Watson steady in Rose's absence

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Watson steady in Rose's absence

CLEVELANDJust the insinuation that John Lucas III was somehow playing above his head when both Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson were out of the lineup riled up Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Hes no more pleased with the implication that Watsons consistently excellent play in Roses now three-game absence is somehow surprising.

What you cant overlook is what C.J. is doing. C.J. is making us play with a pace and hes doing a great job of running the team. Then, John comes in and its the same thing, high energy, said Thibodeau after the Bulls Friday night laugher over the Cavaliers, when reporters tried to give shooting guard Rip Hamilton his share of the credit for the teams improved offensive flow. We felt C.J. had a great year for us last year, we really did, and he was the one guy who was certainly deserving of more minutes.

Every time that he had gotten extended minutes last year, he played at a very high level, and he played at a high level with the short minutes, he continued. He shot 39 percent from three, ran the team great, he and Derrick showed that they could play together. C.J. is a terrific player and hes a high-character guy. He does a great job with the second unit, hes the leader of the second unit and hes shown that he can lead the first unit. Hes a high-quality player and as I mentioned before the game, regardless of whos out, we feel we have more than enough to win with.

Thibodeau wasnt denying Hamilton his props his Rip is Rip postgame comment, akin to Derrick is Derrick or Lu is Lu, is perhaps his highest praise but he wanted to make sure the soft-spoken Watson was properly feted by the media. Because the normal backup point guard whos looked better than many starters when Rose has been out wont talk himself up.

Its a lot more comfortable this season. Thibs lets me call plays and he just lets me go out there and command the team, and play, really. So, I just go out there and have fun, said Watson, who responded with a little bit, when asked if Thibodeau gives him more freedom on the floor this season. I guess he trusts me a little more.

Whether or not Watson, who scored an efficient 15 points and dropped off seven assists in a head-to-head matchup with touted Cavaliers rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, wants to toot his own horn, his teammates are willing to do it for him.

Youve got to give C.J. a lot of credit. Hes coming off a sprained elbow that popped out of place. Hes been sitting for three weeks, got thrust into the starting lineup and hes been playing phenomenal, said Carlos Boozer, a major beneficiary of Watsons playmaking Friday.

Youve got to give him a lot of credit of stepping in and taking that challenge. Hes doing a great job of scoring the ball for us, hes doing a great job of playing D, hes doing a great job of getting everybody involved.

The state of the Bulls after the first half of the season

The state of the Bulls after the first half of the season

Who are the Bulls? The team that beat Cleveland and Toronto or lost to Dallas, Minnesota and Milwaukee?

That's the question Bulls fans are currently asking and the one Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill posed in the video above.

The Bulls have had impressive wins and shocking losses, but neither of those should be surprising at this point. The Bulls are, as Goodwill put it, consistently inconsistent.

The first half of the season has proven that Dwyane Wade still has some memorable moments left to give and Jimmy Butler continues to approach superstardom. On the downside, the drama surrounding Rajon Rondo has meant the 'three alphas' that were hyped up in the preseason haven't been the dynamic trio some Bulls fans had hoped.

Coach Fred Hoiberg doesn't have the shooters his system needs, but can he still rally the troops and get something out of Rondo?

Watch the video to see Goodwill's look back on the Bulls' first half and what could be ahead.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls host Mavericks in search of third straight win

Five Things to Watch: Bulls host Mavericks in search of third straight win

Watch as the Bulls take on the Mavericks tonight on CSN+ and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 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. What's Jimmy Butler got in store? On paper, Butler's performance Sunday night against the Grizzlies was nothing special. In fact, in many ways it fell short of his season averages. But Jimmy G. Buckets was on his game in the fourth quarter when the Bulls needed him most, helping them to a crucial road victory in Memphis. Tonight a fast start will be key against a Mavericks team that struggles to play from behind.

2. Dirk Nowitzki is back. The Mavericks are finally getting back to full-strength, and the main contributor to that is Dirk Nowtizki. The future Hall-of-Famer is finally rounding into form after an Achilles injury kept him out of the lineup most of the year. In his last three games, Nowitzki is averaging 20.3 points on 49 percent shooting.

3. There was at least some rumblings that the Bulls might have considered going after Ames native Harrison Barnes this past offseason. Instead, Barnes wound up in Dallas a potential building block for the Mavs. And he's looked pretty solid through the season's first half. Barnes is averaging 20.7 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds and nearly a steal per game in 36 minutes. It'll be a fun matchup watching him go against Jimmy Butler.

4. More 3-pointers on the way? It's easy to say that a 31-point outing will get you going, but maybe Doug McDermott can build on his career night against the Grizzlies. He hit 3 of 6 triples, made 10 of 11 free throws and even added six rebounds and a(nother) block. The Bulls will be able to run more against the Mavs than they were the Grizzlies, meaning more spacing for McDermott to find open shots. If he's hitting early, the Bulls are in good shape.

5. A three-game winning streak on the line. The last time the Bulls won three straight -- earlier this month -- it pushed them over .500. Now they've got a chance to reel off a third straight and again get back over .500. As poorly as the Bulls have played as a whole, the Eastern Conference is wide open at the bottom half of the playoff bracket, so these are opportunities they don't want to miss against a struggling team.

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