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MVP? Rose's best lifts Bulls past NBA's best

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MVP? Rose's best lifts Bulls past NBA's best

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011
Posted 9:46 p.m. Updated 11:37 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

When it comes to the leagues contenders, the Bulls (38-16) have either dispensed with them in businesslike fashion or avenged a previous defeat.

The visiting Spurs (46-10) were treated no differently, as the NBAs top team fell to Chicago, 109-99, Thursday night at the United Center, behind a career-high scoring effort from All-Star point guard Derrick Rose (42 points, eight assists, five rebounds, one turnover) in the Bulls final game before All-Star weekend.

WATCH: Rose all smiles after win

Both coaches marveled at Roses outing afterwards.

Hes something, huh? That was some performance, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. It was great leadership. He got us off to a great start.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was even more effusive in his praise.

That point guard whats his name? I didnt know his name before the game; maybe I should have checked wow. Wow. He was something. We scored 99 points, shot 49 percent, made seven threes and youd think wed have a pretty good chance to win, but he negated that. He did a hell of a job, quipped the dry-humored coach.

What do you want me to say? Good-looking kid, great demeanor, doesnt beat his chest, class act, on top of his phenomenal play. All those qualities are going to serve him well.

When informed of Popovichs complimentary statement, Rose took his typical humble route.

I really dont know how to take that, but for a coach to say that, especially him, it means a lot, said the Chicago native, who was still smarting over his alma mater, Simeon Career Academy, losing in the city playoffs the previous night. I was just trying to win the game, doing whatever it takes to win and tonight, I guess it was scoring the ball.

San Antonio used the formula that earned them the leagues best record through the All-Star break heavy doses of backcourt stars Tony Parker (26 points, four assists) and All-Star Manu Ginobili (16 points, three assists) at the games outset, with Ginobilis herky-jerky game and Parkers uncanny finishing ability setting the pace.

Unfortunately, that didnt leave much room for other Spurs including future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan (14 points, nine rebounds, three assists) to get involved, resulting in the home team running out to the lead.

A comparatively more balanced Bulls attack paved the way to an early advantage, as the team seemingly made a concerted effort to pound the ball inside, with Carlos Boozer (15 points, six rebounds) being the main beneficiary in the opening period, connecting in all four of his field-goal attempts.
Rose to compete in All-Star Skills Challenge

Rose, however, was the protagonist, as usual, slashing and dashing flawless playmaking acrobatic finishes, the norm with Rose, highlighted his efforts his way to the bucket in his point-guard duel with Parker and with Luol Deng (19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots) getting more involved offensively, Chicago held a 30-25 winning margin after a quarter of play.

Twenty-six-year old rookie sharpshooter Gary Neal (16 points, 4-for-5 three-point shooting) sparked San Antonios second unit early in the second quarter, enabling the Spurs to narrow the gap, despite the cohesiveness and defensive play the length of Taj Gibson (six points, six rebounds, two blocks) and Omer Asik posed problems for the visitors, while swingman Ronnie Brewers (nine points, three rebounds, two assists) high activity level provided an offensive boost off the Bulls bench.

While Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus reinsertion of Boozer gave the team a lift on offense, Duncan became more involved and the return of Parker allowed the Spurs to overtake the home team midway through the period. Soon afterwards, Thibodeau brought back Rose and Deng both of whom made immediate impacts, regaining the lead for Chicago and the Bulls built a slim cushion late in the quarter, going into the intermission with a 58-51 advantage.

Rose picked up where he left off when play resumed, melding his oft-overlooked passing abilities with his supreme scoring skills and Deng also maintained his high level of play from the end of the previous half, prompting Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout. Regardless of Roses simple pleas that he was just doing what was needed to secure a Bulls win, he revealed that some pregame motivation also factored in.
Derrick Rose went 18-for-24 on field goals inside the three-point line and said a pregame talk from head coach Tom Thibodeau got him more pumped up than normal. (AP)
Coach told me to come in his office, gave me a speech about being aggressive. A motivational speech. I love a coach like that, where hes showing emotion even before the game. Its just me and him talking and hes showing emotion. I wanted to get up and yell with him, but I kept quiet and tried to take that out on the court, he recounted.

When you have Coach being emotional like that, its going to make you want to play hard, especially me. You cant be too nice as a coach. Youve got to have some meanness in you and hes definitely that coach, where hes hard on players at certain times and its working.

When asked about whether he could ascertain Thibodeaus motivation, Rose didnt profess to have an answer, but simply told reporters, It worked.

His teammates also noticed Rose, always a fierce competitor, appeared to be even more keyed up for the contest.

Me and Derrick spoke before the game, and we just spoke about how big this game was. I knew right away he would be ready. Ive been playing with him for a while now, said Deng. When he had it going in the second half, I just told him, Keep shooting, especially when they went under on the screen because his shot has improved so much.

Added Boozer: D-Rose just took the game over. All we had to do was get him the ball and play defense. We recognized it early. They really couldnt stop him. I just said to him, Keep attacking until they stop you. Hes playing phenomenally and he played great again tonight.

But steady San Antonio regrouped, led by Duncan asserting himself offensively and Parker continuing to affecting the game with his ability to penetrate the Bulls defense, finish shots in the lane and make plays in transition.

Neither side gave an inch and mistakes were magnified in this affair, as a premium was placed on both offensive execution and defensive matchups, and while the veteran Spurs were able to slice into the deficit, Rose displayed his takeover mentality down the stretch run of the period. Through three quarters, the Bulls maintained their lead, 83-75.

Stout defense by the home team marked the beginning of the final stanza, as Chicagos second unit played with energy and sustained the Bulls lead, with blocked shots and dunks Gibson, who will represent the team this weekend in Los Angeles in both the Rookie Challenge and Shooting Stars competition, made one of each thrilling the United Center audience.

A Deng three-pointer eventually gave the Bulls a double-digit advantage and while it appeared that they were clicking on all cylinders on offense (Rose specifically), the Spurs (Neal specifically) remained lying in the weeds.

Parker continued to stay active in his tete-a-tete with Rose, but the Eastern Conference All-Star starter left nothing to chance, with a fading jumper to beat the shot-clock buzzer with under three minutes remaining perhaps sounding San Antonios death knell.

Chicago cruised down the stretch, heading to victory behind Rose, who, perhaps spurred by the ever-present M-V-P chants from the crowd, kept pouring in the points until Bulls could safely claim the win.

I really couldnt tell, Rose said of notching his career-high point total. We were just trying to hold them off. We just tried to keep the lead, as if they were ahead.

Thibodeau downplayed the significance of beating the Spurs, while simultaneously praising the Bulls opponent.

The statement is they did a good job getting ready to play, said the coach. To me, the bigger challenge is looking at your improvement. I think weve gotten better as weve gone along. But we cant be satisfied and theres a lot of work to be done. The really good teams continue to get better. And you can use San Antonio as an example. Theyre the model franchise over the last 10 years. Theyve been so consistent and play so smart and find different ways to win. Each year, theyre in the thick of it.

Unlike their coach, his players admitted to being excited about not only the win which avenged their November loss in San Antonio, giving them at least one win over all the teams regarded as the NBAs elite but the squads momentum heading into the extended weekend vacation.

So far this season theyve been the best team in the NBA. Its good for our team, to go into the break with that kind of mindset, beating such a good team, said Deng. Last time when they got us, we didnt have Carlos and at one point, we were up 17.

Concurred Rose: I think that we get up when we play those teams, where everybodys on the same page. We fought our way back in some of those games. Its exciting. It gives us a challenge. Its our measuring stick. Coach says every game is that, but this is the game that says how good we are, especially because we lost to them back in the beginning of the season.

Weve got a lot of confidence right now, knowing that we can beat some of the best teams in the NBA, he continued. When we come back, weve just got to stay focused and weve got to work even harder... weve still got a goal and thats to win a championship.

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.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

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USA TODAY

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

It’s tough to call the position battle for the backup point guard spot on a Lottery-bound team important, but here we are two days into the Bulls’ season.

It won’t move the needle in NBA circles and Dwane Casey won’t be putting in additional time getting ready for Saturday’s game, but there appears to be potential for change in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation.

One day after an embarrassing display in a season-opening loss to the Sixers, Hoiberg said the Bulls have yet to make a decision on a potential lineup change for tomorrow’s affair against the Detroit Pistons. Kris Dunn, who missed Thursday’s game for the birth of his first child, was not at practice on Friday and may or may not be available for the home opener.

That could prompt changes after Cam Payne, inserted into the starting lineup, was largely ineffective, failing to score on 0 of 4 shooting in 21 minutes.

“We’re gonna see how practice goes today and then make that decision,” Hoiberg said. “It’s still up in the air on what we’re gonna do.”

The loss certainly can’t fall on just Payne, as the Bulls went lifeless after a 41-point first quarter that had them in the lead after 12 minutes. From there the Sixers outscored them by 29 in the second and third quarters, facing little resistance from a Bulls defense that doesn’t appear to have made much improvement from a year ago, Dunn or no Dunn.

Philadelphia shot 48 percent from the field, scored 20 fast-break points and 46 points in the paint, cruising to 102 points through three quarters before reserves finished things off. Even with Dunn the defensive prospects don’t look good, meaning Hoiberg might have to make changes to ignite the offense that scored just 35 points in those second and third quarters.

The Bulls could go a few different routes. Zach LaVine’s hot hand in the first quarter – 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting – saw the ball in his hands, and he even added two assists.

“It's a collective effort. You've got to have all five guys out there trying to play the right way and again, we found a recipe with Zach, especially in that first unit, where we let him bring the ball up the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We ran a couple actions where he was the facilitator and we put Cam in the corner. So a lot of that will be dictated by who has it going on a particular night and last night it happened to be Zach, so he was the one that was doing a lot of facilitating.”

Past a point guard-less lineup, the backups to Payne – Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis – could also see extended minutes going forward.

Arcidiacono had 8 points and 8 assists in 28 minutes, though the majority of those stats came in garbage time. Still, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and didn’t turn the ball over, and five of his assists resulted in makes at the rim.

Ulis, acquired off waivers last week, could inject some life into the second unit.

“He’s ready. He’s done a good job in practice,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gone through the system with him as far as what we expect and if there’s a point in the game where he can go out there and we feel he can help us, I’m confident that he’ll go out there and give us good effort.”

The point guard rotation isn’t the key to unlocking the Bulls as a lockdown defensive team, or no longer suffering the offensive dry spells that happened Thursday. But in a season that’s already showing signs of adversity, shaking up the lineup might be Hoiberg’s only chance.