Bulls

Bulls finally get revenge on road-weary Bobcats

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Bulls finally get revenge on road-weary Bobcats

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011Posted: 10:21 PM

By Chris Cason
For CSNChicago.com

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."

NOTE

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.

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

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USA TODAY

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

Denzel Valentine’s troublesome left ankle is going to keep him on the sideline for at least the next two weeks. Fred Hoiberg said Saturday before the Bulls’ home opener against the Detroit Pistons that Valentine is suffering from a bone bruise in the ankle he sprained on the second day of training camp. Valentine will be evaluated in two weeks.

“It sucks because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what’s going on I at least have a time frame and be patient with it; it’s bad news but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.”

Valentine had been practicing earlier in the week and appeared close to a return after spraining the ankle on Sept. 25. But the third year wing complained of discomfort in the ankle and missed practice on Friday. A scan of the left ankle revealed the bone bruise, and Hoiberg wouldn’t speculate on when exactly Valentine might return.

It’s the same ankle Valentine had surgery on in May 2017. Valentine also missed the last two weeks of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Valentine or the Bulls, who are in desparate need of help both in the backcourt and on the wing.

Though Valentine isn’t a true point guard, he averaged 3.2 assists per game off the bench last season. The Bulls could use that kind of production when Kris Dunn returns on Monday, as Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t exactly showed promise in the early going.

Instead, Valentine is on the mend and it’s unclear when he might return. Given he’s had surgery on the same ankle before, the Bulls will be cautious upon his return.

“I’m a fighter, I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt," Valentine said. "I can’t sit here and be negative, I just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”