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Bulls' top guns spark victory in Nation's Capital

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Bulls' top guns spark victory in Nation's Capital

Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010
Posted 8:44 PM Updated 11:24 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTON Anybody with raised expectations after Tuesdays drubbing of Philadelphia would be disappointed, but in the end, the Bulls got the same result Wednesday, outlasting the Wizards, 87-80, in a cover-your-eyes ugly affair.

However, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau opened his postgame comments, A win is a win, no matter what.

It wasnt a repeat of the previous nights flawless start for the Bulls, as the hapless Wizards proved competitive early, with swingman Nick Young (22 points) keeping the home team within striking distance with his scoring prowess.

The visitors were balanced at the games outset, with veteran Kurt Thomas proving his performance Tuesday was no fluke, Carlos Boozer (30 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) having his way with Washingtons frontline and Derrick Rose (25 points, five assists) attacking former backcourt partner Kirk Hinrich (19 points, nine assists).

Captain Kirk, however, using insight into his old squad, proved to be a thorn in Chicagos side in the early going, using his trademark pesky defense and scrappy all-around play to buoy his new team.

Although Luol Deng also contributed positively for the Bulls, Hinrich-led Washington aided by a successful debut Wizards appearance for newly-acquired forward Rashard Lewis led, 33-29, after a quarter.

A ragged style of play actually benefited the Wizards, who possessed the athleticism and talent to succeed in a sloppy, foul-plagued contest without much structure or cohesiveness, especially with Chicago turning the ball over like there was no tomorrow. Still, the Bulls managed to stay in the game due to the ineptitude of their inferior opponent.

A scoreboard malfunction causing a slight delay on the court was fitting, as the Bulls were unable to slip out of their malaise, enabling the Wizards to extend their slim cushion, with Youngs continued scoring and the Hinrich-Rose back-and-forth actually more even than expected. Heading into intermission, Chicago trailed, 50-46.

The visitors uninspired play persisted after halftime, but Washingtons equal lack of sharpness gave way to a 13-0 Bulls run, allowing Chicago to surge back ahead. Boozers effectiveness inside and Roses always-dangerous penetration ability keyed the extended push, changing the tenor of the game to a more familiar one for Washington.

Toward the end of the period, however, the Wizards once again made it a neck-and-neck affair, with the starting backcourt of Young and Hinrich propelling the home teams effort, along with Lewis and swingman Josh Howard (13 points) providing boosts off the bench. Chicago clung to a 73-70 advantage after three quarters.

Boozer, who was in the midst of an excellent all-around game particularly passing the ball, probably the most underrated aspect of his skill set carried the Bulls early in the final stanza, as Chicago gradually widened its winning margin.

Its amazing that hes doing what hes doing. I still think hes working himself into shape and his legs arent under him yet. His timing. Hes in great shape, but not great basketball shape and theres a difference between the two. But you can see what great instincts he has to score 30 points, and every night, he knows how to find seams around the basket and the way hes rebounding the ball, its a testament to his ability and I think hell just continue to get better and better, said Thibodeau.

Chimed in Boozer: I just had a good matchup going, tried to be aggressive, tried to get to the line a little bit and just keep playing. Joakim Noah is out, so everybodys got to step up a little bit, including myself.

The festival of fouls on both ends resumed and became significant on the Bulls side when Boozer picked up his fifth personal on a charge with 6:57 remaining; Thibodeau would leave him in the game, as he did with Thomas after the veteran drew his fifth shortly thereafter.

Were both vets, weve been around the block, weve been in a lot of playoff games, played a lot of games where weve had five fouls with Thibs and against Thibs. We knew what to do. Play solid defense. Even Kurts sixth foul was a smart play, said Boozer. At that point in the game, you cant. Youve just got to keep playing because otherwise, you may be in a position where you lose if you dont play hard or dont do the right things. At that point, youve got to trust in yourself and trust in your principles and trust what weve been taught to continue to keep playing the way were been playing because its win or lose at that point.

Added Thibodeau: It was at around the six-minute mark when they both had five and the question is, do you take one out? Usually, with five, they go back at the five-minute mark but with the way it was going, I thought wed take a chance. We were probably a little more cautious than we would have liked. It was a strange sort of game for us. We were grinding away, grinding away and trying to be in position at the end.

Neither team appeared much inclined to score the basketball or play with any type of flow, for that matter for a crucial stretch, which eventually benefited the Wizards, who inched closer to Chicago as the games conclusion approached.

There were a lot of calls. It had a weird rhythm to it. It wasnt a fluid fourth quarter. A lot of free throws, a lot calls being made, a lot of physical play. Thats part of it, though. Some quarters are going to be like that. This game, it just happened to be the fourth quarter, Boozer observed.

Despite the Bulls multiple attempts to leave the door open for Washington, the home team simply couldnt convert and a Boozer basket with 35.2 seconds left effectively shut the door on any comeback hopes.

We made it hard ourselves because of the turnovers, particularly with their team. Putting them in the open floor is something you dont want to do, particularly on the road. I thought the first quarter giving up 33 points and the high percentage I was concerned about that, Thibodeau recounted, referring periodically to his teams 21 turnovers. But I liked the second quarter. I thought we changed our mindset. I thought we started to defend. I thought we established the paint. We got the ball into Carlos to start the second quarter and I thought that helped us get control of the game, where we felt, Okay, if we do these things, we should have a chance.

Then, the second half, I thought we attacked. We got some calls, we got to the line in the third quarter. The fourth quarter, I thought the defense was terrific.

Concurred Boozer: As you can see from the course of the game, the way it went, we gave up 33 in the first quarter. In the fourth quarter, we gave up 10. So, as the game progressed, our defense got more like the Chicago Bulls defense. They only had 80 points total, but they did have 33 in the first quarter. Grind-out win. Well take it and keep moving.

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.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.