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.