Bulls

Game 4 roundup: Bulls have work to do

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Game 4 roundup: Bulls have work to do

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 12:30 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLISLike any team that loses a close game, the Bulls lamented a few issuesbesides their failed final possessionafter losing Game 4. Some were individual plays, but they mostly focused on various themes.

For example, Derrick Rose was disappointed in the teams lack of urgency and execution early in the contest compared to their lackluster first three quarters.

At the end of the game, when we got things going, it got pretty easy. But weve just got to do what we do at the end of the game at the beginning and find people, make the game very simple because theyre putting two on me, where the big doesnt leave until I pass the ball, so just look at more film and try to get things right, said Rose, who noted that the hole the Bulls dug themselves was simply too big this time around. Weve just got to put them away, take their confidence and I think it should be an easy game after that.

READ: Rose won't blame poor shooting on ankle.
Chimed in Carlos Boozer: We feel like we havent played our best game in the series yet. That being said, even though were up 3-1, were looking forward to the next one so that we can play better.

When asked if they lost their composure at times, Luol Deng was candid in his response.

We might have. A lot of things happened throughout the game, said Deng. I thought we stuck together to make that comeback. We just couldnt finish it.

Kyle Korver found some humor in one particular playhis early fourth-quarter three-pointer to beat the shot clock, which was waved off after an official review several plays and minutes laterthat could have been the difference for the Bulls.

Technology these days, huh? quipped Korver. Couple of years ago, we would have won, but Im sure its the right call if they looked at it on the replay.

Boozer still trying to find his rhythm

While his 15-point, 13-rebound outing was an upgrade from his subpar Game 3 performance, its clear that Boozer is still out of sync. Once again, foul trouble was an issue for the two-time All-Star and it seemed to affect other aspects of his game, as he wasnt as assertive as needed throughout the contest.

Im not going to keep whining about getting in foul trouble. Im just going to keep playing my game. I tried to adjust to the refs as the game went along, said Boozer. I got the two early ones again, but listenweve got guys in here that can play; weve guys that can come in and have been playing great all season for usso if I get two, I know whoevers coming in behind me is going to do a great job.
WATCH: Boozer says they have to come out better next game.

While backups Taj Gibson and Kurt Thomas are more than capable of filling in if necessary, Boozer being off the court for an extended period of time isnt ideal. Korver, his longtime teammate, rationalized the power forwards struggles.

Hes been in foul trouble a lot and I think hes trying to be aggressive, but theyre trying to take charges, theyre trying to flop, theyre trying to get him in foul trouble and hes got to realize he cant go at the middle of their chest. Hes got to go at their shoulders. But hell figure that out.
Bulls rebounding dominance ceases
For once, the Bulls didnt own the boards, as the Pacers competed on the boards, snatching 45 rebounds to the visitors 46.

They went after it. The more you go, the more you get and they went after it, they fought hard, they got to loose balls. You cant just jump against these guys; youve got to hit, said coach Tom Thibodeau. Youve got to block out. Youve got to block out and youve got to fight, and if you think youre just going to out-jump them, its not going to happen. Theyre physical, try to ram you under the basket and theyre going after it. Weve got to play a lot tougher.

Added Boozer: Weve got to do a little bit better job of getting into guys bodies and boxing them out, and grabbing the rebound. Well work on the mistakes that we made and hopefully be better the next game.
READ: Sharpshooter Korver emerges as clutch performer.

A major reason for the Pacers solid work on the glass was Pacers big man Jeff Foster, who corralled seven offensive boards.

Foster, he plays really aggressive. He doesnt necessarily get the ball, but he tips to someone, said Korver. Weve got to do a better job of hitting him first and not just waiting for the ball to come to us. But thats something where we usually have the advantage.

Observed Deng:I know they got a lot from Foster tipping out. I dont know how many offensive rebounds he had, but he seemed to get them at the times when we needed them.

The self-critical Rose put some of the onus on the backcourt.

Weve got to rebound the ball. They were doing a lot of tip-backs, where Foster was just hitting the ball back out. As a guard, youve got to get those and that could easily start a fast break, so next game, if he tries that, Im definitely going to be looking for it.

Prior to the game, Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel commented on the NBA upgrading two of the longtime Indiana big mans hard fouls from Game 3 to flagrant fouls.

No reaction. Happens in the league, foreshadowed the coach. Ive seen it happen before. Its not going to change anything we do.

Joakim Noah, while he wasnt a fan of Foster going after his teammates, acknowledged, Its just the name of the game right now. The game is physical.
Chicago fans invade Indy

If one were dropped off in Conseco Fieldhouse without knowing the location, it would reasonable to assume the arena was in Chicago. Even at a Pacers home game, Bulls fans flooded the arena, making it seem like at least a 50-50 split between the two factions, if the majority wasnt supporting the Windy City squad.

Rose stuck to his usual reasoning that the fans support the team on the road because of the franchises legacyIts because of the players before us, said the man that had seemingly half of Indianapolis chanting MVP, not only in the arena, but on the street, as the teams bus left its downtown hotel for the gamebut its obviously more than that.

Surprisingly, weve got a good following on the road most of the season. You guys media that have been with us throughout the year know weve been fortunate to have a lot of fans come on the road for us and support us. Its great to see them out there, said Boozer. Maybe the support is a little surprising, but I guess it shouldnt after the way the seasons been. Weve had a lot of fans almost everywhere we go, which is great. We love seeing our guys out there. Usually, theyre chanting MVP most of the game and its good to have that support on the road.

WATCH: Noah: "It's a tough loss but the playoffs have to go through Chi-Town and we're excited about that."

Noah concurred: The love for the Chicago Bulls is crazy right now and we love it, thrive off that and were excited to go home. We get a lot of love out there, too, when we go back home. Its good, it gives us confidence, but we know its on us to really put in the work and make them happy.

Young Pacers have confident leader
Although Vogel predicted a win before the game, it would be unfair to call him prophetic, as the rookie head coach has been confident his team would be successful the entire series.

We believe fully that it can happen and believe it starts with winning one game. Our guys were shocked that they did not win on their home court last game. They were shocked, they were devastated. We expect to win here. Were going to win Game 4 and go from there, said Vogel. Were standing toe-to-toe with a championship contender. Ive told them all year that theyre one of the best teams in the NBA and they are one of the best teams in the NBA; theyre playing as well as anybody in the league, right now. We hit our stride towards the end of the year and were getting better by the game. We dont have wins to show for it, which is frustrating, but were one of the best teams in the NBA right now. Our future is bright.

Our young guys have a lot of guts. Big onions, as college basketball television analyst Bill Raftery used to say. Its very, very encouraging to the future of this franchise, to see guys compete the way theyre competing when its on the line, continued the 37-year-old. They had to go through some stuff, I think. They had to learn and every win, every positive experience that they went through, every accomplishment, every achievement, we just reinforced it with them, showed them that they can, that theyre doing it, theyre improving, theyre getting better and I dont think they necessarily believed it right away, but as the season went on, I think that they are one of the best teams in the league.

Its been a great learning experience. Its been fun playing the chess match that goes into it, making the game adjustments, watching Coach Thibodeau make adjustments. Just a learning experience. Its been fun.

Pacers veteran stopper talks guarding Rose

Jones, who has shared the defensive assignment of guarding Rose the past two games with starting rookie shooting guard Paul George after not playing in Game 1 and Game 2, talked to CSNChicago.com about his duties.

We just tried to make him take some tough shots, picked him up, tried to make his day a little more stressful, just put a different look on him, he explained. Vogel has a game plan and he has things in mind. His job is to create strategy and I had to go with it. I did what he thought was best and I just stayed ready on the bench, tried to help my guys out and wait until my number was called.

Dahntay Jones also discussed how his young teammates have grown up during the series, a process in which Vogel has played an integral part.

Im proud of them. These guys are playing extremely hard and scrappy, playing with no fear and thats how its supposed to be in the playoffs. Theyre getting their experience on the run, but theyre playing extremely well, said Jones. Coach Vogel, hes been a positive coach. Hes been helping the young guys out, just instilling confidence in them and trying to play to their strengths, instead of knocking of them down for their weaknesses. Hes done a good job of that.

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.”