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No magic for Bulls in Boozer's debut

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No magic for Bulls in Boozer's debut

Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010
Updated 12:16 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Sometimes one team just has anothers number. Sometimes numbers tell the story. Sometimes the storys even simpler than it seems.

In Carlos Boozers Chicago debut, the Bulls (9-7) were shellacked by the Magic (14-4), 107-78, mirroring the vicious beating they took in Orlando during the preseason.

While not reflected from the very outset, the Bulls low energy, regressed defensive and shockingly poor rebounding were seized upon by the visitors.

They beat us in every facet of the game, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, speaking without a podium, as if the blowout defeat meant he was stripped of the privilege. You cant allow a team like this to get off to a start like they did.

We dont want to make any excuses. We thought the start of the game led to our demise, continued Thibodeau, who listed a litany of his teams flaws on the evening, including defense of the pick-and-roll, post and perimeter varieties rebounding and stagnant offense. Theyre a heck of a team, a well-balanced team."

But Thibodeau was reluctant to blame the teams poor play on the team incorporating Boozer into the system.

Its hard to say, said Thibodeau. We were low energy, we played without pace, so we didnt get any scoring opportunities and we didnt make quick decisions, which you have to do against this team.

We had 21 rebounds as a team so I thought we werent reacting the way we would like, he continued. They did a good job. They were into us. Weve got to fight a lot harder.

As for Boozer himself, the two-time All-Star power forward finished with five points and two rebounds in over 21 minutes of play. While disappointed in his own performance, Boozers energy was to be commended, although the results werent there yet.

I would say the first four or five minutes, the games were a lot faster than our practices were for me, so it took me a little bit of time to adjust to it. But I did a better job of adjusting to it as time went on in the game, said Boozer, who said he felt no ill effects to his injured right hand afterwards.

Looking back on it, you feel rusty now, but I didnt feel bad out there. My legs were good, my wind was good. I just didnt do too many good things out there, didnt get a lot of rebounds, didnt play good enough defense. As a team, we didnt play our best game tonight.

That was to be expected. It was his first game, added Thibodeau. I liked his energy and itll only get better. I thought he had some good catches in the paint and those were shots that he normally makes.

It feels great to have him back, but this is a process and weve just got to keep grinding and keep getting better. He hasnt played in a while, but I think that as a team, its not about one player on this team, chimed in Joakim Noah, who scored 16 points but was amazingly held to zero rebounds. It never has been. As a whole, weve got to control what we can control and we definitely have to rebound the ball better.

Rebounding was certainly a central theme, as the Bulls a premier team on the backboards in the league corralled only 21 rebounds to Orlandos 44.

Although Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard is an elite interior player the visitors concerted effort to get him the ball in the early going led to them being able to pick apart Chicago with penetration from point guard Jameer Nelson and swingman Vince Carter, not to mention deep shooting from their legion of marksmen the Bulls typical gang-rebounding approach usually is enough to stave off inferior rebounding squads.

Not on this night.

Its frustrating to lose the way we lost. I feel like were obviously a better team than we showed tonight. We got outrebounded by a lot, opined Noah. It just shows weve got a long way to go.

Thats my job, to rebound the basketball, and I wasnt able to do that tonight, so Ive got to a better job of that. Come in tomorrow, work hard and get ready for the next one, added the always-tough self-critic. Howard is obviously a load to handle, but theres no excuses in this league. Hes obviously one of the best for a reasonIve got to do a better job rebounding the basketball.

In Boozers mind, the Magics outside shooting the United Center guests shot 10-for-21 from long range was Chicagos major issue.

The biggest thing was their threes. They had 10 threes. After the first maybe five or six minutes, they gave it into Dwight every time. We started collapsing in the paint, Jameer started driving, we started sinking in a little bit, leaving their shooters wide open. By the time we got back to their shooters, the shot was already up and in the air, he said.

Added Derrick Rose: They did a good job with putting the ball inside and making us work on digging and getting out to their shooters, and thats their type of game.

To Rose, however, the circumstances surrounding the game played a part in the teams less-than-inspired showing.

Of course, games like this are always going to be rough first game back from a long road trip but weve just got to get used to playing with each other. I knew it wasnt going to be pretty or anything, but when we get our connection going, I think well be all right, said Rose, who scored 15 points and four assists. The first game back from a road trip usually is kind of hard. Weve just got to find it and not put our head down.

Rose expects the chemistry and cohesion with Boozer to develop in time and finds it understandable that an immediate connection isnt there yet.

He took a long time off, where he didnt touch a ball for a while. When he did, his timing wasnt right there. But we already know what type of player he is and hell get his game back pretty soon, explained Rose. Time will tell. Hes a basketball player and the only thing he needs is a couple of days or so, a couple games, and hes going to be back.

Added Thibodeau: The normal progression will be tomorrow, practice. I think hell get more comfortable and hell settle down. As his conditioning and timing comes around, hell get better and better.

The rookie head coach doesnt expect Boozer to be his old self right away. Rather, it sounds as if he just wants him to fit into the teams scheme for the time being.

To me, it starts with a defensive mindset. Rebound the ball, get us into the open floor, get some easy scoring opportunities. Hes great with execution, sets a great screen, very good pick-and-roll player, so I think thatll help. When hes catching in the paint, hes got great hands, said Thibodeau. When he gets going, that gives us another weapon where we can attack inside.

Boozer himself boils it down to a much simpler strategy after a debacle like this: The good thing is weve got practice tomorrow and weve got a chance to get back at it on Friday.

See? Simple.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

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, 46 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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