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Not pretty, but Bulls pull out another tough win

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Not pretty, but Bulls pull out another tough win

Thursday, April 21, 2011Posted: 9:00 p.m. Updated: 11:55 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLISIt feels amazing, but were not satisfied. It feels good to be in this position, but we know that we want more, Joakim Noah said while picking out food from the postgame spread in the empty Conseco Fieldhouse visiting locker room.

After surviving the worst shooting night of the season from his star teammate and an overly physical contest from the opposition, the Bulls center had a right to feel gratified.

Despite Derrick Roses 4-for-18 shooting, the Bulls fought off the defiant Pacers, 88-84, Thursday night, to win Game 3 of their first-round series and take a 3-0 lead with a potentially-clinching contest looming Saturday afternoon in Indiana.

Rose persevered through his horrendous evening shooting the ball to make a clutch, go-ahead layup with 17.8 seconds to go, setting the stage for the victory.

Hes a tough competitor, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Hes going to do whatever we need him to do at the end of the game and make all the big plays.

Compared to the last time the Bulls visited Conseco Fieldhouse, the atmosphere changed almost 180 degrees, as the previously sizable Chicago contingent in the arena was now substantially less. Pacers fans filled the building to the gills for the franchises first home playoff game since 2006.

Indiana point guard Darren Collison started the contesthe was a game-time decision after spraining his left ankle in the Bulls Game 2 winheartening the home crowd, which became even more boisterous when Carlos Boozer (four points on 2-for-10 shooting, 11 rebounds) picked up two fouls in short succession.

Its just how the game went. Didnt get any free throwsI guess I didnt get fouled out therebut well call it like it is. Well keep playing. I dont care about any of that stuff, said Boozer of his disappointing outing. I dont care about my numbers. I dont care if I shot great without getting any fouls called. All I care about is winning. This whole team is like that. All we want to do is win and thats why were in the position were in. We dont care about stats.

Were a team. Were not a one-guy team, were not a two-guy team. We need everybody in this locker room to win.

Taj Gibson, however, showed that he was more than prepared to get minutes, propelling the Bulls to a slim advantage with his high activity level, despite the low-post presence of Pacers center Roy Hibbert, the varied scoring of Danny Granger (21 points) and a game that was being officiated in a different fashion than the two previous affairs in the Windy City.

While the defense of rookie swingman Paul George (12 rebounds) and veteran reserve Dahntay Jones (who hadnt previously played in the series) limited Rose (23 points, 13-for-15 from the foul line, four steals, five turnovers), Luol Deng (21 points, six rebounds, six assists) picked up the scoring slack and after the opening period, the Bulls clung to a 21-17 lead.

Both Dengs hot hand and Gibsons energy persisted early in the second quarter, but the deep Pacers responded with surprise scoring from the likes of Mike Dunleavy and Josh McRoberts to narrow the already-small gap between the teams.

By halftime, the Bulls had knotted the game up at 42 points apiece.

After the break, Collison made his presence felt, ceasing questions about his mobility with quick drives that ended with mid-range finishes.

The diminutive second-year point guard was about the only player interested in finesse basketball, as things quickly got heated in the physical contest, best illustrated by the small skirmish involving the mild-mannered Rose and longtime Pacers big man Jeff Foster. The latter fouled the MVP candidate hard, prompting Rose to respond by letting Foster know his feelings on the matter.

Thats their game planmake it physicalbut thats really fine with us. We have tough guys and were knocking down our free throws. If thats how the game goes, thats totally fine, said Deng. Theyre fouling hard when were driving. Weve just got to get up, go right back at them and make your free throws. This is their game plan. Its the playoffs, no layups.

Added Thibodeau: This is the playoffs. There are going to be hard fouls. In my eyes, thats what theyve been doing the whole series. Theyre fouling hard, thats part of their game and when it crosses over the line, I think the officials will make the call.

For Roses part, he was reluctant to talk much about the confrontation or the physical play afterwards, though his stony gaze when the topic was raised said it all, regardless of his typically downplayed response.

It got a little rough out there, but its basketball. They have something to prove. If anything, this is their last fight. Theyre back at home, they feel good when they play at home, they have a decent record at home and that was their game plan, said Rose. I got a little bit frustrated, but thats basketball. Thats his job. If you dont stand up to it, no one will. I was just trying to go to the basket and create contact.

Chicago kept the game close through Dengs continued production and a more unlikely source of offense, Keith Bogans (nine points, 3-for-4 three-point shooting), whose long-range shooting was a bonus, enabling the Bulls to survive in a game where Rose hadnt yet asserted himself offensively.

Every game is going to be different. My whole mindset is whatever the team needs at that point. I came out early, had good looks and I knocked them down, but I knew going down to the fourth quarter, he was going to take a lot of shots and in this series. Keeping Granger quiet is a big plus for us, and thats my job out there. Thats what Im going to try to do, said Deng, subliminally referencing Granger and his pre-series claim that the Bulls were beatable if Rose was ineffective.

We dont really care what anyone says. Theres going to be a lot of things that are being said. Derrick is a great player and if you try to stop him, what are you going to do, double team? If you do that, weve got guys who can make shots. Were really focused on what weve got to do. Theres a lot of ideas and a lot of guys saying stuff off the court, and weve got guys that play hard. Thats our goal every night when we step out there: Not think about whats being said and win that ballgame.

At the conclusion of three quarters, the Bulls led the intense affair by a slim, 65-64 margin.

Rose went back into attack mode, getting to the charity stripe repeatedlyhes frequently mentioned how he uses drawing fouls to stop opposing teams runsand his assist to Kyle Korver (12 points, 2-for-3 three-point shooting) for a transition three-pointer capped a 10-0 run that put Chicago back in the drivers seat.

Tyler Hansbrough (10 points), painted as a villain in Chicago after Game 1, scored four quick points to bring the hosts within a point of the Bulls, but Korver, who has been the bane of the Pacers with his marksmanship, hit another triple to quiet the increasingly raucous audience midway through the final stanza.

Im just trying to take shots that are there, Korver said. In the playoffs, the sets that we run, they work less and less because you run the same sets every game, they go over it in practice every day and youve got to have guys that can just break you down and play. Weve got the best one in the world in Derrick, so when theyre worried about him, thats when we have to really step up, move to the open spot, find the open seam and I just try to be one of those guys.

After a Granger jumper tied the contest at 84 with under two minutes remaining, the two teams exchanged defensive stops until the Bulls called timeout with 33.4 seconds to go, setting the stage for Rose to once again work his magic.

After struggling through a horrific shooting night, the South Side Chicago native worked the clock down until driving to the hole and finishing a left-handed layup with 17.8 seconds left to put Chicago by a basket.

Hes not going to shoot the ball great every night and I think because of his versatilityhe can score so many different ways; he can score in catch-and-shoot, he can score in pick-and-roll, he scores on the driveso if his jumpers not falling, hes going to drive the ball and hes going to get to the free-throw line, said Thibodeau of his star.

Indiana had a final possession, however, but Granger came up short on a three-pointer from the top of the key. Ronnie Brewer corralled the rebound and was subsequently fouled with 1.1 seconds on the clock. Brewer, playing with a sprained left thumb, knocked down both shots to seal the deal for the Bulls.

In the end, the Bulls won the in the fashion in which theyre truly most comfortablegritty, physical, intense and most of all, defense-oriented and tough-mindedregardless of what theyll spout about wanting easy victories.

Theres games that people were expecting us to win by a huge margin and went down to the wire, and we kept saying in the locker room, thats not how we wanted the games to be, but weve got to learn from it, said Deng.

Echoed Thibodeau: You have to win games different ways and I think weve learned each game. Youre playing the same team over and over and over again, so were locked into them pretty good, theyre locked into us, things are hard to come by. You have to be mentally tough, physically tough, you have to be able to endure and then you have to be ready for the next one.

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.

Four observations: Bulls take down Pistons in dominant effort

Four observations: Bulls take down Pistons in dominant effort

The Bulls took down Derrick Rose and the Pistons 109-89 behind a stellar effort from Lauri Markkanen. Four observations from the win:

First quarter fizzle, third quarter sizzle

The Bulls came out of the gates piping hot in this one, jumping out to a 19-6 lead behind seven quick points from Lauri Markkanen — those coming from two authoritative dunks and a three-pointer that bounced high off the back rim before dropping in. 

In just five minutes, though, the Pistons erased that deficit, riding a Langston Galloway heat-check to a 28-24 lead with a minute-and-a-half remaining in the first. Coby White stopped the bleeding with back-to-back three-pointers, and the two sides ended the quarter knotted at 30.

Jim Boylen talked before the game about limiting ‘streaks’ and credit to the Bulls for not letting that one be their undoing. From the beginning of the second quarter on, they generally maintained at least two possessions-worth of distance from Detroit before pulling away in the third.

The most exciting sequence of that stretch was lead by — who else? — White. Up nine, he ran a crisp screen-and-roll with Wendell Carter for an alley-oop, then followed that up with a pull-up transition three moments later to put the Bulls up 14 and force a Pistons timeout. They never looked back.

The starters pull their weight

After their last game against Milwaukee, Boylen said he considered riding a bench unit in crunch-time. But tonight, the starters pulled their weight.

For Markkanen specifically, this was exactly the type of performance the doctor ordered. He led all scorers with 24 points on 7-for-14 shooting (3-for-4 from three). It wasn’t a perfect game — a few bricked jumpers persisted, and at one point Andre Drummond sent him packing with a vicious block on a dunk attempt. Nevertheless, Markkanen posting a 20-point game for the first time since opening night is a welcome development.

Meanwhile, Tomas Satoransky bounced back from only logging 18 minutes in a hard-fought loss to Milwaukee to put up 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds (3-for-5 from three). He set up both of Markkanen’s first-quarter dunks and threw down a thunderous transition slam of his own to put the Pistons to bed in the fourth. 

Wendell Carter and Shaq Harrison were active and engaged on both ends all night, as well. Carter was up to the challenge of Drummond, finishing with 12 points and 15 rebounds (five offensive), his ninth double-double of the season. Harrison had 11 rebounds of his own, three steals and punched home a breakaway reverse drunk that ignited the UC, to boot. He finished with a team-high plus-minus of +29.

The one exception was Zach LaVine, who — again — struggled. He scored five points on 2-for-11 shooting and was invisible for long stretches.

Bulls simply dominate

It feels surreal to watch the Bulls so thoroughly dominate an opponent. A look at some pertinent team splits from this one:

Three-point shooting

Bulls: 14-for-27 (51.9%)
Pistons: 8-for-33 (24.2%)

Rebounds

Bulls: 55
Pistons: 46

Fast break points

Bulls: 18
Pistons: 9

Points in the paint

Bulls: 48
Pistons: 36

Detroit looked dreadful. Next.

Who’s chopping onions in here?

Some old pals were in the house on a night the Bulls honored Luol Deng — and not just Derrick Rose:

Just before introducing some friendly ghosts of mid-2000’s past, the team also debuted a tribute video for Deng:

 

“I think the love in Chicago is different than everywhere else,” Deng said before the game. “You become part of the city. I miss that. I just miss the city.”

The city misses you too, Luol. Even in a blowout victory, the cheers during that part of the night were louder than for any in-game play.

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Bulls honor Luol Deng, who takes place among all-time franchise greats

Bulls honor Luol Deng, who takes place among all-time franchise greats

Luol Deng strolled down a United Center hallway, hugging Joakim Noah one minute and Derrick Rose the next.

In some ways, it felt like a golden era of Bulls basketball all over again.

But time marches on. And Deng returned Wednesday night to be honored for his decision to sign a ceremonial one-day contract and retire as a Bull last month.

“It’s what makes sense. Chicago means a lot to me,” Deng said pregame. “When you look back, just my career as a basketball player, coming here as a young kid, a young man I should say at (age) 19, it’s a lot of history here and I wanted it to end the right way and the best way to do it is with familiar faces and with people who know me very well.”

Acquired in a draft-day trade in 2003, Deng made two All-Star games and landed in the top-10 of virtually every major statistical category for all-time franchise leaders before getting traded to the Cavaliers in his 10th season.

Deng also played for the Heat, Lakers and Timberwolves. But he’ll always be associated with the Bulls.

“It’s so many good memories,” Deng said. “When you are going through it, you really don’t see it that way. You’re in the league, you’re trying to prove a point, you’re trying to the best player you can be. Every day ‘you can do this, you can’t do that, we need this, we don’t need that.’ You kind of forget the relationship you have and what you are building.

“And then you think back and what it meant to the organization, what it meant to the fans. I know we never won a championship, but there’s a lot of good memories of how hard we played, how hard we battled growing up in front of the fans. Those are things you look back on. I can’t have it anywhere else. Everywhere else where I went and played it’s after I’ve accomplished certain things. I’m [a] grown player. I’ve been in the league for awhile. For me to be here 10 years is such a blessing.”

Deng teamed with Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni and Chris Duhon to help change the culture and qualify for the 2005 playoffs, the franchise’s first appearance since the dynasty dismantled.

Gordon attended, as did former teammates Aaron Gray, Jannero Pargo, John Lucas III, Tyrus Thomas, Nazr Mohammed and Joakim Noah.

“I think the love in Chicago is different than everywhere else,” Deng said. “Anywhere that you get drafted I think people are attached to you. They watch you grow up and they kind of know who you are, your character. You’re not just a basketball player anymore. You become part of the city. I miss that. I just miss the city. I miss going to certain places.

“I remember I lived in Northbrook, but I had a place in the West Loop. And now you drive around and you see it and you see the changes and everything. So you miss it. You miss friends, family, all that.”

Deng and the Bulls picked the night in large part because Rose and the Pistons were in town.

“What we did together  -- Jo is here also and some of the guys from that team – I think for me, it’s weird,” Deng said. “When I was playing with the Bulls, I was watching Derrick back in high school and I was actually going to the games. Derrick ends up being on the team.

“And seeing Derrick, you know, MVP, from the city, it’s almost like you’re a teammate but I was rooting for Derrick with those guys and the team. I know last year when I was with Derrick (in Minnesota) I spoke with him a little bit about it, that I’m thinking about doing this. I didn’t know where he was going to be. But it means a lot to me that you know, those guys are here and that he’s here and Derrick is from Chicago.”

Deng, Noah and Rose were instrumental in leading the Bulls to the 2011 Eastern Conference finals. Deng revived an old debate as to whether or not the Bulls could’ve beat the Heat, who prevailed in five games, if they had stayed healthy or won the 2012 title if Rose hadn’t torn his left ACL.

“Everyone has their own opinion and I’m not taking anything away from the teams that won it that year,” Deng said. “There’s two incidents that happened. The first one was obviously, we know about Derrick’s injury that year. But before that, people don’t remember with Omer Asik, when we had Omer, that season I think we won 62 games. Every time we had Omer play the whole fourth quarter, we beat Miami that year (three) times during the season and we won the first game (of the conference finals). But in the last few minutes of that game Omer broke his leg. I don’t know many people know that story, but we really couldn’t beat the Heat without him after that. We all knew it in the locker room and we had a hard time doing it, and I felt like we could’ve won that year.

“And then obviously the year when Derrick got hurt I think mentally we didn’t prepare ourselves what would happen if that happened. Because you just didn’t think of it happening. You thought about maybe ankle sprains or something. But to have your best player, which your whole team was built around, go down like that, we just couldn’t come back from it.”

Deng’s favorite individual highlight came when he made his first All-Star game in 2012.

“It’s crazy because when it happened for me it was like, ‘OK, I’m an All Star, I’m going to the All-Star, I felt great about it.’ I loved it. But it means a lot when you look back.

“With people saying Thibs (former coach Tom Thibodeau) playing guys a lot of minutes---for me, I think when Thibs came to Chicago it changed my career. As well as I’ve done in the past, I think it gave me almost like a label where people started to believe in how hard I played. And because we were winning, everything I was doing was highlighted a lot more than it would be when we were losing. So I appreciated that, and those teams under Thibs, when I go back, all those minutes that I played I’m so thankful for. Because not only did I play better and perform well under it, but it also, for the city, people appreciate night in and night out how hard I was playing with all those minutes.”

Deng said he came to terms with retirement recently and has plans to do more work with his foundation, which was powerful in Chicago when he played for the Bulls. Asked how he wanted to be remembered, Deng smiled.

“I want it to be more than just the game,” he said. “I know I am a professional basketball; I was a professional basketball player. But I think I tried to be, really, the best teammate that I could be. I tried to do a lot of stuff off the court. With the stuff that I’m doing now with my life and everything, I think I tried to do as much as I can while playing.

“The stuff that we did with the organization within the city---to me, it was a lot more than just basketball. So I want people to remember it that way.”

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