Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
Posted Feb. 24, 9:43 p.m. Updated 12:33 a.m.
By Aggrey Sam
With both teams now at full strength both Chicago center Joakim Noah and Miami superstar LeBron Jamesmissed the last matchup with injuries Thursdays matchup between theBulls (39-17) and the Heat (42-16) didnt have to come down to anotherlate-game South Side showdown between the Eastern Conference All-Starstarting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade.
This time, it was a team effort, with Luol Deng joining forces with Rose to counter Miamis duo of James and Wade, leading to a 93-89 Bulls win at the United Center.
Thiswas a playoff game. This was definitely a playoff atmosphere, playoffintensity, Deng told CSNChicago.com afterwards. That team wanted tobeat us tonight. they came out with their best. We gave our best, too.
Carlos Boozer(16 points, nine rebounds) got off to a strong start for the Bulls,scoring on two traditional three-point plays in the early going.However, Miami then scored on five consecutive possessions, four ofwhich were on fast breaks.
James (29 points, 10 rebounds, fiveassists) scored on three of those trips all in transition throwingdown a ridiculous reverse slam, a powerful one-handed dunk and afull-speed layup. Sandwiched between James flurry and an uncontestedWade (34 points, eight rebounds) dunk was a Mario Chalmers (12 points, four rebounds, four assists) baseline layup, Miamis only halfcourt score of the run.
Noah(seven points, eight rebounds) temporarily stopped the bleeding with aputback dunk, displaying the energy that had United Center fans piningfor his return, but it was a short-lived halt to the onslaught by thevisitors.
I feel like I definitely have a lot of work to do,but it feels great to be out there, just competing. I feel like thegame is still pretty fast for me, but Im getting the hang of it, saidNoah. My thumb feels great. My thumb feels fine. I think I can handlea whack or two.
Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Ithought Jo his numbers wont reflect it but I thought he playedbetter today. In each game it will be similar to Carlos in eachgame, hell get better and betterthe thing that you can count on fromJo every game, is that hes going to give you everything that he has.
Transitionoffense was the Heats early calling card Miami scored 16first-quarter fast-break points living up to the potential observersimagined they had when the superstar trio of James, Wade and Chris Boshfirst inked deals last summer. At the conclusion of the opening period,the Bulls trailed their guests from South Florida, 31-23.
Afterthe first quarter, I thought our defense came back. I thought oureffort was a lot better. Obviously we werent pleased with the start ofthe game, Thibodeau said. Our floor balance was poor, I thought wewere quick-shooting the ball and put them in transition. Then, whenthey get a head of steam, theyre hard to stop.
Chicagogradually closed on the Heat early in the second quarter, with theBulls second unit playing their usual up-tempo, defensive-orientedbrand of basketball. Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into thecontest, but the home team couldnt immediately make up more ground.
Bosh who missed his first seven shots from the field drew the crowdsire when Boozer dropped him to the floor with what looked like aphantom elbow upon further review, drawing an offensive foul on theBulls power forward. The play was exacerbated when Noah was called fora ticky-tack foul while guarding Bosh on the subsequent Heatpossession, further infuriating the already-rowdy Windy City audience.
Miamikept its poise and again built their winning margin to double digitsbehind the quietly efficient scoring of Wade, prompting Thibodeau tocall timeout. With Rose (26 points, six assists, five rebounds) andDeng (20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) both struggling to producepoints (Deng finally got on the board in the last minute of the firsthalf), Chicago trailed Miami, 53-44 at the intermission, following aJames jumper at the halftime buzzer.
Although the Bulls effortto start the third quarter was clearly ramped up a notch, the dualdominance of James and Wade kept the Heat comfortably ahead. Rose beganto force the action in a good way looking for his own scoringopportunities, rather than just facilitating for others.
Dengalso got himself more involved and the subsequent momentum allowedChicago to challenge Miamis lead midway through the period. Wadesatisfied the home fans desire to pile on by receiving a technicalfoul, seemingly after being frustrated by Keith Bogans physical, dogged defense.
Spurredby Deng who was unusually demonstrative, indicating the importance ofthe primetime affair the Bulls went on an 11-2 run to pull within apoint of the visitors, leading Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra to calltimeout to refocus his aggravated squad. A spinning Rose jumper put theBulls up for the first time since the first quarter to extend theirspurt.
I really dont care what people say. Honestly, I swear.I just want to win and that makes me play well. My whole mindset is even if Im not shooting the ball well my whole mindset is, Letswin this game somehow. I always just stick with that. Even when I havea bad shooting first half I dont even think I had a bad shootinghalf; I just shots four shots we didnt move the ball. We did that inthe second half and the ball was just finding me, Deng toldCSNChicago.com. I just knew we had the momentum our way and I justwanted to hype up the whole stadium, everybody. I was just feeling it.
While Deng may prefer simply blending in, as long as the Bulls win, both Rose and Thibodeau singled out his efforts.
BigShot Lu, he was the reason why we won tonight and Im happy for him.He played great, played hard and still able to hit big shots, saidRose. Lu, hes been solid the whole year consistent, playing hard he had to face LeBron tonight, somebody who he really takes thatchallenge. He stepped up and he was still able to go out there and beeffective the whole game.
Hitting shots, playing defense, making big drives, passing the ball. He did everything perfect.
AddedThibodeau: Lus been great all year. When youre around him every dayand you see his leadership ability and the way he works, you cant sayenough about him and Ive said this all year: hes our glue. He keepsus together. When things are going tough, hes the same. He doesnt getrattled and you can count on him.
With Rose the M-V-Pchants started coming with greater frequency and Deng propellingChicago, Miami was on its heels, as the Bulls clung to a slim winningmargin. After a Rose runner off the dribble on the Bulls finalpossession of the period, Chicago held a 71-67 advantage heading intothe final stanza.
Led by Dengs strong play carrying over, the always energetic Ronnie Brewer (eight points, four rebounds) and the rebounding of Omer Asik(11 rebounds), the Bulls second unit came out with increased gusto inthe fourth quarter. The reserves played scrappy and intense, makingplays in transition and opening up a nine-point lead in the first twominutes of the period, compelling Spoelstra to call a timeout.
Wedidnt get going defensively until Asik and Taj came into the gameand brought a lot of energy into the game which is what you want fromyour bench as did C.J. Watson and Ronnie, said Thibodeau.Swarming, getting deflections and getting the ball up the floorquickly. So, they were huge. Tonight, our bench gave us a huge spark.
Thevisitors were unable to manufacture any offense other than Wade andJames Bosh made one of his 18 shot attempts and Chicago was incomplete control halfway through the quarter, with Thibodeaureinserting his regulars.
However, the Bulls stagnatedoffensively and the Wade-James combination simply bullied their way tothe basket, with their supporting cast narrowing the once-widerebounding margin, as well as the score.
Chalmers knocked down athree-pointer he became the first Heat player other than James andWade to score in the second half to give Miami the lead, as part of a13-0 run by the visitors.
A corner triple from sharpshooter Kyle Korver(seven points, 2-for-6 three-point shooting) ended the run and regainedthe advantage for the Bulls as the games stretch run approached.
Outof a timeout, swooping Rose layup set the tone for Chicago, whichsandwiched a defensive stop around a Deng pull-up jumper. After yetanother Bosh miss, the two combined on the Bulls next possession, asDeng chased down an offensive rebound and Rose knocked down athree-pointer to give the home team an 89-84 lead with 1:06 remaining,leading to a Miami timeout.
It was a clutch shot, especiallytowards the end, said Rose, who reacted with more emotion than usualafter hitting the basket. The clock running down and me having theball in my hands, it was a tough shot.
Quipped Noah: If yourenot going to be invested emotionally against the Miami Heat in front of25,000 people going crazy, I dont think you ever will. Youre not anemotional person. Youre not human.
D-Rose likes playing in the big games. He likes competing against the best and hes proven what hes all about.
Wade hit a difficult, fading jumper with 59.1 seconds left, making it Thibodeaus turn to pause the game for strategic purposes.
Rosemissed a jumper over James and was then called for a blocking foul on aJames shot in transition with 36.8 seconds on the clock. James hit theensuing free throw to tie the contest at 89 apiece.
With Jamesdefending him, Rose drove, drew the defense and found Deng in thecorner for a wide-open three-pointer, which he canned with 16 secondsto go, giving the Bulls a 92-89 lead.
I was going to shoot theshot until D-Wade came over and Lu was wide, wide open. Hes myshooting partner in practice and every time we get to the corner, hegoes 9-for-10 or 10-for-10, so I knew it was going to be an easy shotfor him, recalled Rose. Lu came up and hit a huge shot, man. Theydoubled team, he was wide open, so why not pass?
It was great,man, especially being in a situation like that in my hometown and gotthe ball in my hands you best believe that shot was going to go up,but they double teamed and I just read the play, he continued. Iwas just trying to take advantage of my quickness with him Jamesbeing big.
Added Thibodeau: I loved Derricks play at the endof the game, just trusting a teammate. They collapsed on him and hemade, without hesitation, the right play, and Lu knocked the shot down.
Dengtold CSNChicago.com: I just told myself, Be ready. Derrick made agreat play. I was so wide open, I took my regular shot.
Thelead would hold up, giving the Bulls the advantage in their seasonseries with the Heat, with the two teams third and final matchupcoming up in Miami on Chicagos upcoming five-game road trip.
Itfeels amazing. It shows you, the NBA, its so mental. Its all abouthow you come into games and we were resilient tonight. It was a teameffort, said Noah. Yesterday, you lose to Toronto and its the end ofthe world. Twenty-four hours later, you beat Miami and people treat youlike youre on top of the world.
Opined Boozer: We knew ourgame in Toronto wasnt characteristic of our team we dont give up118 points to a team and the biggest thing for us was getting back toplaying Bulls defense, and tonight, we did that against one of the bestteams in the league. It was a bigger deal for us to get back on track.Holding them to under 90 points with the talent that they have is a bigdeal.
Concluded Rose: Were just trying to prove that we cancompete with some of the best teams. Were trying to continue playingthe same way.
When we beat them the first time, people weresaying, Okay, they beat them, but LeBron wasnt playing. Tonight, webeat them, they had their whole team. It was a tough game, but wepulled it out, he continued. We can go on a run now. I think ourconfidence is high now. I think its a great win to come back hometo, especially off the All-Star break. Weve got to keep it up.
They know that we can compete with them with everybody on the court.
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.