Bulls

Vengeful Bulls crush Knicks, share best record

443981.jpg

Vengeful Bulls crush Knicks, share best record

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 9:49 p.m. Updated: 11:25 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
NEW YORK Vengeance is the Bulls, after Tuesday evenings 103-90 thrashing of the Knicks in Madison Square Garden . The win gave Chicago a victory over every team in the NBA this season. A 26-2 run to start the second half blew away New York in a game that featured a series of highlight-reel dunks from Derrick Rose and returns to the Bulls ownership of the backboardsled by Carlos Boozers yeomans effortand Joakim Noahs high-activity level, respectively.

New York s run-and-gun, freewheeling style of play set the tone from the games outset, with new Knicks Carmelo Anthony (21 points) and Chauncey Billups (10 points, eight assists) the prime beneficiary and benefactors early. Mike DAntonis team spread the floor on its' guests and looked to push the tempo, resulting in the Bulls having to stay on their toes defensively, especially in transition.
Watch: Thibodeau on defending Anthony and Billups

With Billups and Anthony, it puts a lot of pressure on your defenseyou have to have clean pick-and-roll coveragesand then the way they shoot the three, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. If you dont have a multiple-effort mentality against them, youre going to give up open looks at the three-point line, and if they start making, it could be a long night for you.

With All-Star power forward Amare Stoudemire out of the Knicks lineup, Thibodeau looked to Boozer (14 points, 22 rebounds) to use his blend of bulk and skill to score in the low post, and he responded with an eight-point, nine rebound quarter.

Thats the way that he plays. If it wasnt for some bunnies missed layups, he would have had 30 points tonight, said Rose. We were just trying to work inside-out.

Added Thibodeau: His rebounding was off the charts.

He and Derrick are doing a great job with that, he continued. Derrick making the play to Carlos, and then Carlos making the simple play to get us the open shot.

His partner inside, Noah (13 points), made a solid initial showing in his hometown, playing with the gusto and underrated skill that made him so effective when healthy.

Still, although Rose (26 points) put his MVP-worthy skills on display for the Madison Garden crowda jaw-dropping windmill finish of an alley-oop in transition certainly will be on his season highlight reelthe visitors trailed, 27-24, after the opening period.

New York (42-39) extended its lead behind its second unit, which outplayed the Bulls Bench Mob, beating them to the punch for loose balls and taking advantage of transition scoring opportunities.

Adjustments via Thibodeau and a 20-second timeoutand a significant increase in energybrought the Bulls back, as Luol Deng (23 points, 10 rebounds) carried the offensive loadthe heavily-used small forward played extended minutes, due to the Bulls losing swingman Ronnie Brewer to a sprained thumbwith C.J. Watson also contributing, putting the Knicks on their heels.

Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the suddenly close-knit affair and with his starterssans shooting guard Keith Boganssharing the scoring load almost evenly, Chicago (61-20) found its groove against the offensively-potent home team. But even with another Rose postera vicious two-handed flush on the baselinethrilling the Garden audience, the Bulls went into the half on the wrong side of a 55-52 score.

After a Bogans basket to start the third quarter, Rose went on an individual spurt to cap an 9-0 Bulls runincluding a technical foul on New Yorks Shawne Williamsprompting a Knicks timeout. Deng then stepped into his role of co-starNoah might be the second-most popular Bull and Boozer the next most-accomplished (both after Rose, of course), but Deng has been the second-most valuable player all seasontaking a charge on Anthony and scoring three baskets before a Bogans triple from the corner made the befuddled home team press pause on the growing snowball.

It didnt stop there, as the visitors eventually extended the run to 26-2, giving themselves a comfortable advantage, mostly by virtue of their swarming defense leading to easy fast-break scoresincluding yet another Rose poster-worthy dunk, this one an unchallenged double-pump reverseand crisp offensive execution in the halfcourt.

We had good energy, I thought we rebounded the ball well, so we got out into the open floor and got some easy scoring opportunities and I thought that energized us. that gave us some life, said Thibodeau. We put more into it, more effort and they missed some shots that they normally make, too. Once we started challenging shots, it got better. Our pick-and-roll defense was better in the second half. But you can never relax against this team because even if you get a lead, the way they shoot the three, they can make up ground quickly.

Concurred Rose: We came out focused and we knew that in the beginning of the game, we let things kind of get easy on them. They got confidence and we just had to keep playing defense.

Watch: Rose on the Bulls' focus
We hadnt won in this building or beat this team and when we came out, we came out kind oflong pause soft, Ill say. We werent into them, we were letting guys get off, we were letting guys beat us with their strength and at halftime, Thibs came in, talked to us and we changed things, he continued. When guys are playing like that, especially the way we did in the second half, I think were a pretty hard team to beat. Weve got everything working, guys taking charges, diving on the floor for loose balls. Little things like that can change the game.

His words proved prophetic and the Bulls, as been their trend lately, got lax and while the Knicks never threatened their lead, poor ball security and a lack of defensive disciplineNew York reserve swingman Bill Walker (18 points) caught fire late in the periodprevented them from increasing it, resulting in an 84-73 lead for Chicago after three quarters.

The Knicks bench again got it going, as Walker s hot hand persisted and backup point guard Toney Douglas (13 points) joined in, reducing their deficit to single digits. The tables had turned and Chicago became the cant-do-right bunch, missing layups, turning the ball over and allowing the Knicks transition opportunities, uncontested paths to the rim and open jumpers in fits of defensive lapses.

As poorly as the Bulls played, however, their hosts didnt truly capitalize and upon Thibodeaus reinsertion of Rose and Boozer, the visitors became more stable and quickly bumped the lead back into double digits. Boozers domination of the backboards on both ends, stingy team defense and steady, if unimpressive basketball down the stretch paved the way for the Bulls to cruise to an easy victory down the stretch, despite a late Noah injury scare.

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.

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

Bleacher Report named Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season. The list included five players whose expectations have exceeded what author Grant Hughes, felt is realistic for this upcoming season. It is not entirely shocking for LaVine to make this list, and his defense was the main reason he was included. But the potential for his offensive output to get even better was somewhat overlooked. 

Per Hughes:

In 2016-17, he ranked 441st out of 468 players in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus metric. Last year, he was 490th out of 521. According to Basketball Reference, he's never posted a defensive box plus-minus in positive territory. He topped out at minus-2.0 in his abbreviated 2017-18 season.....It's hard to justify rotation minutes for a player like that, let alone $78 million.

Hughes’ critique is harsh, but based off of statistics that are hard to argue with. LaVine has indeed been one of the worst defenders in the league for the entirety of his NBA career, and his netting of the $78 million falls hand-in-hand with Jabari Parker’s comments on players not being paid to play defense. But for the Bulls to take the leap from lottery-to-playoff contender, at least a league-average D will have to be cobbled together. But that responsibility will not fall solely on his shoulders, and that is why I am skeptical on the idea of LaVine being “overhyped”. 

The post goes on to elaborate that even if LaVine was to recapture the magic of his solid 2016-17 season, he still would be a player who gives up more points on defense than he gets his team on offense. That is a strong possibility, but with the addition of Wendell Carter Jr. as another rim protector, capable of at least providing a hard hedge (if not an outright switch), there is a possibility that LaVine becomes a more aggressive defender out on the perimeter. But that is unlikely, and a much more realistic outcome is LaVine’s offensive value surpassing what is expected.

LaVine’s strength last season was his ability to get to the free throw line. Despite coming off a major ACL injury, he was able to get 4.5 free throw attempts per game, a mark that would’ve had him sandwiched between players like Kyrie Irving and Victor Oladipo had he qualified (LaVine only played in 24 games). It was the highest free throw attempt rate of his career, and assuming he expands on that in a year where he should be completely healthy, he will be one of the best in the league at getting to the line. 

His efficiency will be helped by players like Parker and Lauri Markkanen, who will draw attention off of him. LaVine’s 3-point percentage last season was 34 percent, a number that was more of a reflection of that fact that he was still working his way back into game shape. That 3-point percentage will soon trend more towards the 38 percent mark he shot the previous two seasons. And his 3-point attempts were also down, another mark that is sure to trend upwards, especially with Parker’s inclusion as a scorer who does most of his half-court work in the mid-post area. 

The way the 2018-19 Bulls are built, there is little behind Kris Dunn in the way of a reliable backup point guard, though there is belief internally that Cam Payne can develop into that player. But there is a strong possibility that LaVine will be used as a backup point guard to free up minutes for one of Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine or Chandler Hutchison. And in his rookie year, playing point guard, LaVine had an assist rate of 24 percent, but also an incredibly high turnover percentage. Since making the full-time switch to shooting guard, he has not posted a turnover rate above 10 percent. So, if he can adjust to the fact that there are other players capable of scoring 20 points on the floor—like he did in Minnesota—it is entirely possible for LaVine to be a player capable of getting you 20 points and five assists per game while scoring efficiently and avoiding turnovers. Even if his defense continues to be dreadful, a player who can keep the offense running well from either guard spot is definitely valuable in today’s league. 

In his last season with Minnesota, LaVine had a usage rate of 21.7 percent, a number much lower than his extremely high 29.5 usage rate last season with the Bulls. And while many think of LaVine as a high-volume shooter, his usage rate last year was likely a result of him forcing the issue to try to prove he was worth a significant investment. With his shiny, new contract in tow, LaVine should be focused on making the team better, and get one step closer to his Timberwolves self. On that squad, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins each scored 20+ points per game, while LaVine was averaging 18.9 points per game. And the team finished in the top 10 in the NBA in offensive rating.

It is not crazy to think the Bulls could have their own high-scoring trio in LaVine, Markkanen and Parker. And if that is the case, then the expectation is for LaVine to be a efficient scorer who can occasionally spot the open man. Hyped? Yes. But overhyped? No one is banking on him being an All-Star, though it remains in the realm of possibility. The idea that he is overhyped is based on the fact his new contract is $78 million and he is poor at defense, but this is overlooking the fact that LaVine has proven he is a player capable of having a large role on a top-10 offense. September 30 can’t get here fast enough.  

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

lauri.jpg
USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.