Bulls put on defensive clinic, demolish Hornets

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Bulls put on defensive clinic, demolish Hornets

NEW ORLEANSIn an effort to show the good people of New Orleans how to thoroughly dominate an opponent defensively, Tom Thibodeau brought his team to the Crescent City and put on a clinic Wednesday night. With an audience that included Hollywood star Will Ferrell watching, the Bulls (22-6) demolished the Hornets (4-22), 90-67.

The challenge is to study, prepare and when the ball goes up, know your opponent well and know what youre going to try to get accomplished. I think if you build that habit and you continually work on it, and do the right things every day, the results will take care of themselves, said Thibodeau. Were just pleased with the win.

Aided by the presence of Derrick Rose (six points, six assists, five rebounds) in the starting lineupthe All-Star starter was a game-time decision, due to his ailing backthe Bulls jumped out to a 9-0 start, based upon their stifling, turnover-inducing defense and an efficient, balanced offense. The early run was exacerbated by the fact that Hornets fans attempted to stand until their team scored (they eventually relented during a timeout aimed to stop the bleeding), which they didnt do until 7:55 was left in the opening period.

Were playing well right now. Were coming out early, defending, running the floor, getting the lead and playing well with it. Weve just got to keep doing that, said Luol Deng. Were learning how to play with a lead. Theres times when teams get a run, but were better at it now than we were last year. Theres a lot of times where weve played well and let teams get into it, and theres times where weve played bad and played from behind, but I think guys are more comfortable, youre more confident when you come out and play with a lead.

Observed Thibodeau: Again, I think readiness to playfirst quarter, well-balancedand offensively, the way the ball was moving. Its not sticking anywhere and were getting good shots, so I was pleased with overall performance.

Chimed in Carlos Boozer: I dont know what the first quarter was, but I think we did a good job contesting shots, making them take tough shots and at the same time, I thought we did a good job of executing our offense to make the lead grow.

Rose didnt have to do much heavy lifting for the visitors, as Boozers (18 points, six rebounds) deft scoring touch and Joakim Noahs (13 points, 10 rebounds) energetic play and high activity level were the focal points for Chicagos offense. However, behind backup center Chris Kaman (17 points, nine rebounds), New Orleans charged back and after a quarter of play, the Bulls held a 23-14 advantage.

Kaman came in, he got some shots on us and theyre dangerous. As they get their players back, theyll be fine, said Thibodeau. The challenge is to be ready to play and I thought we did that. There are a lot of things that we could do better and thats what we strive for.

With increased focus on Kaman and fresh legs in the form of the Bench Mobparticularly reserve big men Taj Gibson (14 points, six rebounds) and Omer Asik (eight points, eight rebounds), who were both strong defensive presences and active around the basket on the offensive end of the floorthe guests lead again surged to double digits. While Chicago was less efficient scoring the basketballwith the exception of the interior duo of Boozer and Noah, whose offense was hitting its stride, as he showcased more confidence and diversityits sieve-like defense limited their hosts to several empty possessions.

Undermanned New Orleans simply couldnt find many answers for the defensive pressure it facedfor the moment, Kaman was tamed, although Hornets starting shooting guard Marco Belinelli (13 points) went on a late scoring spree late in the second quarteragainst a clearly superior ballclub. At the intermission, the Bulls had a 44-31 edge.

After the break, the visitors extended their winning margin, going on a 8-2 run at the beginning of the third period, behind continued overall unselfishness, with Boozer and Noah being the prime beneficiaries. But it was the Bulls defense that was the main protagonist, as the Hornets just couldnt score against Chicagos length and tenacious perimeter defense.

Were getting better and better, trying to improve, said Boozer. Were staying humble, were staying hungry and were just doing a good job of setting the tone defensively.

As a whole, were trying to get more post-ups now, he continued. I thought everybody from one through the whole team did a great job.

Added Thibodeau: All four bigs were really good in all aspects. Defense to rebounding to post play to making the extra pass. I thought they played complete games and I thought that set the tone for us.

Rose, clearly not at 100 percent, played the role of facilitator for the Bulls, but neither he nor Luol Deng (nine points, seven rebounds, five assists)the potential Eastern Conference All-Star reserve played a solid all-around gameneeded to be a potent scoring threat, as they tend to be on a nightly basis. Although Kaman remained effective for New Orleans and starting center Emeka Okafor (10 points, nine rebounds) began to make a slight impact, the Bulls headed into the final stanza with a 70-46 lead.

Staying focused, knowing that were on a mission and we cant take any steps back. It takes us playing with a lot of energy in the beginning, getting a comfortable enough lead that, if were out of the game, the bench can come in and do what they have to do, said Rose. Were learning. This is something that we have to work on. The last couple of games, weve been jumping on people and thats the right way to be.

That was the biggest thing, playing defense. I know on the defensive end, we were playing against scorers. Hornets point guard Jarrett Jack is definitely a great scorer and thats what I was really worried about, just sticking him and getting other people involved in the game, he continued. We know that we have a little more work to do, especially on the weak-side defense, but I think that its coming along.

With the game long over and the already sparse crowd in attendance increasingly dwindlingand more excited about 80s Night at New Orleans Arena than the actual gameThibodeau sent in rookie swingman Jimmy Butler early in the period and actually took a seat on the bench, something the normally-pensive coach is usually loathe to do. His teams defense continued to suffocate the Hornets, while Gibson and reserve sharpshooter Kyle Korver provided enough offense to mercifully finish the job.

This is the NBA. Every team has talented players. They have a talented roster. Jarrett Jack is very talented, Belinelli is very talented, Chris Kaman is very talented. All those guys, their team is a talented team. Now, dont get me wrong, theyre still missing some other guys that are very talented, like injured shooting guard Eric Gordon and other guys, as well, said Boozer. But for us, were not concerned with who they play or who they have. Were concerned about the Chicago Bulls. We want to continue to improve how were playing and I think were doing a very good job of it, especially on the road.

While Hornets head coach Monty Williams was critical of his own squadWe couldnt throw it in the ocean, he remarked at his postgame press conferencehe also lauded the Bulls for their defensive performance, which would have held the Hornets to a franchise-low point total, if not for a Belinelli three-pointer at the final buzzer.

Thats the way you play if you want to win a championship. Everyone on their team knows their role, they have an identity and they live it out every night, he said. They have defensive players, a great system and a great coach, so that is a combination for success.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

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Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

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When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”