Bulls

LIVE: Bulls aim for revenge vs. Bobcats on CSN

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LIVE: Bulls aim for revenge vs. Bobcats on CSN

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
10:40 a.m.

Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls avoided a letdown their last time out and aren't likely to overlook the struggling Charlotte Bobcats, either.

Looking for an 11th win in 13 games overall, the Bulls hope to avoid a third loss in four meetings with a Bobcats team that could again be without leading scorer Stephen Jackson on Wednesday night.

After road wins over two of the Eastern Conference's top teams - Orlando and Miami - Chicago (44-18) returned home Monday to face a New Orleans team missing four-time All-Star Chris Paul.

A day after completing a season sweep of the Heat and staying ahead of them for second place in the East, the Bulls were somewhat lethargic against the Hornets and the game was tied with three minutes to play. However, they pulled off an 85-77 victory to move within 2 12 games of Boston for the conference lead.

"It was a good win," said Joakim Noah, who had 13 rebounds. "It was a win that we really needed. You look at the top four, five teams in the East, everything is really close. So every game is very important. We understand that. We're just staying focused on improving and winning."

The Bulls must keep that focus against the Bobcats (26-37), the only sub-.500 team to beat them more than once this season. Chicago lost the first two meetings while averaging just 86.5 points before recording a 106-94 home win Feb. 15 behind Luol Deng's 24 points and Derrick Rose's 13 assists - he totaled 11 in the first two matchups.

Noah, who missed all three meetings with a thumb injury, is averaging 16.5 points and 13.3 rebounds in his last four games in the series.

The Bulls have lost four of five at Charlotte, but they completed a 4-1 trip in Miami and are one road win away from surpassing their total from last season (17).

"The city is excited about this team and I think they have a right to be, but for us as players you know, our mentality is different," Noah said. "You got to take it game by game, not get too excited and really focus on the moment, focus on playing game by game and staying consistent."

One area in which Chicago has been extremely consistent is defense. While they are allowing an NBA-low 91.5 points per game, the Bulls have held opponents to 81.1 points on 40.2 percent shooting over their current 6-1 stretch.

That doesn't bode well for Charlotte, averaging 81.2 points and shooting 40.7 percent over a season-worst five-game losing streak. The Bobcats are 3-22 when scoring 90 or less.

Jackson, averaging 19.0 points, was held out for the second consecutive contest Monday night with an injured left hamstring as Charlotte fell 92-87 to the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We were close, but anytime you take the best player out of your lineup, you're going to suffer," coach Paul Silas said. "We tried hard. We just didn't have enough."

Jackson's status for Wednesday is unknown, but forward Tyrus Thomas could return following a 23-game absence after undergoing knee surgery.

Thomas, who spent three-plus seasons with the Bulls, had 17 points and 13 rebounds in a 96-91 win over his former team Jan. 12.

"Jack and Tyrus are two big keys to our team," guard Gerald Henderson said. "Overall, we're going to need them to win."

Henderson scored 20 points Monday and is averaging 14.7 over the last nine games - 7.1 more than his season mark.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 93-92 loss to Toronto.

0:45 - Reaction to losing another close game

2:00 - Kendall Gill stops by to give Matt Peck a hard time about Derrick Rose

3:30 - On Wendell Carter Jr and wanting more

4:45 - Viewer comment on Bulls shooting 46 three-point attempts

7:20 - Concern over Lauri Markkanen

8:10 - Viewer comment still believing in Lauri

9:40 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford

12:10 - Viewer comment on running more pick n roll w Zach and Lauri

15:35 - Viewer question on Otto Porter and Hutchison

16:30 - Viewer trade idea: Kevin Love for Markkanen

17:15 - Any comfort in coming close to beating two of the top teams in the East?

20:30 - Viewer comment on losing games

23:00 - Viewer comment on Coby should start

24:05 - Viewer comment pandering to John Sabine

24:40 - Sabine shares his weird dream that involves Jim Boylen

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

Monday night, 14,775 fans attended the Bulls' latest in a line of hard-fought defeats: a 93-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors. That's the smallest reported crowd at the United Center for a Bulls game since Dec. 16, 2004.

For stretches, though, it felt like a full house. 

"The UC was great tonight, the fans were awesome," Denzel Valentine said.

The starters carried the team, to start: Of the Bulls' 50 first-half points, 47 were scored by Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. But it wasn't the usual suspects that pushed the Chicago faithful's decibel count to levels unheard of in the earlygoing of this season.

Thank Valentine and Daniel Gafford, in large part, for that. With the Bulls trailing 61-58 at the 4:45 mark of the third, Jim Boylen turned to a bench-dominated unit of Coby White, Valentine, Thad Young, Gafford and LaVine to spark his group. It was a potential tipping point in the game: The Raptors were in the midst of an 11-3 run and the Bulls' offense was fizzling. White, Valentine, Young and Gafford had four points between them upon entry.

With that move, the fates tilted towards the home side. For a time.

"It was great minutes from them," Satoransky said of Valentine and Gafford after the game. "I think [Denzel] is feeling more himself right now. And DG will always bring that energy. He's one of the most athletic guys I've ever seen, his energy... will always refresh our game."

It certainly did in this one. Gafford blocked three shots and notched 10 points over the game's final quarter-and-a-half. Valentine scored all 13 of his points for the night after that juncture in the third, shooting 5-for-9 from the floor and 3-for-7 from 3-point range. The Bulls finished the night 12-for-46 from 3-point land.

"Just energy," Valentine said, of what that bench unit brought. "We started playing defense. It started on the defensive end, started in transition, getting rebounds. Played with a little bit more life. Playing with each other too. We were moving the ball together."

"We go in, we produce with the minutes that we get," Gafford said. And on what the fans gave back: "There was definitely energy. I was blocking shots, Denzel was knocking down shots, we were getting stops on defense. We were doing everything we needed to do to win the game, and the crowd helped us do that."

Of course, they didn't do it alone. In spite of not scoring, White played a solid defensive game and finished the night with eight rebounds and five assists. Young and Kris Dunn each hit crucial 3-pointers in the third. But watching Valentine and Gafford ignite the home crowd made it even more surreal that neither of them cracked the regular rotation until mid-to-late November.

"We got a bond," Gafford said. "He finds me when I'm open, and I find him when he's open... We just go out and play basketball."

That strategy helped the Bulls build an 85-77 lead with eight minutes left in the game, but the team's good fortunes faded fast from there. After an alley-oop from Valentine to Gafford gave them their 84th and 85th points of the night, the Bulls didn't score for the next five-and-a-half minutes of game action. The Raptors surged down the stretch. The Bulls scrapped, but ultimately faltered when it mattered most.

Both Gafford and Valentine found themselves in the Bulls' closing lineup — Valentine by way of the hot-hand, Gafford in Carter's stead after he fouled out with just under four minutes remaining. A Valentine transition layup, Markkanen 3-pointer and Gafford layup represented the Bulls' only points of the final eight minutes.

"We gotta learn how to put it away. If we can't at the end of the third quarter, we gotta put it away at the beginning of the fourth," Gafford said. "We just gotta learn how to put it away, seal the deal." 

But, as a team, they didn't. And thus, the bottom line doesn't change. The Bulls won a(nother) moral victory or two tonight, but when the final points were tallied, they were on the short end. That's the only stat that matters, especially to those 14,775 that stood behind their team, in person, tonight.

"It’s disappointing when we don’t win games. It’s disappointing when we don’t win home games," Boylen, who has presided over only 10 home victories in his tenure, said. "Nobody is running from that."

"No excuses, nobody cares, we just gotta come out and play hard and learn from our mistakes," Valentine said. "It's tough, because we lose the last three and we were up in the fourth [quarter], I think, in all of those games. So it's tough. But hopefully at some point we'll figure it out."

Gafford and Valentine provided a jolt, but because of the result, they're only would-be heroes — their combined performance amounts to nothing more than an all-too-familiar silver lining. In some ways, that stings even more.

"That's what why this game is so frustrating," Satoransky said. "Because I know we were there. Fans were engaged and I think we played very well, and we missed a lot of shots. You know, that always hurts."

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