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Deng all about defense against Pacers

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Deng all about defense against Pacers

Thursday, April 21, 2011Posted: 2:00 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLISWith all of the concern about Derrick Rose having to do too much scoring in the Bulls first-round series against the Pacers, one would think the team simply doesnt have capable secondary options. True, Carlos Boozer struggled in Game 1 and although he bounced back with a solid outing in Game 2, he also went long stretches without impacting the game on offense.

But while the Bulls certainly need Boozer to consistently play well for the team to make an extended postseason run, it seems many people are forgetting the player who was considered the teams glue: Luol Deng. The small forward hasnt been as offensive-minded through the series first two games for good reason; his primary assignment has been defending Pacers leading scorer Danny Granger.

Every series is going to be different, if you look at every team. Depending on who we play nextlets say, after this round, we win this round and we play Orlandosomebodys going to have to guard Dwight (Howard) and whoever that somebody is, as a team., weve got to let him know and hes got to understand that affecting that guy defensively is going to help us a lot more than what you do for us offensively, said Deng, who received votes, along with teammates Keith Bogans and Joakim Noah, for the NBAs Defensive Player of the Year award, which went to Orlandos Howard for the third consecutive season.

Thats really how I look at this series. If I have high-scoring games, thats a plus, but for me, making Granger work for every basket, making it tough for himeither he shoots a low percentage taking a lot of shots or he doesnt get a lot of shotsthats really my goal and every game in this series, thats what Im going to do.

Chimed in Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: The thing with Granger is, you dont stop a player like that. What youve got to do is try to make him work for his points and hes one of the best scorers in the league because of all the different ways he gets it. He can pick-and-roll, he can catch-and-shoot, he can post, hes dangerous in transition, hes a very good offensive rebounder, he can get to the line. What we have to do is be tied together and try to make him work for those points, but hes a load. Hes hard to guard.

Deng knows his offense is a secondary concern for him this series, but while he admits that improved play from Boozer will help ease Roses burden, he also believes that the final result is more important than how it happens.

I know were going to need Boozer. Derrick is carrying a lot of the load right now and a lot of people are talking about, Is Derrick doing too much? but I keep saying, every series is going to present a different story. If we win every game and Derrick scores like that, then thats who we are, thats what were trying to do. If we start losing and Derrick is putting up all these points, then weve got to start talking about other things, Deng explained.

Dengs approach hasnt varied all season, perhaps his best all-around campaign and one in which he played in all 82 regular-season games for just the second time in his career.

It meant a lot. I wanted to get back to that. I tried last year. I ended upI think I played 70 or 72, I dont rememberit was a goal of mine, but then I had that calf strain. Coming into this year, I wanted to make it a goal, to make sure I played every game. I had no idea I was going to play as many minutes as I did. Im just really happy I was able to be consistent and thats what I always wanted to do, just be consistent, said Deng.

When Coach got the job, he called me and he really told me how he felt, what kind of player I could be, how he was going to use me and he really felt like I was very underratedhe kept telling me thatand it helped me with my confidence. When I came in, practicing and the way he was going to use me, I just knew I was going to play a lot.

In the wake of his individual and the teams success this season, the seventh-year pro doesnt dwell on it, but the labelsoftsome fans have put on him since he signed a six-year, 71-million contract extension in the summer of 2008 and was hampered by various injuries cut him deep.

It bothered me a lot. I think what bothered me the most was how the whole injury thing came up. I know its behind me now, but it really bothered me a lot. Just to be called that, knowing what I played througheven before that, with the injuriesI didnt like it. Not that I could help what people say, but it bothered me a lot, acknowledged Deng, who led the Bulls in minutes played and logged the third-most court time amongst his peers in the league this season. I didnt do it play 82 games for anyone. I wasnt trying to prove anyone wrong. The things that were said about me bothered me, but I never really played basketball for anyone but me, so I just felt like I really wanted to do it for myself. Just play the games, help my team as much as I can and really be happy with what I did during the season.

Not just the soft thing. A lot of people said I got paid and I gave up the game, and to me, that bothered me a lot. I dont know how to explain it, but if youre ever offered that money, youre not going to say, No, Im going to take less, but Im still going to play, he continued. The deal was done, but that bothered me more than anything, with where Im from and what Ive been through, for people to think that money would let me give up the game. Thats just stupid.

While the versatile, underrated native of Sudan is now more appreciated by Bulls fans, perhaps nobody treasures his talent more than Thibodeau.

Lu will be fine. You can count on him, said the coach, who wasnt pleased, however, with the technical foul Deng earned in Game 1 of the series for coming to the defense of Rose. Hes going to play defense, hes going to help you execute offensively and hes going to make shots. Hes already proven that. He just has to keep doing all the things hes been doing,

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.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, See Red Fred joins Big Dave and Matt Peck. The guys talk about some big plays down the stretch by Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine. Plus a great defensive job by Kris Dunn on Paul George. (1:30) See Red Fred states his case for more playing time for Denzel Valentine. (4:00) Plus what's going to happen when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison come back. (8:00) The guys share some concerns about Coby White in the short term. (10:30) See Red Fred tells you about 3 players who have exceeded expectations this year. (13:00) Plus the guys debate whether Zach LaVine should compete in the dunk contest or 3 point competition. (18:00) They discuss the impact that Kris Dunn has had on the defensive end of the floor. (20:30) Plus See Red Fred lays out his blueprint for the Bulls to make the playoffs. (23:30) Plus the guys make a wager regarding the rest of the season. (25:00)
 

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Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Just over two hours before tipoff, in his first public comments since Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how Jim Boylen’s teaching and coaching hasn’t always translated from the practice floor and film room to games.

Could the Bulls’ first victory this season over a winning team be a step?

And don’t mention that the Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams in the Bulls’ 109-106 victory, secured on Zach LaVine’s three-point play with 2 seconds to play.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto Porter Jr.) or Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) or (Daniel) Gafford,” Boylen said. “So we can ‘Yeah, but’ it a little bit too.”

Bravado aside, there’s stuff on which the Bulls can build here.

LaVine posted his sixth 30-point game and ended a week filled with closing misses with a game-winner in which he powered through a Montrezl Harrell foul on a nice misdirection play involving Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen tied his season-high with 17 rebounds while posting his third double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine, playing all but two seconds of the fourth, hit a huge tying 3-pointer in the final minute and scored a season-high 16 points. Thad Young tied his season-high with 17 points.

And Dunn was everywhere, relishing the challenge of guarding Paul George down the stretch and winning a crucial battle for a 50-50 ball that led to Valentine’s tying shot.

“That was a huge moment,” Boylen said.

So was Valentine closing a game.

“I just thought we needed some more shooting on the floor,” Boylen said. “We’ve wrestled with defensive lineups, offensive lineups. We try to mingle them a little bit. I just thought we needed someone to make a big shot. And he did.”

Valentine has now scored in double figures off the bench in five of six games.

“I’m very confident in my abilities,” Valentine said. “I was just waiting for the ball to come my way. Zach is our best player. So the ball’s going to be in his hands. But shoot, I’m ready for it. I love those moments. I love to make those shots.”

Dunn, who finished a plus-22, defended George as he missed a good look for a tying 3-pointer. George scored 10 points in just over 7 minutes in the fourth but missed all three attempts following Valentine’s tying shot.

“I love it,” Dunn said of guarding great players. “I know my niche on this team is to guard. And I take pride in that. It feels good to go against a big-time player and be able to get stops towards the end.”

Markkanen actually received credit for the rebound that Dunn kept alive to lead to Valentine’s tying shot, which Dunn said Markkanen teased him about. Dunn finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.

But his two biggest plays didn’t even crash the box score. He won the 50-50 ball to lead to Valentine’s tying shot and then confused the Clippers’ defense by slipping a screen on LaVine’s game-winner.

“I knew Zach was going to get downhill,” Dunn said. “Because once I did it, I saw Paul George look at me.”

LaVine couldn’t believe how much space he had to operate.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “Once I saw the lane open up, I think there were like 5 seconds left. We were trying to get the last shot. But once the lane opened up, I tried to get a one-on-one. He’s a tough dude. I knew I could attack his body.”

LaVine missed game-winning attempts on an isolation 3-pointer against the Warriors and over a double-team against the Raptors. His three-point play offered a dose of redemption for a player who is never afraid to fail.

“You’re not going to be perfect. As much as people are going to show more of the bad than the good, I’ve had a lot of good times in the clutch as well,” LaVine said. “I try to make the right play for us to win. And I did that tonight.”

For one night, matters were more positive. The Bulls closed out a game against a good team and received multiple contributions while doing so.

Heck, Boylen even downplayed Paxson’s vote of confidence.

“We understand what we’re trying to do. We’re in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like,” the coach said. “I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t expect anything less.”