Rose, Rip backcourt keep Bulls perfect at home

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Rose, Rip backcourt keep Bulls perfect at home

Updated: Monday, Jan. 23 at 11:43 p.m.

Maybe Tom Thibodeaus frequently-repeated mantras about the Bulls depth should be taken more seriously.

Six Bulls (16-3) scored in double figures Monday evening, as the Nets (5-13) became the latest team to be thrashed at the United Center running the Bulls home mark to 8-0 on the season 110-95, earning the home team its fourth straight win.

We have confidence in one another and were not letting any of the attention or any of the critics get to us. Were just doing our thing. Were our biggest critics at the end of the day. Were happy with the record, but were not satisfied. Were just going to keep fighting and keep getting better, said Joakim Noah. I think we could have played better defensively tonight. I think we started off in the first quarter playing solid defense, but I think we let them score too many points at the end, but I guess its good to win by 20 and be critical. I think if you have that mentality, I think were good.

Still short-handed, but with an influx of walking wounded back in the lineup Derrick Rose (22 points, eight assists, five rebounds) and Noah (16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) returned to action after missing four games and a single contest, respectively. The Bulls looked more energized than their weary opponent, playing their third game in three consecutive nights.

But it was fill-in starter (for the injured Luol Deng, who suffered a wrist injury in Saturdays home win over Charlotte) Ronnie Brewer (11 points, five rebounds) who had the hot hand early against a New Jersey lineup that featured four fellow ex-Jazz players (Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, DeShawn Stevenson and Kris Humphries, who was booed by United Center fans apparently familiar with his brief marriage to reality-show star Kim Kardashian) as starters.

Rose, who knocked down a pair of first-quarter triples, and Noah looked no worse for the wear, particularly the latter, who was active, aggressive and showcased an adept scoring touch at the games outset.

Chicagos depth was tested almost immediately, however, as Carlos Boozer (14 points, nine rebounds, two steals, two blocked shots) picked up his second foul and with Taj Gibson inactive (and Deng, who can slide over to power forward, also out), veteran forward Brian Scalabrine, usually a deep reserve, saw extensive minutes.

In addition to balanced and efficient offense, the Bulls also displayed their trademark stifling defense, limiting the visitors to a mostly poor quality of shot selection. As the opening period went on, however, the Nets, propelled by the playmaking of All-Star point guard Williams (16 points, 10 assists), started to find a rhythm, although after a largely positive quarter of play, the Bulls lead stood at 28-18.

Rip Hamilton (22 points, 10 assists), whose passing was actually his strong point in the games initial stanza, went over the 15,000-point mark for his career, becoming the 120th NBA player ever and 20th active player to do so.

Its a great feeling. I didnt know it until they said it today. I think I owe it to all my great teammates I played with my whole career, said Hamilton of the achievement. All the bigs setting screens and things like that. I think I need to take them all out to eat. But its a great accomplishment.

Bulls fans had a reason to cheer for Scalabrine for more than a token late-game blowout appearance, as the self-described White Mamba scored on an acrobatic reverse layup that brought the crowd to its feet in the second quarter, followed by a pair of nice assists to backup center Omer Asik. A modified second-unit rotation, featuring Hamilton in Dengs role as an all-purpose wing scorer and distributor, helped the home team create more separation and develop a comfortable cushion.

Explained Thibodeau: I wanted to keep a starter out there. Rip is feeling better and better, so we extended his minutes a little bit.

Even after the rest of the Bulls starters were reinserted into the contest, Hamiltons strong play persisted and he was joined by his backcourt partner, Rose, who thrilled the partisan audience with consecutive steals and breakaway finishes, though he didnt utilize any high-wire theatrics, in a nod to concern for his injured toe.

I kind of knew that I was going to play this game, but I had to take my time. I had a lot of days off, so those days will help me with my recovery, said Rose. All the games that I missed, I wanted to play, knowing that this year has been great with winning I cant complain about anything but I hate to sit out, I hate being injured, just missing action, playing against great people, playing against great guards.

It didnt hurt during the game, he continued, though he acknowledged that he was kind of scared on the fast break to really dunk the ball.

After first allowing their guests to cut the deficit to single digits, the Bulls, led by Hamiltons all-around efforts and Rose, who finally showcased his explosion on a powerful drive and finish toward the end of the half, found a comfort zone and at the intermission, held a 59-43 advantage.

To miss as much time as he did and come out and play like he did says a lot about him. His timing obviously wasnt there, but hell get up to speed very quickly and I thought he played very hard, said Thibodeau. He had a lot of explosive plays and I also think when you miss that amount of time, your conditioning goes. Hell get that back quickly.

Noah was a force immediately after the break, finishing at the rim, being a factor on both ends of the glass, putting solid post moves to use and generally displaying the scoring touch he showed off at the beginning of last season, but has been inconsistent since then. The charismatic center was only one aspect of the Bulls efficient offense, which led to gaudy team shooting numbers against their smallish opponents suspect defense.

I feel pretty good. I feel Ive just got to keep working, get back to 100 percent, get my ankle right, said Noah, who described his injured left ankle as feeling pretty good afterwards. Everybodys really focused on recovery more than past years Ive been here. Guys are working really, really hard and we understand whats at stake, and just enjoying it, enjoying playing basketball with a great group of guys.

Added Thibodeau: Hes been playing at a really high level and with him missing last game, I was a little concerned about his timing in this game and he missed a couple bunnies early, but he was extremely active and he got more comfortable as the game went along.

Williams attempted to take advantage of his hobbled counterpart and was somewhat effective in doing so, but he had little help other than sharpshooter Anthony Morrow (15 points) and backup point guard Jordan Farmars (21 points) contributions and thus, the Nets were unable to chip away at their disadvantage.

Meanwhile, Hamilton continued to knock down his patented mid-range jumper at a high clip and Rose put pressure on the defense with shifty, warp-speed drives in transition, leading to the Bulls ending the third quarter up, 85-68.

Its every aspect of the game. Great leadership, playmaking ability, big shot-making ability and more importantly, he makes the right play. When hes open, he shoots. When hes guarded, he makes the right read and if hes double-teamed, he knows where the holes are, said Thibodeau of Hamilton. He makes the game simple, gets easy shots for people, and he runs the floor and he never stops moving, so it makes your offense hard to be defended and I think that becomes contagious also. We had 33 assists, so the ball was hopping. We got into a pretty good rhythm.

Chimed in Rose: Its way easier, knowing that hes the guy thats creating, helping everyone, it takes a load off of me. Hes a great passer. We can give him the ball and he can create for others.

Hamiltons blend of scoring and playmaking set the tone in the final stanza, with Asik (10 points) and backup point guard C.J. Watson also making contributions that kept the home teams wide winning margin intact.

A lot of plays are the same. Its just learning the different terminology and I think every day, I get better at it. The offense is the offense. Every day I get better at reading my teammates. Its just basketball at the end of the day, said Hamilton. With me, its not just about scoring. Theres so many great players on this team and my job is to try to make everybodys job easy. If its scoring, if its passing or whatever.

Rose did find fault with one aspect of his teams performance.

Playing a 48-minute game. Towards the end of the game, we tend to let teams score a little bit, but hopefully we can fix that pretty soon, he said, disregarding the fact that the Bulls currently have the leagues best record. Its too early. Its way too early. First part of the season. Were not worried about that. We know that weve got a long way to go.

Now the Bulls prepare for what promises to be a tough test with the 11-4 Indiana Pacers visiting the United Center.

Were playing against a great opponent on Wednesday, an opponent whos going to be really hungry here. Its always exciting to play against Indiana, said Noah about the Bulls upcoming game against their Central Division rivals and last seasons first-round playoff foe. Were focused right now and weve just got to keep it up, have a good practice tomorrow and do it all over again.

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

For the opening three quarters in Atlanta, the Bulls were off. 

So off, in fact, that Dwyane Wade tweeted an apology to Chicago fans after the game. 

Thanks to a furious run by the Bulls' bench, the final score ended at a respectable 102-93. In reality, though, the Hawks dominated. 

Wade and company trailed by 29 points at half and 30 at the end of three. The 35-year-old shooting guard finished with a minus-18 and just four points while All-Star starter Jimmy Butler posted a team-low minus-22.

The Bulls will look to shake off their lopsided loss against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. 

 

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

The bus was warm before the game started, as the Bulls looked like they wanted no parts of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was evident from the jump that playing with a full and healthy squad for one of the few times this season wasn't enough to arouse their competitive juices, as they put together arguably their worst 48-minute showing in a 102-93 loss at Philips Arena, dropping them to 21-23 in a game they trailed by as many as 34 points.

The practices have apparently been the sterling jewel of effort and competitiveness for the Bulls but it hasn't carried over through the season as the inconsistency continues to be maddening — one that seems to go beyond the "growing pains" mantra that's been fed by all involved so far this year.

"It could be things but I don't want to share it with the media," a sunglasses-clad Dwyane Wade said outside the locker room, in a rare mood of not being elaborative following a loss.

It appears even the professional's professional has gotten a bit more frustrated than usual — understandable considering the way the starters came out with a lack of energy, with more turnovers (eight) than field goals (six) in the first quarter.

"Continue to try to lead behind the scenes," Wade said. "Can't stop when it's bad, when it's good. You gotta be the same."

Fred Hoiberg, fed up with the starters, ran with the reserves for the fourth quarter and outscored the Hawks by nearly 25 points, bringing the lead to 95-90 with a minute left before a Dennis Schroeder jumper restored order with 52.6 seconds left.

Four Hawks scored in double figures led by Schroeder's 25 points and six assists and Paul Millsap scoring 14 while making all four of his shots in just 22 minutes of run.

[MORE BULLS: Dwyane Wade not buying into the Bosh to Bulls speculation]

Perhaps it's the Hawks being the same kryptonite to the Bulls that the Bulls are to the Toronto Raptors — except the Bulls simply frustrate the Raptors, not embarrass them.

"I have been, we have been, tired of this. I gotta come out better," said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 19 points in 29 minutes. "I gotta play better from the jump, 48 minutes. That's not the way we're supposed to play. 

"The way we practice is not the way we play in the game. Don't ask me why, I don't know. Starting with me and going down the line, we gotta be better as a whole. Otherwise we'll keep getting our asses beat and it's bad."

The Hawks shot over 60 percent for most of the night until the game devolved into what amounted to a pickup game late. After all, the Hawks seemed to be battling boredom by half, leading 65-36 and shooting 68 percent from the field and hitting 67 percent from three.

"We're gonna look at everything and we'll see how we go out and start tomorrow and a couple days after that, hopefully we figure some things out," Hoiberg said. "They shot over 70 percent in the first quarter and you dig yourselves a hole and it's impossible to get out."

Hoiberg said he would evaluate everything leading into Saturday's game at home against the Sacramento Kings, but Friday didn't seem to present any realistic lineup changes based on performance.

Bobby Portis scored 10 with seven rebounds off the bench, with Jerian Grant scoring 12 and Paul Zipser 10. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined to shoot two for nine, so one wonders where Hoiberg can go.

"I don't know. Practice is good. Practice is great," Butler said. "Practice is not gonna win you games. We gotta take what we do in practice and take it over to the game."

The Bulls weren't about to make it any more suspenseful than it had to be, as they started off missing their first 11 3-pointers, often missing multiple open looks on the same possession.

It wasn't relegated to just shooting as the Bulls squandered easy opportunities in easy situations, like Denzel Valentine turning a three-on-one fast break into an airballed finger-roll attempt that he caught himself — a violation, of course.

"I don't know, I can't put a word on it. Because it's just talk," Butler said. "Doesn't matter what you say, if we don't go out there and do it, what the hell is talking gonna do? We've been up and down all year. If we don't guard and turn the ball over, games get out of hand very quickly."

This one was over a few minutes into it, as the Bulls looked like a lifeless squad with no direction and very little fight, short of a minor dustup between Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the third quarter.

At that point, though, all Howard had to do is point at the scoreboard, where a 30-point lead did all the necessary talking.

The Bulls trailed by 20 even before Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 35-footer to end the first quarter, sending the Hawks off on a high and seemingly demoralizing the Bulls.

Even Butler's 19-point night, hitting six of his eight shots in 29 minutes, rang hollow. The Bulls could've trotted out a D-League team for the second half to gear up for Saturday's game against Sacramento and been better off than how they performed Friday night.

And for the Bulls, they can't simply just go back to the drawing board. There looks to be something fundamentally wrong with this bunch — either that, or the Atlanta night got the best of them Thursday.