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Spurs, Texas two-step too much for Bulls

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Spurs, Texas two-step too much for Bulls

Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010
Updated 1:48 AM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

SAN ANTONIO The difference was the final result.

No, Derrick Rose wasnt quite as offensively prolific as he was in the fourth quarter of Tuesdays win over Houston, but he did throw a major scare into the Spurs with a 13-point final period as part of his 33 points for the night.

Unfortunately, for Chicago, a less-vulnerable opponent in San Antonio refused to succumb to Roses one-man gang efforts, holding off the Bulls, 103-94, Wednesday evening, snapping the Bulls four-game winning streak.

A racehorse tempo from the outsetsurprising the Spurs opted to push the pace so much against the much younger Bulls, instead of a more methodical style, since theyre capable of bothled to transition opportunities for both squads.

Each team was clicking offensively, with Luol Deng (18 points, seven rebounds) and Joakim Noah (10 points, 14 rebounds) getting off to extremely active starts for Chicago, with DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan (16 points, 18 rebounds, five assists)guarded individually by second-year forward Taj Gibson initially, the future Hall of Famer took advantage with his savvy, skill and still-considerable abilitymatching their efforts for the home team.

With the game suited to his style, Derrick Rose took advantageone particular acceleration by Duncan for a fast-break layup wowed the AT&T Center fansand with his confidence in his perimeter jumper soaring after his previous nights efforts, he took the initiative to knock down outside shots when given the opportunity.

The contests breakneck speed yielded early substitutions on both ends, with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich inserting versatile young combo guard George Hill (14 points) for Manu Ginobili (a starter after so many years of being the teams sixth-man extraordinaire) to maintain a transition-friendly unit, veteran Antonio McDyess to give Duncan some rest (they would eventually replace every starter except point guard Tony Parker within the period), with Chicago counterpart Tom Thibodeau countering with reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer (10 points) for starter Keith Bogans to add a dose of athleticism and Kyle Korver (10 points) for Gibson to match up with a smallish San Antonio quintet.

Popvichs liberal use of his bench was an interesting aspect to the coaching chess match, as Thibodeau has thus far kept a tighter leash on his rotation, making it a possibility that the games pace could wear down Chicago.

Regardless, a strong offensive quarter from Noah and Rose propelled the Bulls to a 25-18 lead after a period of play.

As the tradition this season has beensave for Tuesdays surprising performanceChicagos second unit got off to a ragged start to the second quarter, even with starters Rose, Noah and Deng in the contest. The Spurs, however, werent markedly better and the Bulls maintained their slim cushion.

After a timeout, Deng remained with the group of reserves and provided valuable offensive contributions, bouncing back from a rough shooting performance in Houston. Deng was aggressive and expertly blended perimeter jumpers, tough finishes at the rim and moving without the ball for dives to the basket.

Meanwhile, the Spurs simply struggled to put the ball in the basket. Finding open looks wasnt an issue, but San Antonio had difficulty finishing at the rim and their shots from outside point-blank range were doggedly contested by the visitors, who adhered to one of Thibodeaus key defensive philosophies to a T. All of the above added up to the Bulls slightly increasing their winning margin, nothing to take lightly against an opponent of the Spurs caliber.

Brewer was a major part of the Chicagos burgeoning momentum, as he went on a one-man flurry of critical plays in a short sequence. The offseason acquisition knocked down a free-throw line jumper, exploded for a dunk in transition, followed a missed fast-break layup with a tip-in and smartly made an extra pass to an open Korver for a 3-pointer, aiding the Bulls as their lead swelled to 15 points.

Backup center Omer Asik and backup point guard C.J. Watson were also key during this stretch. Asik played solid post defense on Duncan, was a presence on the glass and capped off his solid play with a thunderous dunk off a pick-and-roll.

Watsonwho has been erratic at times in the young seasondid a nice job securing the ball as a ballhandler, maintaining the Bulls fast pace, making sure the offense ran well and generally being aggressive, enabling Rose to get an extended rest.

I always have confidence in them, explained Rose. In practice, they whip us sometimes.

Thibodeau would reinsert his starters to close out the half and while Chicagos offense continued to run smoothly, San Antonio would also step theirs up in an effort to play catch-up with the Bulls.

Parker (21 points, seven assists), in particular, made a concerted effort to get to the basket as the second quarter wore on, aiding the Spurs in their comeback attempt.

At intermission, however, Chicago held a 47-37 advantage over the home team.

San Antonio immediately sliced the Bulls lead to three to begin the third quarter, necessitating a Thibodeau timeout with just under three minutes played since the break.

The visitors momentum was snatched by the veteran squad, which played with an increased gusto, presumably following typically fiery Popovich halftime motivation. Even with Thibodeaus adjustments, the Spurs clearly had it rolling.

Thirty-seven to 12 in the third quarter. They got us back on our heels to start the third, said Thibodeau. The bench was playing great, then we wanted to get the starters back in before the end of the first half and then we were flat to close the second quarter, and thats how we started the third. That team over there, you give them easy scoring opportunities, their confidence goes up and theyre hard to guard."

Third quarter, we came out, we couldnt hit any shots. The shots that we usually take, they werent hitting and with a team like that, you cant do that, added Rose. Just in that third quarterthose three or four minutesthey just werent falling.

It feels bad. We had them. A team like that, youve got to continue to go out there and play the same way because theyre not going to stop. Right when we went up 10 and came out in the third quarter, we were supposed to keep on being aggressive going to the hole, he continued. I think thats where we made our mistake, not attacking the basket. But were going to look at film, go over it and next time, were going to have plays where guys are forced to go to the basket.

Its a good position to be in. we didnt end the half well, but we felt like, up 10, we could have came out better. The way we came out in the third quarter was terrible, concurred Deng. They came out in the third quarter, they kind of took the lead and never looked back.

A much more comfortable Richard Jefferson, in his second season with San Antonio, knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the contest, and two consecutive Duncan buckets from in close allowed the Spurs to overtake the Bulls midway through the period.

Another Chicago timeout ensued, with Thibodeau replacing Gibson and Bogans with Korver and Brewer for a quicker, more offensive-minded lineup. However, nothing seemed to work, as the visitors were on the wrong end of a 27-6 run to start the half, as San Antonios offense was clicking on all cylinders and the Bulls poor shot selection didnt do much to help matters.

Aside from Duncan, Jefferson (12 points, five reboiunds) and Parkers quick drives and savvy finishes at the rim, backup power forward Matt Bonnerwho Popovich enlisted to start the second halfwas a major contributor for the Spurs, giving them an unexpected source of point production.

Rose seemed to briefly quell the spurt with a slashing layup, leading to a Popovich timeout, but a Ginobili (20 points, five assists, four rebounds) driving southpaw slam and a subsequent Hill floater put an end to that notion.

Bonners been playing really well. We were concerned about it going in. He spreads you, a range-shooting four and their penetration got to us alsoTheyre quick and I think when Bonners out there, there were more pick-and-rolls and our coverages were very good in the first half and not so good in the second, observed Thibodeau.

So, 37 points in the first half and then 37 in the third quarter. We have to adjust better, keep the ball in front and we have to challenge shots. The rebounding was problematic.

Chicago was forcing shots, pressing too much and outside of Rose, the team struggled to manufacture offense or even good opportunities. Heading into the final stanza, the tables had completely turned, with the visitors trailing, 72-59, to the finely-tuned machine that calls San Antonio home.

We came out flat. We missed a lot of shots, shots we normally make and our defense, we didnt do what we were doing in the second quarter, surmised Deng. Thats a good team. Once they got ahead, they did a good job of keeping the lead and thats something weve got to learn when we get the lead like that.

Coach keeps talking about 48 minutes. I think to get to the next level, thats something weve really got to focus onthe whole teamguys coming in and the starters doing a better job of keeping their lead. Any time you put a team down like that, youve got to end it. You cant let them come back like that. The momentum was in their favor the whole second half.

Thibodeau trotted out an all-reserve lineup of Korver, Asik, Brewer, Watson and seldom-used (at least recently) Brian Scalabrine to start the fourth quarter, perhaps making Bulls fans think back to the end of the teams last loss, to New York at home. The group, however, was effective at the outset of the quarter, before the Spurs resumed their onslaught.

The deficit continued to widen, but the understudies remained feisty and gave enough of a semblance of hope that Rose came back into the contest to help mount a comeback attempt.

Rosewith Watson alongside him, freeing him to concentrate on scoringvaliantly tried to once again shoulder the offensive load, hitting four consecutive shots to make it a single-digit contest.

Just trying to do something. Doing whatever it takes and at that time, we couldnt get a groove going, so I tried to spark something up, said Rose. We had it going for a minute, but that team was too good. They stopped it.

Derrick can score the ball and hes been doing a great job for us, and hes going to keep doing what he does and thats score and be a facilitator on the court for us, said Noah. Hes playing at a very high level and its just on us to do a better job as bigs to make it easier for him, especially defensively.

The home crowd became subdued, perhaps with the knowledge of the All-Star point guards exploits the night beforeor even just a healthy respect for the superstar hes developed intobut their beloved Spurs would respond with a quick combination platter of Ginobili and Hill long bombs sandwiched around a Parker layup.

Deng, now back in the contest, hit a pair of runners to keep pace with San Antonio, which didnt cease scoring. Still within striking distance, the two squads mostly traded baskets down the stretch, although a deep triple from Rose made it a two-possession game with under a minute to play.

Forced to foul because of time considerations, the Bulls simply ran out of options in the games waning moments.

The only thing that was good in the fourth quarter was that we fought back and were in position, said Thibodeau. Theyre the type of team you cant make mistakes against. We made a lot of mistakes in the second half.

To win on the road against a quality team, we have to play for 48 minutes and were still not doing that, so we have to do a better job with that, consistent effort, defend, rebound, low turnovers. If we do that, were going to be in a position to win. Now, we defended in the first half. We didnt defend at all in the second, the first-year head coach went on to say. Rebounding was poor. Part of that is were playing small. Low turnovers was goodI think that helped us stay somewhat in the gameand we settled for a lot for a lot of jump shots. The big thing is getting that ball into the paint, whether it be through post-up or dribble penetrationour decision-making has to be a lot quicker.

With a team like that, you cant miss shots and not play defense on the other end because theyre too good. Theyre going to score. Theyre just a good team and hopefully we learn from this and go out there and try to win the game against Dallas Friday, concluded Rose. We dont have our head down. Were still going to go out there and play hard. This is only one game.

I dont know if it was fatigue or whatever, but the beauty of the NBA, we play in a couple of days and weve still got a good feeling about ourselves. We had them, we let them go and weve got to learn from it.

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.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:


Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.