Monday, March 7, 2011
Posted: 9:26 p.m. Updated: 11:43 p.m.
By Chris Cason
One day after an emotional win over the Miami Heat, the Bulls defeated the New Orleans Hornets 85-77, winning their ninth-straight at home and improving to 27-4 at the United Center.
Derrick Rose scored 24 points and handed out nine assists and Carlos Boozer finished with 19 points to go along with nine rebounds.
Both teams were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and make up two of the top three teams in the league in opponents points allowed. Adding to that, the Hornets were without All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who sat out after suffering a concussion in the Hornets Monday night win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were also without starting forward Trevor Ariza, who sat out his third-straight game due to a sore groin.
Even with New Orleans being short-handed, they managed to keep the game at a pace where they were comfortable. Chicago built up a six-point lead in the first half, only for the Hornets to come back and tie the game at 43 going into halftime.
The Bulls seemed poised to break away from the Hornets in the third quarter after holding them to 4-of-18 shooting from the field, but as has been the case in Chicagos previous three contest, the game came down to the final few minutes.
The Bulls built a 77-71 lead with under five minutes remaining in the fourth but the Hornets went on a 6-0 run to tie the score with 3:18 left. After a Chicago timeout, Rose was denied at the rim but Joakim Noah (6 points, 13 rebounds) regained possession and lais the ball in while being fouled.
Noah missed the free throw, but the Hornets werent able to convert on their final seven possessions and Chicago drained its free throws to seal the deal.
A good team finds different ways to win, so you have to be able to win with a low-pace and it was a grind-it-out-game," said Tom Thibodeau about both teams shooting under 40 percent for the game. Both teams are playing really good defense so youre going deep into the clock and sometimes, you can score more and you can win that way. The big thing is when its not going well offensively, you have to be able to count on your defense and rebounding and I thought the fact that were able to keep our turnovers down was big for us.
Chicago only had a slight advantage in the rebounding category, 46-41, but managed to keep its turnovers down to nine and was able to move the ball extremely well (24 assists on 31 made field goals) against some pesky defense from New Orleans.
I thought we did a great job on David West, said Boozer about holding the Hornets' power forward to 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field. With Chris Paul being out tonight, we knew they were going to get the ball to him a lot. Our defense was phenomenal and thats why we won.
This was the fifth time in the last six games that the Bulls have scored under 90 points, with the only loss coming in a 83-80 loss against the Hawks last Wednesday. They have held seven straight opponents under 90 points, including three at under 77 and are 6-1 in that span. They also improved to 9-3 in games in which they dont score 90 or more points, which is a positive heading into the final weeks of the season.
They're the most complete team in the NBA right now, said Hornets coach Monty Williams before the game. Their starters can play inside-out, they can shoot, they have great point guard play, a post option, can play pick-and-roll, their bench comes in and does the same.
They can play in transition and play small. They can make you change what you want to do. All their role guys know their spots, to me, thats a complete team.
All they do is win
Boozer came into Mondays game averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds since the return of Noah to the lineup on Feb. 23. He finished with 24 points in one game, a 118-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors, but since that time, his offense has taken quite a dip in production.
Its no secret that teams do their best to keep the ball out of Roses hands as much as possible, but Boozer is also starting to see more attention defensively.
We have to continue to search him out more," said Thibodeau. "Defenses are digging down on him and we still have to get the re-post. We have to give him that second look when he kicks it out, so he can catch it close to the basket. Post-depth is so important, particularly when a team digs well or they double team.
Even with his numbers declining, the Bulls' defense has picked up as the number of possessions per game have declined and the team has won six out of eight games since Noahs return.
Its good, though, said Boozer about his numbers being down. We talk about it all the time with Rose because he gets doubled every game. Its easy basketball once they put two on the ball or they give attention to one or two guys, somebody else is going to be open, so we look for that.
Thats going to happen. If defenses give us a lot of attention, were going to make the right play for our team even if it doesnt lead to the assists, it may lead to the assists by the next person making the right play. Thats part of the game. If its two guys on you, somebodys open, you just have to find them.
Dengs play has picked up since Noahs return as he has benefited from the increased attention on Rose and Boozer and he was averaging 20 points per game coming into Mondays meeting with New Orleans at just under 50 percent shooting from the field.
Were a deep team, said Luol Deng. A lot of times we go out there in the first quarter..., most of the time were just trying to figure out what the defense is trying to do. Ive grown a lot as a player where I see what teams are trying to do and if theyre doubling on Boozer or paying a lot of attention to him, I just try and be more aggressive. If I come out and defenses are not focused on Boozer or Rose, I have to let those guys get going because most of the nights, they are going to carry us offensively.
The Bulls have sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference and have their eyes set on the number 1 seed going into the playoffs. With that said, as long as the wins keep coming, the team could care less about whos averaging what.
We win, said Boozer. Who cares about stats. All I want to do is win, the rest of it will take care of itself.