Bulls

LIVE: Bulls go for nine straight, sweep of Pacers

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LIVE: Bulls go for nine straight, sweep of Pacers

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted: 10:37 a.m.

Associated Press

Derrick Rose has certainly done his part offensively, but the Chicago Bulls have won a season-high eight straight and taken over the Eastern Conference lead primarily thanks to their outstanding defense.

That's exactly what's helped them cruise to three wins over the Indiana Pacers.

The Bulls try to extend their longest winning streak in six years and complete a four-game sweep of the Pacers for the first time since 1996-97 on Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Chicago (49-18) allows 90.9 points per game, the fewest in the league, but it's stepped it up a few notches over the past two weeks. The Bulls have allowed an average of 82.0 points during their win streak - their longest since a nine-game run from March 19-April 2, 2005 - to jump ahead of Boston for the top spot in the East.

Coach Tom Thibodeau's team took sole possession of the conference lead for the first time by beating Washington 98-79 on Tuesday, and a night after the Celtics pulled back into a tie, Chicago clamped down again defensively. The Bulls played a fourth straight game without Carlos Boozer (sprained ankle), but got Joakim Noah back from a one-game absence and held New Jersey to 34.9 percent shooting Thursday in an 84-73 win.

"That's what we've been doing the whole year, playing defense," said Rose, who had a team-high 21 points and has led or shared the team lead in scoring during each of the past eight games.

"If our offense isn't going, and that rarely happens, we rely on our defense. That's what we did tonight, make it tough on them. At first, they were getting everything they wanted. Then we just closed down the paint and rebounded the ball."

The 73 points matched the fewest Chicago has allowed this season, a low-water mark Indiana knows all too well. The Pacers (29-39) have averaged 82.7 points and shot 36.2 percent in three losses to the Bulls this season by an average of 17.6 points, which included a 92-73 defeat without Danny Granger on Dec. 13 at the United Center.

Tyler Hansbrough also missed two of the losses, but he'll be on the floor Friday for the Pacers.

He's been a revelation lately for Indiana, averaging 25.2 points in his last five games heading into TD Garden on Wednesday, but the Celtics did plenty to frustrate Hansbrough and the Pacers. Indiana had a 49-36 rebounding edge but shot just 37.5 percent - including 4 of 14 from Hansbrough - in a 92-80 loss.

With Charlotte's loss at Houston, however, the Pacers stayed a half-game ahead for the East's No. 8 spot - which would match them up with the Bulls in the first round.

"It is definitely a lesson, and it's tough," Granger said as Indiana fell to 1-13 against the conference's top five teams. "It's virtually impossible to come in here and win, when you're not really going to the line a lot. It's tough but you got to play through it."

It's unclear if Boozer will be healthy enough to return Friday, but the Pacers would certainly prefer if he missed another game. Including last season with Utah, Boozer has averaged 23.4 points and 11.6 rebounds in his last five games versus Indiana.

Granger has averaged 27.5 points in his last four home games against Chicago.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Four observations: Bulls rout Atlanta Hawks in much-needed get-right game

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USA Today

Four observations: Bulls rout Atlanta Hawks in much-needed get-right game

The Bulls picked up a valuable get-right win in a 136-102 blowout of the Atlanta Hawks. Observations from a game the Bulls had to win, and did handily:

The bench provided a spark (again)

Bulls starters not named Zach LaVine got off to a sluggish start in this one. At the 3:14 mark of the first, the Hawks led 29-21 and were shooting a scalding 13-for-18 (72.2%) from the field (3-for-6 from 3-point range). LaVine had 12 of the Bulls’ 21 points.

The hosts ended the period ahead 37-33, buoyed by a 16-4 run by a bench unit of Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine, Thad Young and Daniel Gafford. Valentine hit four floaters over that stretch, Gafford had a resounding block, White had a strong and-one take over Alex Len and Thad Young tallied five points, for good measure. 

Bench runs have become commonplace for this Bulls team, even in the midst of a three-game losing streak. This one carried over into the second quarter, which the Bulls won 29-19, holding Atlanta to 6-for-21 (28.6%) shooting, 2-for-10 (20%) from three. They didn't look back from there.

Young finished the first half with nine points, four rebounds and two assists. White had a flashy night — tallying 19 points. Valentine and Gafford connected on a handful of alley-oops (which is fast become tradition).

Zach LaVine bounced back

LaVine — averaging 20 points on 33.3% shooting during the team’s three-game losing streak — was ripe for a breakout, and this Hawks team (29th in the NBA in defensive rating) presented an opportunity to bounce back. He took advantage.

As mentioned, LaVine carried the Bulls offense early: he had 18 first-half points on 7-for-9 shooting. Embedded in that line were a few highlight-reel dunks that awoke the United Center:

He tacked on a cool 17 (!) in the third quarter before coming out with the game out of reach. LaVine finished the night leading all scorers with 35 points and shot a staggering 7-for-7 from 3-point range. When he’s on, it’s too much fun, and he dazzled in this one. 

In a favorable matchup, the defense kept rolling

Coming into this game, we knew the Bulls defense, theoretically, matched up well with Atlanta’s offense plan of attack. For the most part, that bore out, in practice.

Kris Dunn was outstanding containing Trae Young tonight, hounding him off every screen (where he was usually aided by a hedge from the big in coverage) and staying attached even in instances when Young was able to penetrate. Young didn’t score until the 11:07 mark in the second quarter, and finished the night with 15 points on 4-for-14 shooting (1-for-6 from three) and seven turnovers. This is the fourth-leading scorer in the NBA we’re talking about here. He did rack up 13 assists (six in the first quarter) — and some were very, very pretty — but most of those came in transition. In the halfcourt, the Bulls’ set defense effectively bottled him up.

The Hawks, as a team, committed 23 turnovers on the night, which the Bulls were able to convert into 15 points. Atlanta is an inferior opponent, yes, but it was a strong showing, nonetheless.

Blowouts are fun

This one was a little too close for comfort early on, but ended in a rout. The Bulls simply outclassed the Hawks, winning statistical categories this team has often been overmatched in, from rebounds (42-40), to points in the paint (78-42), to blocks (7-4), to the 3-point battle. Lauri Markkanen even utilized garbage time to turn a fine stat line into a good one: he had 10 points in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting. 

So, you know what? Rest your brain with some of the best clips of the night. You’ve earned it:

 

 

 

 

The Bulls can push questions about fourth-quarter stagnation, cold shooting streaks and crowded rotations until this weekend. This was a solid overall performance.

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Chicago-native Zach Norvell Jr. waived by Lakers

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USA TODAY

Chicago-native Zach Norvell Jr. waived by Lakers

The Bulls have been quite fond of adding players with connections to the city over the years. This list includes names like Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Jabari Parker, Eddy Curry, and even our very own Kendall Gill. And while the Bulls may not necessarily be in the market for any additions at the moment, there is least one name the Bulls should be monitoring if they aren't already and that is former Simeon alum Zach Norvell Jr., who was waived by the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. 

Coming out of Simeon, Norvell was an ESPN 100 prospect and a McDonald's All-American and committed to Gonzaga, where he starred for two seasons after a redshirt year. Norvell went undrafted but was picked up by a Los Angeles Lakers team that was particularly bereft of 3-point shooting, specifically volume 3-point shooters like Norvell, who shot 6.4 3-point attempts per game in his NCAA career and is currently attempting just under eight 3-point attempts per game in the NBA G League with the South Bay Lakers. 

The (NBA) Lakers don't really require much help at the moment, with their stellar defense and league-leading field goal percentage on offense resulting in them having the league's best record through 24 games despite ranking 25th in the league in 3-point attempts. The Bulls have, as head coach Jim Boylen so infamously stated, trusted 'the math' and thusly are top-10 in the league in 3-point attempts per game (8th in the league with 36.0 3-point attempts per game coming into Wednesday night). Despite their aggressiveness from the perimeter, the Bulls rank 22nd in the league in 3-point percentage (34.7%) and 22nd in assists per game, both areas where Norvell could provide help.

Since Norvell has been waived by the Lakers, he is no longer a two-way contract player (a player who plays in the NBA and G League) for them, but will still be playing with their G League affiliate should they choose to sign him to a G League contract.

The Bulls have the maximum amount of two-way players on the roster already (two in Adam Mokoka and Max Strus) but they could look to make a move to free up room for Norvell on the G League or NBA roster if they are interested. Mokoka specifically has struggled at the G League level (8.5 points per game on 34% from the field and 31% from 3) and may not necessarily need a two-way contract for the Bulls to keep other teams from snagging him, meaning that waiving Mokoka but keeping him on the Windy City Bulls roster while adding a shooter like Norvell could be an interesting value play for Chicago. 

Norvell is averaging 13.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 turnovers per game while shooting 35.3% from the field and 34% from 3-point range.

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