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Rose rejects Raptors; Bulls lead East by three

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Rose rejects Raptors; Bulls lead East by three

Saturday, April 2, 2011
Posted 9:44 p.m. Updated 11:19 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Letting an inferior opponent hang around for an entire game isnt exactly ideal for success as the postseason approaches. But the Bulls (56-20) refused to allow the lowly Raptors (20-55) to overtake them and eventually dispatched their guests, 113-106, Saturday night at the United Center.

A now-familiar dominant performance from All-Star point guard Derrick Rose and a balanced effort from his supporting cast particularly reserve forward Taj Gibson allowed Chicago to increase their first-place lead in the Eastern Conference over idle Boston and Miami , as well as tying San Antonio for the best home record in the NBA (they are a game behind the Spurs for the best mark in the league, which would give them home-court advantage throughout the playoffs), with six regular-season games remaining.

Boozer: Only a matter of time before Rose takes over

I dont want to take away from a win because you have to win different ways. The bottom line is getting a win, said Thibodeau. It was a tough game. But in the end, I thought we did the things we needed to do.

Carlos Boozer chimed in: It wasnt the defensive game that we wanted to play, but they have a lot of one-on-one guys, we were coming off a back-to-back, they were ready for us. With that being said... we get better and tighten up our game. Im just happy we came out with the win, really, he continued. Most games in the NBA are close games.

Ill take our team in a close game against anybody and I think were ready for that. weve pretty much seen everythingI think were prepared for whatever we have to face.

Surprisingly, the usually revenge-minded Bulls got off to one of their chronic slow starts against the Raptors, who took them down in the teams last meeting in Joakim Noahs return from thumb surgery. Noah sat this one out, missing his third consecutive game while nursing a sprained ankle.

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After Toronto got off to a 13-7 lead in the early going propelled by the outside marksmanship of promising second-year swingman DeMar Derozan (26 points) Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau had enough and halted the game for instructional purposes.

Rose (36 points, 10 assists, three blocked shots) appeared primed to go off on one of his trademark individual runs and while his personal efforts were effective in getting his hometown team back in the contest, he got help from the likes of Luol Deng (17 points) and Gibson (15 points, nine rebounds), who came off the bench to spark the Bulls with his strong interior play.

Taj was great, praised Thibodeau. Defending, challenging, great effort on the boards. We were searching. We needed some energy.

A quick four-point spurt at the end of the period Rose slashed his way to the rim for a layup, followed by Ronnie Brewer (six points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals) stealing the ensuing inbounds pass for a point-blank finish of his own gave Chicago a 25-19 lead after the opening quarter.

Dengs hot hand persisted and Brewer continued to contribute early in the second, enabling the Bulls to maintain their lead, as is custom when Thibodeaus rotation gives the Bench Mob its turn.

Defense, solid ball movement and high-energy play were all in effect, as the collective effort of the second unit Gibsons rebounding prowess and Brewer, with his passing and acumen when operating on the baseline, in particular helped the home team hold the Raptors at arms length, despite the scoring of reserve guard Leandro Barbosa (18 points) and complementary inside play of active rookie power forward Ed Davis (17 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks).

Boozer (18 points, 10 rebounds) dominated the next stretch for Chicago, showcasing his full repertoire running the floor, hitting mid-range jumpers, finishing with touch and explosiveness, rebounding with authority and facilitating offense as a passer for the second straight night and carrying the team to a double-digit lead, 53-43, at the break.

My ankles feeling better. You can tell, right? I probably came back when I was 70 percent, 75 percent, but its gotten gradually better every day and I continue to rehab it, explained Boozer, who has pieced together three consecutive strong outings. I feel great and a lot of that has to do with the ankle getting healthy, so it makes me more active.

On the first four trips after halftime, the two squads exchanged two-point jumpers both teams played very perimeter-oriented styles for the early portion of the third quarter which better suited the Raptors, leading to the visitors significantly chipping into the deficit, mostly due to the play of point guard Jerryd Bayless (26 points, eight assists). Bayless personal scoring tear (14 third-quarter points) was enough to allow Toronto to knot up the game.

It became an offensive game and theyre quick. Theyre very good off the dribble. We had a hard time keeping the ball in front of us. We were low energy, said Thibodeau. They played hard, they played smart, they played unselfishly. They put a lot of pressure on us. Theyre an attack team and theyre a team that gets the ball into the paint.

Thibodeau also commented on the individual battle between point guards Rose and Bayless the pair, close friends, have matched up frequently back to their high school All-American days before entering the league in the same season remarking, They were going at him pretty good, too.

Rose didnt deny his coachs claim, but added that he relished the defensive assignment.

I was just trying to get at them defensively. Jerryd hit a lot of good shots. Just trying to contest them and make them all tough, but they were going in and some nights, its going to be like that, said Rose. Teams, towards the end of the game, tend to put me in more pick-and-rolls to try to get me tired, try to get me more fatigued to slow me down on the other end. But I love the challenge. My will, I think, is high and if anything, it makes me a better player, especially tonight.

We definitely werent sharp on the defensive end, he continued. In practice, coach's going to curse us out. but were used to it. Were used to him yelling. We always know we can get better, but weve just got to go out there and put more effort into it.

Rose, not being one to let an inferior opponent come into his building and pull any surprises against the top team in the Eastern Conference, responded with his own rapid point production, then swatted shots on subsequent Raptors possessions first a Bayless jumper from behind before going up, up and away to block the fast-break layup attempt of former Bulls teammate James Johnson as part of a 9-1 Bulls run to end the period. Chicago took an eight-point spread, 83-75, into the final stanza.

He was amazing on both sides. Offensively, he carried us. defensively, he got big plays. Big blocks, steals. I dont think Ive seen him that active. He was active on both sides, so it was amazing to see and he did a great job of leading us tonight, said Boozer. I think he can take over every moment were out there. He has the ability to pick and choose when he wants to take over.

In the third quarter, he ran away with everything and in the fourth quarter, he made the key plays we had to have to win the game. In my opinion, I think he always takes over. Its just a matter of when he wants to let you guys the media know.

Added Thibodeau: Hes played that way all year and I think whatever the game calls for, hes going to provide. He set the tone for us. we were flat most of night, he came up with huge plays throughout the game.

We needed all his points, we needed him to score, we needed him to run the team, we needed him to play defense.

Gibson started the fourth quarter with flair, first converting a Brewer alley-oop and later throwing down another dunk for a traditional three-point play, igniting the United Center crowd. Due to the scoring of Barbosa, Davis and DeRozan, however, the Raptors remained within striking distance and once again threatened Chicago s winning margin midway through the period.

As the games stretch run approached, the Bulls two primary catalysts on the evening Rose and Gibson each stepped up to hit timely buckets, aiding the home team in maintaining its slim cushion.

Sharpshooter Kyle Korver (10 points) was clutch late hitting a three-pointer after a key Boozer offensive rebound, then following a Bayless score with a jumper at the shot-clock buzzer, giving the Bulls a 107-100 lead with approximately a minute to go but Toronto refused to go away.

With the Bulls leading by five, Toronto sent Korver to the line with 16 seconds left and the sharpshooter nailed a pair from the charity stripe, making it a three-possession contest and putting the game out of reach for the Bulls plucky guests.

Finally, it was Rose who put an end to the shenanigans, hitting two foul shots and blocking a Barbosa layup to cement the win.

I just remember them celebrating after they won back in Toronto, said Rose. Just trying to pay them back.

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 Outsiders Podcast: Clutch Markkanen lifts Bulls over Magic

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USA TODAY

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Clutch Markkanen lifts Bulls over Magic

On this edition of Bulls Outsiders, Matt Peck, Dave Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 110-109 win over the Magic and another great game from Lauri Markkanen.

0:45       Reaction to Bulls win vs Magic and 2 game win streak

1:45       Maturation of Lauri Markkanen

6:00       On Zach LaVine’s game and chemistry with Lauri Markkanen

7:15       Viewer comment on why wins are bad and thoughts on Boylen

11:50    Viewer question on Kris Dunn

15:00    Reaction to Space Jam 2 with Lebron James

21:30    Reaction to Luka and Lauri in Rising Stars game

24:00    Carlos Boozer and tweeting the wrong Zion get well soon

Lisetn to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: 

Three Takeaways: Point-Zach LaVine rounding into form

Three Takeaways: Point-Zach LaVine rounding into form

The Bulls held on to win what will perhaps go down as their weirdest win on the 2018-19 season. In a game with 23 lead changes and 17 ties, the Bulls came out on top after a series of fortunate (or unfortunate depending on where you stand on wins and losses these days) events. With the game tied at 106 all, former Bull DJ Augustin was fouled by Kris Dunn and received two free throws. Augustin--a career 86.3 percent free throw shooter--missed both free throws to give the Bulls life late in the matchup.

A clutch putback tip-in from Robin Lopez wasn’t the final nail in the coffin for the Magic, as wing Evan Fournier hit a huge 3-point shot with just over 7 seconds left in the game. This setup Markkanen’s clutch free throw attempts at the end of the game, in which he sank two of three to seal the Bulls 15th win of the season.

Lauri Legend in the making

The number one thing Bulls fans were concerned with post-Bobby Portis/Jabari Parker trade was if the departure of the two offensive-minded forwards would allow Markkanen to flourish. So far the answer is a resounding yes.

The Finnisher finished (see what we did there?) with 25 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 38 minutes of playing time. The double double was Markkanen’ 8th in his last 10 games, and his 13th double double overall on the season.

In the month of February, Markkanen is putting up All-Star numbers. Through 7 games he is averaging 25.3 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.6 APG and shooting 47 percent from the field. But just as important as the fact that he is putting up great stats is the way he is collecting those numbers. In recent weeks, we have seen a lot more from Markkanen in terms of taking his defender off the dribble, as he possesses solid speed for a big man.

So far through 36 games played in 2018-19, Markkanen’s 3-point percentage is 38.3 percent, just over a 2 percent increase from last year. And on top of that, he is actually attempting more 3-pointers as well. So with defenses frantically trying to deny him clean 3-point looks, using a--dare I say “Mirotic-esque”--pump fake to open up a driving lanes will take Markkanen’s burgeoning offensive game to the next level. In fact, a pump fake and side-step is the exact move that led to Markkanen drawing the foul on Aaron Gordon that led to the game-winning free throws.

The moment a solid NBA player becomes a superstar is when volume meets efficiency. Markkanen’s usage rate has increased from last year and his offensive rating has increased by about 4 points as well. If Markkanen’s season goes as it did last year, we can expect to see more fireworks as the Bulls closeout 2018-19. In the ‘17-’18 season, April was Markkanen’s highest scoring month.

The steadying force

Bulls head coach Jim Boylen was yet again--and rightfully so--quick to compliment Otto Porter on his play since joining Chicago.

“He’s just a steady force. He can be a receiver or a creator. Those guys are invaluable.”

Porter racked up 17 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, a block and a steal in 38 minutes. His 17 points came on an inefficient 15 field goal attempts, but he still ended up a team-high +10 from the field. Boylen was right  to call OPJ a “steady force” because whether or not he has a great shooting night, he is willing to do all the little the things to contribute to winning basketball.

You can always count on Otto-matic Otto--he of the career 40.2 percent 3-point percentage-- to hit a couple 3-pointers, but with Chicago, he has started to explore his off the dribble game. He is shooting 33.3 percent this season on pull-up 3-pointers--down from 45.2 percent last season in Washington--but he has more than doubled his pull-up 3-point attempts as a Bull.

Porter is not going to turn into Steph Curry overnight, but even at 25 years old, he can get even better at pull-up jump shooting. This part of his game being unlocked in Chicago gives Boylen another competent  ball handler to run secondary pick-and-roll actions.

Through his five games as a Bull, Porter is averaging 2.6 APG, almost a full assist better than his season average. Yet another part of his game that seems to be evolving under Boylen. And most important is the fact Porter’s sharing ways seems to have rubbed off on the rest of the roster.

LaVine the PG?

Through 7 games in February, LaVine is averaging 5.9 APG, which would be higher than any season-long assist average of his career. And this isn’t some sort of random flash in the pan, as the 2 turnovers per game he is averaging in February are the lowest of any month this season.

If LaVine--who has always been a solid passer despite his reputation--can consistently keep the turnovers down while playmaking this much, the idea of him as the Bulls long-term answer at point guard has to be taken seriously.

The main issue with the defensive-minded Dunn being the starter at point is the fact that he cannot hit an open 3-point shot, which was on display on Friday night, as he went 0/2 from 3-point range. Juxtapose this with LaVine, who absolutely made it rain from deep.

As per usual, LaVine wasn’t a major difference maker on defense, but he did a solid job all night. He was very adept at sliding his feet to stay with Augustin and though he did give up his fair share of easy drives, he defended without fouling (1 personal foul on the night).

LaVine’s 22 PTS came on a very efficient 14 shots, and this is no doubt the type of offensive performance that Boylen and co. hope to see more of over the last 23 games.