With Derrick Rose a last-second scratch, E'Twaun Moore steps forward


With Derrick Rose a last-second scratch, E'Twaun Moore steps forward

Derrick Rose was announced as a late scratch with right hamstring tendinitis, about 45 minutes before the Bulls’ win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

It’s the second game Rose has missed this month, his best statistical month since the 2011-12 season before the first of his three knee injuries. Taking the game off before the start of a three-games-in-four-night stretch seems to be the aim, as he said his body doesn’t feel 100 percent and he doesn’t want to risk serious injury.

“A little bit yesterday (Tuesday) after we practiced, while we were practicing. Then this morning, that’s when I really felt it,” he said. “Just don’t want to take any risks.”

Pau Gasol was battling the flu and was a game-time decision, but was in the starting lineup against the Wizards, a team chasing the Bulls for the eighth playoff spot.

With the Bulls’ 109-104 win, they rose from eighth to sixth in the East, so every game is of the essence.

The Bulls will travel to Atlanta on Thursday for a game against the Hawks on Friday, then return home to play the surging Portland Trailblazers on Saturday, where Damian Lillard looks to give Rose all he can handle if they match up.

“I’m taking it one day at a time, trying not to risk it,” Rose said. “That’s what it’s all about, just reading my body.”

[MORE BULLS: Taj Gibson leads short-handed Bulls in surprising win over Wizards]

Rose is averaging 21.9 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds this month on 44-percent shooting, so making sure he doesn’t disrupt momentum appears to be the main goal.

“I love the way I’m playing. I feel like I’m playing to win,” Rose said. “I feel like I’m in a good mood, great place mentally. Just trying not to risk all of it by just going out there and playing crazy.”

E’Twaun Moore stepped up in Rose's absence, which came as a surprise to most but not Moore, who’s been playing in the starting lineup for awhile and just so happened to slide over to point guard in this pinch.

He tied for a team-best 17 points.

“Just knowing I can play,” said Moore when asked where his confidence comes from. “Every time I played I’ve been productive. It’s not like I haven’t done it before or haven’t played in games. It’s my fifth year, they think it’s my second year. I’ve been other places and had big games before.”

Scoring eight in the fourth quarter against John Wall, he got in the crevices of the defense and made some momentum-turning plays, but did it calmly without being frenetic.

“It’s in you. It’s either in you or not,” Moore said. “It’s no other way around it for me. I’ve never been scared for any opportunity.

“I definitely look forward to it. It gets me going. When things get tight, everybody excited. I love it.”

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Moore had his hands full on the other end with Wall and didn’t allow Wall to perform his usual end-to-end theatrics, earning the respect of all his teammates.

“He guards the best wing. He puts points on the board. Listens to the coach, never complains,” Taj Gibson said. “He’s always there to help. The biggest thing is he never complains. When he knows one of our players messed up on coverage, he never complains. He does his job like a true professional.”

And while he comes across very smooth and not boastful, don’t think Moore doesn’t want to show how good he believes he is at every opportunity — you just won’t hear him because he whispers.

“I talk. I talk a little bit. Not a lot, a little bit,” Moore said with a smile. “It’s just my personality. I’m laid back. I’m not quiet. I talk a little bit, I’m just not loud.”

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers


3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

1. Provide help defense on Joel Embiid early and often. Embiid's high usage rate means going to score regardless, and has even added moves like a step-back jumper that he can go to comfortably from 15-feet. But if you make him see multiple defenders and force him to be unsettled, you can harass him into poor shooting nights like Boston did (Embiid shot 9-for-21 on Tuesday night). There were plays where as soon as Embiid took one or two dribbles, a help defender—even a guard—was flying in to go for block shot opportunities.

Wendell Carter Jr. earned the starting center job with his ahead-of-his-age defensive IQ, but no matter how ahead of the curve he is, stopping Embiid will take a group effort. He can become enamored with the 3-point shot, so the Bulls will have to work together to coax Embiid into taking poor shot attempts. Boston did a great job of denying him deep post position om Tuesday night, cutting off the Sixers' easiest source of offensive production.

Wendell Carter Jr. will get his first big defensive test on Thursday night, as he will have to use his lower body strength to prevent Embiid's low post dominance. We have seen Carter struggle with bigger low post scorers in the preseason, and if the Bulls don't provide help fast, Carter will be in trouble.

If Carter does what many rookies do, and tries to use his hands to stop Embiid from gaining ground, the referees will call a foul quickly, especially since he is a rookie learning the ropes. Helpside defense will be the difference in this game for the Bulls.

2. Get back quickly and build a wall on transition defense. Below is the combined shot chart of Embiid and Ben Simmons from Tuesday night against the Celtics. Notice where the attempts are mostly concentrated. 

Ben Simmons and Embiid like to put pressure on the opposing defense by putting pressure on the front of the basket, and with good reason. They are both dominant finishers in the paint and questionable outside shooters.

In 207-18 Embiid shot 57 percent when 0-3 feet from the basket, Simmons shot a staggering 83 percent in the 0-3 foot range, which is even more impressive when you consider that defenses are gameplanning for his drives. We all know that Simmons will likely never be an even average 3-point shooter, and Embiid shot a dreadful 25 percent from the 3-point line last season despite a career-high 214 attempts. But the above the break 3-point shot is a major part of the Philadelphia offense, with Embiid shooting a much better 30.4 percent on above the break 3-pointers. 

Chicago would be wise to let the Sixers get these shots. 

In transition Simmons (or Markelle Fultz) will run the break with Embiid trailing directly behind them, either looking for a straight-line drive to the basket or an above the break 3-pointer after their forward momentum has been stopped. 

If the Bulls can summon the words of former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and form a wall around the restricted area, they can wall off aggressive drives from the Sixers young, dynamic duo. The Bulls need to force this game to be about turnovers and free throw makes, areas in which the Sixers have struggled last season (dead-last in the league in turnovers and 23rd in FT percentage).

3. Force the defense to move side-to-side. Philadelphia had a top-five defensive rating last season, and a big reason for that was that while the Sixers would often switch one through four, they wouldn't switch the five, meaning Embiid was often dropping back on pick-and-roll D and stationing himself near the basket. Staying as close as possibe to the rim obviously is beneficial to the Embiid, who has averaged 2 blocks per game for his career. But when you get Philly's aggressive defense to shift, they try to jump passing lanes to ignite their fastbreak, which can lead to plays like this:

The above play contains the exact type of ball-movement and cutting principles that Fred Hoiberg has stressed throughout the preseason.

Zach LaVine is the type of quick, explosive guard that the Sixers can have trouble containing with their personnel, more so that they are depending on Fultz so much. But if the Bulls get bogged down into a bunch of one-on-one play, it will allow Embiid to sit back and be a huge deterrent at the rim.

Carter's ability to stretch the floor—along with Bobby Portis' shooting—should be enough of a threat to keep Embiid occupied, but if not he will not respect their shots, and simply clog up driving lanes.

Handoff plays contained some of Carter's best moments this preseason, so we should expect to see Hoiberg call for lots of plays that get a Bulls guard or wing attacking a backpedaling big.