Bulls look to avenge ugly loss on CSN

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Bulls look to avenge ugly loss on CSN

The Bulls have won a season-high three straight games at the United Center and will look to avenge perhaps their worst loss of the year when they take on Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Bobcats tonight at home. Coverage begins at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.
Having lost two of its last three at home, Chicago entered its Dec. 31 matchup with the Bobcats expecting a win. Charlotte had lost 18 straight games, spanning longer than a month, and just two of their seven wins had come on the road.
But the Bulls would wind up shooting 35 percent from the field, committing 11 turnovers and shooting 61 percent from the free throw line in an embarrassing 91-81 loss. Walker went for 18 points and Gerald Henderson added 16 of his own, but the game was more indicative of the Bulls' tendency to disappear offensively at times, and hit rock bottom before the calendar turned to 2013.
RELATED: Bulls stunned by Bobcats on New Year's Eve
The Bulls would bounce back after that loss, winning seven of their next nine and pushing themselves to the top of the Central Division. Yet inconsistency has continued to plague Tom Thibodeau's group, and again the team will have to rebound from an ugly loss -- an 86-73 loss in Washington -- to maintain their lead atop the division.
The Bulls are 13-3 following a loss this season, and with the Bobcats entering tonight having lost eight of their last 10, it's a good bet that the Bulls won't be looking past the Bobcats as they look to get back on track.
While Luol Deng (hamstring) may miss his sixth straight game, All-Star reserve Joakim Noah is making the NBA coaches who voted him in look good. In the two games since he was named to his first All-Star game, Noah has averaged 11.5 points, 16.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists. Saturday he missed a triple-double by one assist, and he'll look to rebound after being held to two points and four rebounds in the Charlotte loss earlier in the season.
Along with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan making his annual trip back to Chicago for the game, there are also a handful of other Bulls-Bobcats connections for those making their return to the United Center: Shooting guard Ben Gordon, power forward Tyrus Thomas, assistant coach Rick Brunson and scout Dickie Simpkins.
See if the Bulls can make it four straight at the United Center when they take on the Bobcats tonight on Comcast SportsNet. And make sure to stay up-to-date with all the happenings on social media by checking out Bulls Pulse.

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.”