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Bulls avoid meltdown, defeat Suns in double OT

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Bulls avoid meltdown, defeat Suns in double OT

Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010
Updated 2:18 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

PHOENIX Listening to the jubilant U.S. Airways Center visitors locker room, you would think divine intervention was the reason for the Bulls thrilling 123-115 double-overtime win over the Suns.

God was on our side, I guess, opined a thoughtful Joakim Noah.

Were blessed to get this win, remarked Derrick Rose.

In reality, the higher power in the triumph was the teams chemistry.

After starting the game down 25-6 to a Phoenix squad that appeared to be reliving its 10 seconds or less contender heyday with NBA playmaker emeritus Steve Nash (14 points, 16 assists) serving as maestro and former Bull Hakim Warrick burning his old team for 23 first-half points (although he would go scoreless afterwards) the shellshocked Bulls knew they had an uphill battle to fight.

And fight they did.

Nash, hes the best pick-and-roll player in the NBA. Hes an unbelievable player and I think by switching, you make him more of a one-on-one player and take away all his little bounce passes. Hakim Warrick was really killing us in the first half until we started switching out. It worked for us tonight, said Noah, who came up with 17 points, 15 rebounds and an especially significant five assists in the absence of usual tag-team partner Taj Gibson, who was sidelined with a right ankle injury.

One thing about this team is you can really look at yourself in the mirror and say, win or lose, we make mistakes, but were giving everything weve got to try to win and thats a great feeling, Noah continued.

We just kept fighting. It wasnt going our way, but were the type of team thats grimy and were never going to stop, said Rose, who finished with a game-high 35 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists before fouling out. We can be down 20 points, 30 points we never want to be in that situation, but we were forced to be in that situation by the way that we were playing were going to come back.

We knew that we could go out there and play better. Not to say anything bad about them, but we knew we could come back on that team. We always played hard throughout the whole game, except in the beginning when we gave them the lead, and we never turned around, continued Rose, who attributed the teams sluggish start to fatigue from the back-to-back game sequence, as they lost a hard-fought contest to the Lakers the previous night on the continuation of the teams seven-game road trip.

A strong effort from the second unit sharpshooter Kyle Korver broke out of a single-game funk, rookie center Omer Asik played his usual stout interior defense and even seldom-used second-year forward James Johnson may have earned his way back into the regular rotation with his energetic effort and timely contributions propelled Chicagos gradual slicing of an initially overwhelming deficit.

When youre down like that, you just start playing free. Our second unit came in and played really hard, said Korver, who scored 24 points coming off an uncharacteristic 1-for-6 outing the previous night in Los Angeles and also contributed five rebounds and three steals. Obviously last night, some guys played a lot of minutes, it was a late night and we came out a little bit tired. The second unit came in, played well, kind of picked us up a little bit.

Despite the best efforts of Suns veterans like Grant Hill (team-high 27 points, eight rebounds), Jason Richardson (20 points, seven rebounds) and Channing Frye (16 points, seven rebounds), the Bulls made a furious comeback or two, as their initial push to make the game a single-digit contest was thwarted, leading to yet another charge prior to the games stretch run to turn the tables on Phoenix, shocking the home crowd.

The play of Rose and Luol Deng carried the Bulls offensive load late in regulation, with the former living up to his growing national profile and All-Star status by hitting two clutch free throws to match a pair of Nashs on the previous possession and send the game into its first overtime.

Coach always says hes preparing us, said Deng, who poured in 26 points and snatched 10 rebounds to break out of a slight offensive slump, of Thibodeaus foreshadowing. We practice so hard. Since Ive been in the NBA, Ive never been on a team that practices so hard and thats what prepares you for nights like this.

A back-and-forth first extra session appeared to be going the Suns way the home team was up two points and only 4.3 seconds remained, despite the Bulls owning possession of the ball out of a timeout but Noah, in the high post, would patiently find a cutting Rose backdoor for a reverse layup with just 0.1 seconds on the clock to tie the contest.

Derrick Rose reacts after fouling out in the second overtime vs. Phoenix Wednesday night. Rose scored 35 points, pulled 12 rebounds and dished out seven assists to help the Bulls earn the victory. (AP)Actually, I was supposed to run off the screen. Kyle Korver set a screen for me, but Grant Hill was playing the top side, so I just cut and I was wide open, explained Rose. Jos a good passer, Im good without the ball, he just threw me the ball and I guess I made a good layup."

That was nice, added a smiling Noah he claimed he never looked at the waning seconds on the clock when asked about the play. I think me and Derrick, were pretty good at that. Its a good play because they dont want Derrick coming over the top and getting the ball in his hands, so its all about reading the defense.

In the second and final overtime, Chicago clearly had the momentum although Rose fouling out of the game put some doubt into that theory but another pivotal play by Noah, this time a theft of Nash, the ballhandling magician, would play a major part in sealing the deal.

It was a huge win. It feels good to win right now. The thing that sucks about the league is we cant celebrate it for a week. That would have been great, to be able to celebrate a win like this for a week, offered Noah, whose youthful spirit belies his poise under pressure. Its not a week, but Ill eat some turkey tomorrow.

Things arent always going to go our way. Were going to miss shots, but its all about controlling what you can control and defense is something that you can control, and adjustments and just being aware of the play call that Coach calls when theres a minute left in the game and its tight and the whole crowd is going crazy, Noah, who said while he felt beat up physically, but 150 percent mentally, went on to say.

You get lucky sometimes, but youve got to go and look at film and clean up some things, Rose, at just 22, mature beyond his years, keenly observed. We dont want to be in this predicament again.

For now, they can just give thanks.

That would be the appropriate thing to do Thursday, wouldn't it?

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

Finding homes for Thad Young, Denzel Valentine if Bulls' season goes south

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USA Today

Finding homes for Thad Young, Denzel Valentine if Bulls' season goes south

The NBA’s Feb. 6 trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Bulls have decisions to make.

Their quandary isn’t an enviable one. With just over half of their games played, the Bulls have underwhelmed relative to preseason expectations in almost every phase. Yet, somehow, at 16-28, the playoffs are not yet an impossibility — even if the team’s current 1-17 record against teams with above-.500 records makes it seem so.

Thus, the Bulls aren’t likely headed for a big splash at the deadline. They simply aren’t yet competitive enough to risk parting with potentially valuable draft capital in pursuit of ‘one last piece’ to make a playoff push, but they’re also not quite out of it enough to sell off portions of their core, especially given how much the organization has recently invested in Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any movement at all. 

Based on how each of their seasons have played out so far, it’s fair to wonder about Thad Young and Denzel Valentine’s long-term fits with the Bulls. Young was brought in on a three year, $41 million deal in the offseason for his veteran leadership and two-way versatility, but through 43 games, he’s averaging the second-lowest minutes total of his career (22.3) and shooting more than eight points below his career field goal percentage (41.7%). Valentine started the year out of the rotation after missing all of 2018-19 with an ankle injury, then re-entered for about a month with Chandler Hutchison sidelined, but has logged three DNP-CDs in a row. He hasn’t played more than three minutes in a game since Jan. 2. 

To be clear: This is no Dewayne Dedmon scenario. Young and Valentine have remained professional through the ups and downs and no trade requests have been publicly filed (though Young has spoken about his desire for more playing time). But both also might benefit from a change of scenery and certainly have the potential to help a contender if the Bulls' season goes south.

The Clippers, as an example, have been repeatedly linked to Young, and a framework built around Moe Harkless makes as much sense as any hypothetical deal out there. Even with Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell in tow, recent reporting from Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report indicates the Clips might be on the hunt for a defensive-minded big to add to their rotation that wouldn’t sacrifice their offensive versatility. Understandable with the Lakers (with LeBron James and Anthony Davis), Nuggets (Nikola Jokic) and Jazz (Rudy Gobert) surrounding them atop the West.

(via TradeNBA)

If one or two second rounders, or a project like Jerome Robinson, in place of that first is more amicable, so be it. Harkless is a tough, switchable, solid-rebounding wing that would help the Bulls on both ends of the floor — especially if the team continues its recent endeavor into small-ball. Plus, he’s on an expiring deal. 

The two guaranteed years remaining on Young’s current contract might be a hurdle for the Bulls to clear, but if the playoff dreams melt away, it could ratchet up the motivation to move him for both sides. Young has been inconsistent this season, but perhaps a jolt of energy in a winning situation with more talent around him would be just what the doctor ordered. He certainly profiles as exactly what the Clippers could be reportedly seeking in a deal.

The Nuggets, Celtics and Miami Heat could make sense as candidates for Young’s services, too, all being contenders with need on the interior. But marrying salaries and value becomes tricky with them.

Valentine’s value league-wide is tougher to gauge, given his sporadic playing time with the Bulls. But with him set to enter restricted free agency this summer, it would behoove the Bulls to avoid potentially losing him — a former lottery pick — for nothing if his days of consistent playing time are done. 

Teams short bench scoring such as the Rockets or 76ers make a modicum of sense, and Valentines $3.3 million salary is simple enough to match:

(The Rockets could absorb Valentine’s salary using a trade exception created when they traded Brandon Knight to the Cavaliers last February)

Bring back Tyson Chandler! The second round pick would be the real haul, but if this move was made in contingency with a Young deal, Chandler slides nicely into a mentoring role for Carter and Daniel Gafford.

Not the most exciting swap (Bolden and Milton are also projects), but perhaps the Sixers (35.3% from three as a team, 17th in NBA) could use Valentine’s shotmaking (39.2% from three this season) and playmaking off the bench. Philadelphia ranks 27th in the league in bench scoring, getting only 29 points per game from their reserves. The Rockets bench is dead last with 26 points per contest.

The Bulls have eight games remaining before the deadline, beginning with the Bucks tomorrow. Three of those are against winning teams (Bucks, Pacers, Raptors), with two others (Spurs, Nets) against technically sub-.500 squads with the ability to play above that level on a given night.

That stretch is sure to, once and for all, instruct us on what to expect from this season. If it’s an unfavorable one, transactions on the fringes of the roster may begin.

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Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Forget statement games, Zach LaVine is having a statement month. 

In 10 January games, the Bulls’ 6-foot-6 messiah is the fourth-leading scorer in the NBA, averaging 30.6 points on 50% shooting (22.8 attempts). 

To borrow a word from Jim Boylen, his latest installment — 42 points on 19-for-31 shooting in a game the Bulls clawed back from down 19 in the second half to topple the Cavaliers 118-116 — was “herculean.”

“If that's not an all-star performance I don't know what is,” Boylen said. “He’s been a monster, man. He’s been a monster.”

To LaVine, there isn’t much supernatural about these types of nights; he’s been preaching his confidence and readiness to carry this team since day one. LaVine scored 21 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, and on a night he conceded his legs were a tad worn, he attempted only six 3-pointers, instead finding most of his offense in the midrange and at the rim.

“Make or break time, we're not gonna get back in the game by just playing nicely. So I'm gonna attack their body, try to make them make a call. Had some tough finishes, made some tough shots, but I take that upon myself,” LaVine said. 

“Just playing the right way,” he added of his recent torrid streak. “I expect to. I put the work in for it.”

But All-Star berths and widespread acclaim aren’t dolled out based on individual point totals, alone, regardless of how effortless LaVine’s prolificity looks at times. And LaVine knows that. Casting the 42 points aside, he also finished the night with a team-high six rebounds, five steals and three assists. He was all-encompassing. Michael Jordan is the only player in Bulls history to post a line with those minimums in a game.

His contributions to a tightly clamped Bulls defense in the fourth were note-worthy for a player that's often advertised his motivation to grow as a two-way, all-around player. And most importantly, the game ended in victory.

“He [LaVine] wants to win. And he knows in order to win you gotta do multiple things in this league and I feel like he did that tonight,” Kris Dunn said. “He was guarding today, scoring the ball, getting rebounds, getting guys involved. We need that from him.”

LaVine lauded the Bulls’ new-look closing lineup of he, Dunn, Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison and Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls ventured to switch pick-and-rolls with that lineup late, as opposed to their usual blitzing, and outscored the Cavaliers 31-14 in the final period while forcing 10 turnovers.

“We made a lot of defensive stops, we got in transition. Chandler [Hutchison] came in and made some really big plays. Kris Dunn on the defensive end was incredible,” LaVine said. “And that helped me even recently get in some passing lanes. We put it together in the fourth.”

Tonight marked LaVine’s third 40-point game of the season and tenth straight with more than 20. His 31 field goal attempts were a season-high, three more than he hoisted in his record smashing 49-point night in Charlotte. Night in, night out, the on-court production and responsibility acceptance is there. But behind the scenes, he’s ever-improving, as well.

“He's been talking in the huddles, he's been chattering, he's been locked in,” Boylen said. “He's bouncing back from maybe a poor moment or a bad stretch. He's bouncing back now, he's not playing backward at all. And that's what the great ones do.”

“I stepped into this year from the get-go using my voice more, and you know, I've never been a real vocal person but you know, when I say something I think my voice carries weight,” LaVine added.

LaVine isn’t getting ahead of himself. He called this win — however exhilarating — an “ugly” one and lamented the familiar lackluster play that dug the Bulls their 18-point halftime deficit to begin with. Miracle comebacks shouldn't be necessary to beat a now 12-30 Cavaliers team on their last game of a six-game road trip.

Still, the statements are piling up. If his overall outing wasn’t enough, LaVine offered another one to the United Center crowd after his final bucket of the evening, an and-one finish through Collin Sexton with 16 seconds remaining to put him over 40 points and the Bulls ahead by four.

What did he say?

“You want the explicit version or the PG-13?” LaVine said with a chuckle. “This my stuff.” 

Continuing to stuff stat sheets, as he has been, is going to make All-Star jurors’ lives that much more difficult.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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