Bulls

Rose, Bulls own second half in statement win

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Rose, Bulls own second half in statement win

Friday, March 11, 2011Posted: 9:25 PM Updated 10:50 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Its said that revenge is a dish best served cold and the Bulls served the visiting Hawks with a not-so-delectable treat Friday evening at the United Center, following a disappointing collapse in Atlanta last week.

Led by league MVP favorite Derrick Roses 34-point night, Luol Dengs co-starring effort while dinged up and a stifling defensive performance, Chicago (46-18) clipped Atlantas (37-28) wings, 94-76.

Tonight, they were just giving it to me, said Rose, who scored 18 of his points in the pivotal third quarter, afterwards. I always say Ive got to learn how to get fouled and me going to the hole just attacking, putting pressure on them made them decide whether to jump or just let me have a layup.

Chimed in Deng: Its fun playing with Derrick and were all glad hes on our side. When he gets it going, its tough to stop and it makes it easier for all of us out there.

The game began in a low-scoring affair as both teams got off to an abysmal start shooting the ball mostly due to Atlantas poor shot selection and Chicago simply struggling to find the mark.

Deng was a game-time decision because of a bruised left thigh suffered Wednesday in Charlotte and looked no worse for the wear with 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, carrying the home teams offensive load.

Aging veteran Kurt Thomas (four points, 13 rebounds) made contributions on both ends after earning the starting nod with Carlos Boozer sidelined due to a sprained left ankle.

With Boozer out, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau tinkered with the rotation and rested both Rose (34 points, five assists, six rebounds) and Joakim Noah early, in addition to fellow starter Keith Bogans, who was typically replaced midway through the first period.

Dengs efforts and a stout team defensive effort offset a strong start by former Bulls fan favorite Kirk Hinrich (11 points) in his first game back in the United Center since being traded to the Hawks and Chicago held a 22-20 advantage after the first quarter.

As a leader, he stepped up. Thats what hes supposed to do. It shows what kind of player he is, what kind of teammate he is, said Rose of Deng, his fellow captain. He gave us all hes got.

One of the early substitutes, C.J. Watson, made his presence felt early in the second period, providing energy, instant offense, underrated playmaking and building upon his solid body of work the entire second half of the season as Roses understudy.

Rookie Omer Asik, who has been drawing more and more fan support, joined in the fun with a pair of monster two-handed slams, as if to further display the emergence of the entire Bulls bench. Still, the Hawks remained resilient and with instant offense from sixth-man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford (another former Bulls player) combined with forward Josh Smiths (15 points) interior efforts and Hinrichs timely scoring, the visitors erased Chicagos slim cushion and tied the contest midway through the quarter.

Upon the return of Rose and Noah (11 rebounds), the excitement quotient definitely went up. Roses swashbuckling penetration is always a crowd-pleaser, while Noah diving for a loose ball near the Bulls bench, with his body horizontal to the court, also garnered the approval of the United Center audience, but the Hawks kept it a tight-knit affair.

Despite a late scoring burst from Rose, the Bulls trailed 50-48 at the intermission, following a deep jumper by All-Star swingman Joe Johnson (16 points) before the halftime buzzer.

Chicago nursed a slight edge to begin the third quarter with Roses offensive assertiveness the catalyst and continued tough team defense supporting the All-Stars scoring efforts. Atlanta hit a major scoring drought, only scoring two points in the halfs first seven minutes, enabling the Bulls lead to balloon to double digits, with Roses determined drives and acrobatic finishes a constant.

My shot wasnt falling. I was just trying to get to the line, Rose explained. They were going over the screen and it left me with the big, one-on-one and I was trying to make their bigs into shot-blockers.

Rose had previously struggled to get to the free-throw line earlier in the season, but made up for an off night shooting from the field with his ability to draw fouls and manufacture points from the charity stripe while eventually finding his touch from the field.

With Deng as his offensive sidekick, Thomas and Noahs co-ownership of the backboards and energy off the bench from Gibson, the Bulls headed into the final stanza with a 72-60 advantage.

We just tightened things up, said Rose. All things were cooking for us in the second half on the defensive side.

Added Deng: Our bigs were amazing. Our bigs were great. Last time we played down there, they kind of bullied us around, they got their way.

Kurt Thomas was great on Al Horford, who had his way with us the last time, continued Deng, who said his thigh was a little tight after the game. The team, defensively, in the second half was great.

A typical push by the Bulls' reserves allowed the home team to extend the squads lead, as Dengs usual go-to guy presence with the second unit sparked the collective effort. The visitors tried to mount comeback attempts, but Chicago continued to deny them easy opportunities and in Thibodeau-speak, finished the defense, with defensive rebounding and any chance for sustained progress by Atlanta was futile at the periods midway point.

While the home fans requests for veteran reserve Brian Scalabrine may have been a bit premature, the tenor of the contest was such that it was understandable why the Chicago loyalists believed the game was in the bag, even if Thibodeau wasnt absolutely positive yet. Chipping into the deficit started to seem impossible for the Hawks, as their harried shots were more often than not off the mark and after a late scoring flurry by Rose, the gap widened even further.

Thibodeau eventually acknowledged victory and inserted newly-acquired swingman Rasual Butler, who knocked down a three-pointer off a Rose assist before the Chicago native exited the game. Also, the crowds wish was granted, as Scalabrine not only checked in, but hit a deep jumper, much to the delight of the entire United Center.

Afterwards, the Bulls were nonplussed when asked about gaining ground on the Celtics Boston lost to Philadelphia Friday night, putting Chicago within a half-game of the Eastern Conference leaders for the top spot in the East.

Bostons Boston. All those teams Miami, Boston theyre going to do what they do, said Deng. Were really focused on us.

Concurred Rose: If us winning games put us in the number-one spot, thats great. If not, were still trying to play hard.

Rose took it a step further, stating that the teams focus wouldnt be swayed by even Saturday nights celebration of the 20th anniversary of the franchises first title, an event that will bring Bulls legends like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant the latter pair was courtside for the evenings win back to the United Center.

I know tomorrows going to be a big celebration, but whats the celebration if we lose? Were not trying to do that, stated Rose. Were trying to focus on winning. The celebration is great, I hope that Im able to do that one day, but were just trying to focus on Utah.

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.

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

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USA TODAY

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

Denzel Valentine’s troublesome left ankle is going to keep him on the sideline for at least the next two weeks. Fred Hoiberg said Saturday before the Bulls’ home opener against the Detroit Pistons that Valentine is suffering from a bone bruise in the ankle he sprained on the second day of training camp. Valentine will be evaluated in two weeks.

“It sucks because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what’s going on I at least have a time frame and be patient with it; it’s bad news but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.”

Valentine had been practicing earlier in the week and appeared close to a return after spraining the ankle on Sept. 25. But the third year wing complained of discomfort in the ankle and missed practice on Friday. A scan of the left ankle revealed the bone bruise, and Hoiberg wouldn’t speculate on when exactly Valentine might return.

It’s the same ankle Valentine had surgery on in May 2017. Valentine also missed the last two weeks of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Valentine or the Bulls, who are in desparate need of help both in the backcourt and on the wing.

Though Valentine isn’t a true point guard, he averaged 3.2 assists per game off the bench last season. The Bulls could use that kind of production when Kris Dunn returns on Monday, as Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t exactly showed promise in the early going.

Instead, Valentine is on the mend and it’s unclear when he might return. Given he’s had surgery on the same ankle before, the Bulls will be cautious upon his return.

“I’m a fighter, I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt," Valentine said. "I can’t sit here and be negative, I just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”