, we were letting guys get off, we were letting guys beat us with their strength and at halftime, Thibs came in, talked to us and we changed things, he continued. When guys are playing like that, especially the way we did in the second half, I think were a pretty hard team to beat. Weve got everything working, guys taking charges, diving on the floor for loose balls. Little things like that can change the game.

His words proved prophetic and the Bulls, as been their trend lately, got lax and while the Knicks never threatened their lead, poor ball security and a lack of defensive disciplineNew York reserve swingman Bill Walker (18 points) caught fire late in the periodprevented them from increasing it, resulting in an 84-73 lead for Chicago after three quarters.

The Knicks bench again got it going, as Walker s hot hand persisted and backup point guard Toney Douglas (13 points) joined in, reducing their deficit to single digits. The tables had turned and Chicago became the cant-do-right bunch, missing layups, turning the ball over and allowing the Knicks transition opportunities, uncontested paths to the rim and open jumpers in fits of defensive lapses.

As poorly as the Bulls played, however, their hosts didnt truly capitalize and upon Thibodeaus reinsertion of Rose and Boozer, the visitors became more stable and quickly bumped the lead back into double digits. Boozers domination of the backboards on both ends, stingy team defense and steady, if unimpressive basketball down the stretch paved the way for the Bulls to cruise to an easy victory down the stretch, despite a late Noah injury scare.

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.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.