Bulls' defense bludgeons Pistons in workmanlike win

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Bulls' defense bludgeons Pistons in workmanlike win

It wasnt prettysince when was that a prerequisite for this team to win a game?but a combination of suffocating defense and a strong performance from the frontcourt propelled the Bulls to an 83-71 win over the Pistons at the United Center Friday night.

In yet another game in which they were short-handedstarting shooting guard Rip Hamilton was apparently a late scratchthe Bulls used their trademarks, offensive balance and stingy defense, to bludgeon an inferior opponent and their Central Division rival.

A balanced Pistons (18-33) attack, helmed by rookie point guard Brandon Knight (16 points), put the Bulls in an early hole in the opening period.

For the hosts, Carlos Boozer (13 points, 11 rebounds, three assists) was an active force from the outset, finishing with bounce and power, as well as attacking the boards alongside Joakim Noah (19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists).

The typical, unselfish brand of offense the Bulls (42-11) are accustomed to playing quickly made it a close-knit affair, subsequently followed by the deficit being completely erased.

By virtue of solid play from all five startersthe perimeter trio of All-Star Luol Deng (20 points, nine rebounds, five assists) and backcourt partners C.J. Watson (11 points, five assists) and Ronnie Brewer were also strong contributorsthe first quarter ended with the Bulls holding a 28-25 advantage.

The hot shooting of both teams tailed off dramatically in the second stanza, as a combination of good defense and bad offense prevailed. However, the Bulls maintained their lead, as Deng helped hold things together with the Bench Mob and the Pistons struggled to score, with the exception of veteran Tayshaun Prince (14 points, six rebounds).

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau eventually reinserted the bulk of his regulars and Noah provided a spark, aiding the Bulls in holding on to the breathing room they had obtained.

At the intermission, the Bulls were up, 44-35.

Deng excelled after the break, scoring by attacking the basket, but also proving his value as a elite-level defender and all-around talent. Noah also chipped in, giving the Bulls a scoring presence, in addition to his usual work on the glass and defensive end, all of which helped the Bulls keep some distance between themselves and their guests.

But the skilled play of much-improved second-year big man Greg Monroe (14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) helped the Pistons gradually climb back into the contest, something aided by the Bulls issues with ball security.

Still, through three periods of play, the Bulls led, 65-61.

A strong effort from Taj Gibson propelled a Bulls run that yielded a double-digit advantage for the hosts, again putting them comfortably in front of the visitors.

However, the Pistons werent through and with the likes of Knight and versatile backup forward Jonas Jerebko providing a boost of energy, Detroit was once again right on the heels of the home team.

The visitors comeback was aborted, however, as timely plays from Boozer and Noah extended the Bulls lead as the game entered its stretch run and with under a minute remaining, a thunderous Noah dunk over Pistons veteran Jason Maxiell sealed the deal.

With yet another home win under their belt, the Bulls now look ahead to Sundays marquee matchup against the Western Conference-leading Thunder in Oklahoma City.

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

Here are some of Friday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

Dwyane Wade, Bulls take first blood with LeBron James, Cavs

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

White Sox reportedly asking for No. 1 prospect plus more in trade return for Chris Sale

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 1

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

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USA TODAY

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

Two nights after managing just 90 points in a lackluster home loss to the Lakers, the Bulls entered Friday night’s tilt against the defending-champion Cavaliers with a specific offensive game plan.

Attack, head coach Fred Hoiberg told his team, the interior of the Cleveland defense early to establish a presence in the paint. Knowing the Cavs, for all their strengths that made them NBA champions five months earlier, lacked a true rim protector, the Bulls made it a point to get Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez going.

The Bulls managed to do exactly that, tallying a season-high 78 points in the paint in their 111-105 victory over the Cavaliers. And while Lopez was again his usual efficient self and Gibson turned in his best performance of the season – the two scored 33 points on 15-for-23 shooting – it was point guard Rajon Rondo who proved to be the kick-starter for a Bulls offense that needed to be at its best to match Cleveland’s star power.

Rondo logged his first triple-double with the Bulls in the victory, tallying 15 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. But looking past the raw numbers, it was the shots Rondo took, and the passes he made, that allowed the Bulls to play so efficiently on offense and ultimately come away with their most impressive victory of the year.

Of Rondo’s 12 assists, all but two of the made shots off those passes came from a distance farther than 7 feet. Ten of Rondo’s assists resulted in baskets in the paint, of which the Bulls had 39 as a team. Squaring off against a subpar defender in Kyrie Irving, Rondo was active in knifing into the paint and finding open bigs inside. Rondo had six assists in the first quarter, and all but one resulted in baskets within 3 feet of the hoop.

All four of his made field goals in the first half were layups, as was his only bucket in the third quarter. His putback midway through the fourth quarter was also at the rim, and gave him his tenth rebound to secure the triple-double. Two possessions later he connected on a 3-pointer that gave the Bulls an eight-point lead; Cleveland never got closer than four the rest of the way. Rondo only took three shots outside of the paint. Friday marked the first time in a month Rondo had shot better than 50 percent from the field in back-to-back games.

Past Rondo’s own numbers, Gibson said that the Bulls’ point guard was instrumental in leading the Bulls’ offense to match up against a Cavaliers offense that entered the night second in the league in efficiency.

“He’s like a quarterback. Even though he never really played any contact football the way he always gathers the huddle, he always sees what’s going on in the game,” Gibson said. “He’s always encouraging. He’s pushing it. He’s a great teammate and I know he got a lot of criticism before the year, a lot of people talk about the negative that’s in it, but he’s been showing me nothing but great stuff on and off the court.”

In a game that had a playoff-like atmosphere to it simply because of the matchup between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, as well as the defending champs coming to town, the veteran Rondo took it upon himself to lead the Bulls offense. Though the Bulls wanted to avoid getting into a track meet against the fast-paced Cavs, Rondo didn’t allow the offense to become stagnant when it was apparent they could get into the paint at will.

“I thought Rondo was great all night long,” Fred Hoiberg said, “getting guys out and running, pushing them. You can hear him yelling “run with me” to get the guys down the floor. Rajon was a huge factor.”

His defense will continue to be a liability – Irving had an off-night shooting more than anything – and he won’t score 15 points each night, but his leadership and ability to run an offense with precision has the Bulls behind their floor general as they head into the season’s second month.

“He’s always inspiring. He’s one of those guys you want to go to war with. He’s one of those guys that’s in the huddle, you know that every time down the court if it’s a wrong call, a foul, a scuffle, if you not feeling right he’s always going to have your back no matter what.”