Bulls

The Buck stops here: Bulls 'D' steps up for win

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The Buck stops here: Bulls 'D' steps up for win

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010
Posted Dec. 28, 9:27 PM Updated 12:13 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

For once, the fourth quarter wasnt the Bulls worst period of the game. Neither was the first.

Chicago (20-10) bookended a strong start and equally stout finish Tuesday evening, to knock off visiting Milwaukee (12-18), 90-77, at the United Center. It wasnt a picture-perfect performance, but in the end, the Bulls didnt permit an injury-riddled Bucks squad to challenge them down the stretch.

48 minutes thats hard, man, to play a whole NBA game like that, said Derrick Rose afterwards. I think thats what were fighting for right now, to get up to that caliber with the other teams thats great in the NBA, like the Lakers, the Bostons, just trying to get up to their level.

Preparedness to begin the game, a familiar lamentation of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, wasnt an issue against the Bucks, as Chicago scored the games first nine points.

Defended by Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut (16 rebounds, four blocked shots), Carlos Boozer (24 points, nine rebounds) was the teams early focal point, as he mixed improved explosiveness with range on his jumper.

Rose (18 points, 12 assists, six rebounds) was also assertive from the outset, displaying increased defensive awareness the All-Star point guard has addressed some of his deficiencies on that end of the floor to facilitate open-court offense, as well as the return of his 3-point stroke on his first attempt.

The early Chicago onslaught, combined with Milwaukees offensive woes the visitors hit only one of their first 11 shots was enough for Bucks head coach Scott Skiles to call a timeout midway through the opening period for adjustment purposes.

Milwaukee bounced back from its early ineptitude and rapidly closed on the Bulls, as a balanced scoring effort and solid rebounding countered the home teams hot shooting along with Boozer, Luol Deng (24 points, five rebounds) also was an effective scorer even as they had continued solid ball movement to get all five starters on the board.

With its shooting again picking up toward the end of the quarter and improved defensive and rebounding approaches Chicago held a 27-15 advantage after the first period.

With both squads second units on the floor to start the second quarter, the Bulls simply strived to maintain their relatively comfortable winning margin until Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the contest.

Milwaukee, however, buoyed by powerful backup swingman Corey Maggette (15 points), a Chicago native, chipped away at its deficit to negate the efforts of Bulls reserves C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer.

Maggette and fellow wing John Salmons (18 points), a former Bull, both attacked the rim with regularity, usually drawing a foul in the process and keeping the Bucks in close contact, while Keyon Dooling (11 points, six assists) Milwaukees only available point guard, as regular starter Brandon Jennings is injured and diminutive backup Earl Boykins served a one-game suspension for contact with an official in the teams previous outing scorched the nets from the perimeter. With turnovers and suddenly poor marksmanship key contributing factors, Chicagos downhill spiral persisted, Milwaukee surged ahead before intermission, 45-44.

Although it didnt immediately translate into a drastic difference, Chicagos improved play and intensity at the outset of the third quarter transferred the games momentum and lead back into the Bulls hands, by virtue of Roses offensive assertiveness. That initial team-wide intensity, however, waned as time went on, giving way to uncontested Bucks jaunts to the basket, second-chance opportunities and a figurative lid on the rim for the home team in the friendly confines of the United Center.

Despite Milwaukees subpar shooting percentage, the Bulls inefficiency allowed the visitors to make it a close-knit affair, subduing the home fans. An overabundance of quick perimeter jumpers without the inside-out emphasis Thibodeau preaches was the central theme of the period until late when Deng, in particular, began working for more high-quality looks but at the end of three quarters, Chicago led by a scant five-point margin, 67-62.

Luol does a lot of things for our team and sometimes they go unnoticed. His defense has been terrific all year. Even when he wasnt shooting well, I thought he was playing well, said Thibodeau of his small forwards bounce-back effort after two subpar shooting nights in the Bulls previous pair of outings. Tonight, I thought he had his energy back offensively, hes moving without the ball, he did some off the dribble, some catch-and-shoot, some in the post he scores a lot of different ways but his overall play throughout the year has been terrific.

Added Deng: It felt great. The last two games, I didnt shoot the ball great, but I felt like I was still aggressive. I just try to bring something different to the team. Theres going to be nights where I shoot like that; its not the last time. My whole mindset is as long as we win at the end of the game, just bring something to the team every time.

I really didnt do anything different. I had good looks I knocked them down my mid-range game was good and I was slashing, but I really didnt do anything different. I think as the season goes on, Im just going to learn how to play off Carlos more. Im really very familiar with Derricks game when to let Derrick be Derrick, when to cut but were still getting used to Carlos. Hes a great guy to have on the team and it takes a lot of pressure off our hands, so its just getting used to playing off him.

Chimed in Rose: As a point guard, youve got to know what plays to call just to get him going and thats what we tried to do early. He was making a lot of great shots going to the hole a lot of great layups and hes got like three or four or five calls that he can get the shot that he wants.

I look at Thibs sometimes, but other than that, I go with the flow. I know if I come down and I know that Lu is not getting enough touches 33, three-down, three-flat just to get him going.

In the final stanza the period in which the Bulls have had significant issues over their past three contests Chicago couldnt sustain its focus on either end, although Deng provided a consistent scoring threat.

Despite lacking much of a flow on the offensive end, the Bulls were able to sustain their slim cushion over the visitors, who remained cold from the field, although their surprisingly large advantage on the glass persisted, as Bogut and forwards Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Ersan Ilyasova (10 points, seven rebounds) dominated the backboards.

They were terrific defensively and the way they rebounded the ball. That was a hard-fought game. It was hard to get the ball into the paint. We had to move the ball side to side, set good screens. Theyre a tough team, tough competitors, said Thibodeau. When we got the ball moving and our players moving, it was more effective for usyou cant hold onto the ball against them. You cant dance with the ball against them. The ball has to move. As the game went on, I thought we got better at it.

Cohesiveness and efficiency on the offensive end miraculously reappeared for Chicago with reinsertion of Rose into the contest. The third-year floor generals playmaking ability permitted the likes of Boozer and sharpshooter Kyle Korver to get relatively unimpeded opportunities, transforming the Bulls tenuous lead into a double-digit advantage with the games stretch run approaching.

The home team didnt look back, with Chicago hustle plays, purpose-filled offensive possessions and defensive intensity defining Milwaukees ultimate demise to close the game out in an appropriate manner. The visitors final attempts to make a run were futile, as the Bulls cruised to an eventual triumph.

A win is a win in this league, especially when youre playing against a team like that where they dont have all their players and theyre just trying to prove a point by playing hard. Thats what they did tonight, but we put it away in the fourth quarter, said Rose. Weve just got to play hard throughout the whole game. We cant have periods of time where were not scoring the ball and our defense is lacking. Our defense should stay the same throughout the whole game and offensively, if were not doing what were supposed to do, weve got to have go-to plays.

Added Thibodeau: I liked our defense, but we had a lot of things in our favor tonight. They were playing back-to-back, Boykins suspended

Its ironic that Thibodeau, a proponent of never making excuses for defeat, would come up with reasons for the Bucks to have lost. But when youre winning gutting out wins and cruising atop your division, motivation has to come from somewhere.

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

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USA TODAY

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.