Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011Posted: 10:21 PM
By Chris Cason
Fueled and focus on avoiding a season series sweep, the Bulls defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 106-94 Tuesday at the United Center.
"You just don't want anyone in this league to have your number," said Luol Deng about the focus placed on the game after having dropped their previous two meetings against Charlotte.
His play backed up those words as he led Chicago with a game-high 24 points and Derrick Rose scored 18 points and handed out 13 assists.
The weary Bobcats were on the last night of a four-games-in five-nights-stand and were coming into the game off an impressive 109-89 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.
Despite its fatigue, Charlotte was able to keep pace with Chicago, battling back from double-digit deficits three times, but their energy faded in the fourth quarter as the Bulls defense clamped down.
After a Gerald Henderson (20 points) dunk with with 11:30 remaining in the fourth, Chicago held Charlotte scoreless for nearly four minutes, before a Tom Thibodeau technical foul put them at the line to break the drought. The Bulls went on a 8-0 run during that time and the Bobcats would only get as close as eight points as Chicago had seized the momentum.
"I thought we tried to give a good effort," said Charlotte coach Paul Silas. "After playing last night, coming here, this team was waiting on us and we had beaten them twice. They had the resolve to come out and whup us and that's what they did."
Charlotte's pressing defense on Rose was particularly impressive holding him without a field goal for nearly 23 minutes -- after he scored 5 in the first quarter -- before two spectacular drives midway through the third gave the Bulls offense a kick start. Despite the trapping to keep the ball out of his hands, he was still able to find teammates for open looks.
"I liked the way Derrick played," said Thibodeau. "They were trying to get the ball out of his hands. He made some key passes and some big baskets. Sometimes you beat the press with the pass, sometimes with the dribble and sometimes with the shot. Derrick did a good job reading what the defense was doing and we had some easy offense off that"
"We were trying to blitz the pick and roll and rotate," said Silas. "We didn't rotate quickly enough. Kyle Korver (15 points, 5-5 FGMA) got some wide open looks when we said don't leave him. It was just one of those nights were it just wasn't happening for us."
If Chicago needed any extra incentive to avoid losing their third and final meeting against Charlotte, they only had to look a couple of seats down from the Bobcats bench where sat Michael Jordan next to former teammate Scottie Pippen.
The pair were shown on the Jumbo Tron after a timeout in the first period and a sold out crowd of 21,391 stood on it's feet and gave a rousing applause.
Not surprised by the ovation or the attention Jordan received, Deng was surprised to see him courtside.
"Just what he did for this organization, this city, the joy he brought here, it should be more cheering," said Deng. They should stop the game. Mike has inspired a lot of people and what he did for this city is amazing. That's just something special. It's not going to happen often. You have to embrace that and enjoy every time you see someone like that."
The Bulls will have one final home game before the All-Star break and it comes against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.
The Spurs are the owner of the league's best record at 46-9 and have already defeated the Bulls, coming back from 17 to win 103-94 back on Nov. 17. Even with San Antonio's record, the Bulls are now 24-4 at home and looking forward to the challenge.
"It's a big game for us," said Deng. "In San Antonio we were up 17 at one point and they came back and won the game. They're having a terrific year. Before the All-Star break, we want to go out right. It's going to be a tough game, they're a very good team but I'm not worried about us not coming ready to play."
Kurt Thomas was honored before the game for becoming only the 97th player to reach 1,000 games played.
"All my teammates were congratulating me, a lot of fans around the city so it's definitely a great accomplishment," said the humbled Thomas after the win. "Something I never thought about, never thought I would play this long in the league but for me to reach this milestone. It's definitely great."
At the ripe age of 38, Thomas' grit and toughness has been on full display this season as he's helped keep the Bulls rolling with Joakim Noah being sidelined.