Despite inconsistency, Bulls have plenty of heart

Despite inconsistency, Bulls have plenty of heart
January 12, 2013, 5:50 am
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NEW YORKKirk Hinrich battled through his right-elbow injury to play nearly 38 minutes in the Bulls 108-101 win Friday night over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Hinrich explained to CSNChicago.com that while he wasnt in painthough he did admit to feeling tired from the heavy workload after not playing or practicing since he was injured in Mondays home win over Clevelandthe decision to play wasnt cut and dry.

Ive felt fine the whole time. It was more of a risk. They were worried I was going to have an infection, he told CSNChicago.com. I think everybody had my best interests in mind. There was obviously some sort of risk, but just do the best I can to keep it clean and try to let it heal up. But its going to be hard because its his bursa sac going to keep popping. Ive got a hole in my elbow. Its a bad spot.

Still, Hinrich was pleased with the victory, though he cautioned that the Bulls cant take their collective foot off the gas.

Weve just got to tighten some things up. Weve been getting out to these big leads and having trouble finishing things up, Hinrich said. For us, we just cant take any steps back. Weve had big wins this year and then, we kind of lay an egg somewhere along the line. Weve got to step it up at home. Thats where our focus is. We dont have the record at home that we should and because of that, our record is what it is.

Joakim Noah concurred: Its weird. Weve been a dominant team at home. I dont know, something about the road. We come together, focus. We play in front of great fans at home. Weve got to do better and give a better effort at home.

Luol Deng added: Weve got to get better at home. We do a good job of just focusing. We love our fans, but at the same time, weve got to show up at home. I think we relax a little bit, knowing that were at home and our fans are cheering for us. When were on the road and teams are going against us, we seem to focus a lot more and play harder, and weve got to change that.

Deng, who scored a season-high 33 points, while forcing Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony into a 14-for-32 shooting nightAnthony scored 39 points, but 19 of them came during New Yorks furious fourth-quarter rallycarried the Bulls throughout the evening, starting with him making seven of his first eight shot attempts, including knocking down his first three shots from long distance.

Tonight, my focus was to come out and just play as hard as I can defensively on Melo. I had it going offensively, had a lot of open looks and just kept going, he explained afterwards. But at the same time, I just wanted to stay focused on my defense and not let my offense be my game.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau chimed in about his workhorses stellar two-way play: He got going early. He got the hot hand, made a lot of good plays. I thought he guarded Carmelo about as well as you can guard him. Carmelo is the ultimate scorer. Youve got to make him work for his points, but he finds a way to score.

When Dengs name was brought up, Noah exclaimed: Louie!

That was an unbelievable performance. He really did his thing out there. Whats great about Louies scoring is its all within the system. Hes been playing great basketball for us all year and theres no way wed be in the position were in right now20 winswithout Luol Deng. Whether its scoring, his defense, his rebounding, hes a very versatile player and I love playing with him, he added. Lu played very well for us, but it was a team effort.

Everybodys locked in every time we play the Knicks. Its easy to get up for games like this. Big stage, playing at the Garden. I wish there were more games here.

Thibodeau partially agreed with Noahs assessment, though he wasnt pleased by his team giving up a 25-point lead due to the Knicks deep-ball barrage. One would imagine that hed be livid about the near-surrender, particularly after losing to Milwaukee in their previous outing, after being up by 15 points, but the coach rationalized the Bulls performance.

For the most part, I thought we played very well for three-and-a-half quarters and then, we didnt close out the game the way we should have. We gave up a lot of points in the fourth quarter and we opened up the three-point line, and a team that shoots the three like that, they can make up a lot of ground quickly on you. But overall, I was very pleased, Thibodeau said.

I want to look at the game in totality. When you look at what happened, there were a lot of good things to build the lead like that and when you build a cushion like that, you can withstand sometimes, things not going your way and we did that. But the most important thing is getting the win, which we did, and theyre a terrific team, so theres constant pressure on you and when youre playing against them, no lead is safe. So, you cant let your guard down. Theyre capable of putting a lot of points up in a short amount of time, so we have to learn and improve, but I thought we did a lot of things well.

Deng added: The whole year, weve been working on playing the whole 48 minutes and I think were getting better, to a point that with a lead like today, we were still able to win the game, but we cant always do that. We cant give up leads like thatI just think we match up well, but also, our game plan against them has been great. They hit late threes, but weve been doing a good job of taking away their threes.

No matter how hand-wringing the final moments, the Bulls have swept their two road games in the Worlds Most Famous Arena, against a team above them in the standings and with whom a bit of a rivalry is developing.

Now only if they can duplicate the well-rounded, cohesive and structured effort and maintain that level of play on a consistent basisonly for the first three quarters, of coursethen maybe the the Bulls will be dangerous when Derrick Rose gets back talk thats circulating around the league will turn into simply, the Bulls are dangerous, now.