Bulls crush Wizards behind tenacious defense

Bulls crush Wizards behind tenacious defense
March 1, 2011, 2:15 am
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Monday, Feb. 28, 2011
Posted 8:27 PM Updated 10:25

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTONIn addition to his numerous gifts on the basketball court, it also appears Derrick Rose (21 points, nine assists, five rebounds) is prophetic. No, not his increasingly accurate preseason Why cant I be MVP? foreshadowing, but his more recent proclamation that the Bulls (41-17) were poised to go on a run after last Thursdays statement victory over the Miami Heat.

Mondays 105-77 win over the Wizards (15-44) at the Verizon Center not only equaled their season total for wins the previous two seasons, but with a fully healthy squad, Chicagos stout defense and balanced offense showed proof that team has found its' groove, even when theyre not playing their most inspired basketball. The triumph against lowly Washington gave the Bulls seven wins in their last eight games and 13 of their last 16, already a run by any standards.

The visiting Bulls got off to a quick start, simultaneously establishing their inside game and rebounding presence against an inexperienced Wizards team, although forwards Andray Blatche (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Josh Howard (10 points, four rebounds) were factors offensively for Washington. Joakim Noah (19 points, 11 rebounds, two steals) continued to show progress in his fourth game back from a 30-game absence, utilizing his length and trademark energy to be a force on the offensive glass.

Noah is back almost to the point he was at before the injury, evaluated Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. His activity is off the charts, his defense is terrific, his rebounding is very good and you can see hes starting to get a lot more comfortable offensively.

Observed Noah himself: I think Ive still got a ways to go. Every game I feel better.

Im still feeling a little sluggish at the beginning of games, just getting my second wind or my third wind.

The turnover-prone home team contributed to Chicagos cause in the early going, enabling the Bulls to get out in transitionsomething long awaited with Noahs returnand was best exemplified by Rose (21 points, nine assists, five rebounds, three steals) going one-on-one with Wizards rookie point guard John Wall (nine points, 10 assists) in transition and finding Noah for a dunk with a gorgeous through-the-legs bounce pass, for once purposely putting some mustard on a play.

I just do it. Didnt think about it. Just a couple plays that I made. I didnt have it pre-planned or anything. I just did it, Rose explained. I just wanted to make it very easy. Just give it to Joakim and either he finished or he gets fouled. He was open.

Added Thibodeau: Derrick, he was terrific. Twenty-one and nine, complete control of the game and you dont get any extra points for that, but hes got the ability to do a lot of different things. Hes got great vision, hes so unselfish. He got us great shots all night long.

To me, his leaderships been outstanding, the way hes running the team. I think he inspires his teammates because of the way he plays. He plays so hard and he plays so unselfishly, he continued. If two guys are on him, without hesitation, he finds the open man. He has a good feel for whats going on in the gamewhos going well, what the good matchup is, who may need a shothe does a great job of bringing guys into the game, also. If a guys struggling a little bit, hell find a way to get him a layup and get him going, so hes doing a great job running our team and hes setting the tone defensively.

Perhaps the visitors relished the games up-tempo nature a bit too much, however, and due to some careless mistakes, only held a 25-20 advantage after the opening period.

I thought our mindset was right from the beginning. We got established defensively, the rebounding was outstanding to start the game and I thought that gave us an advantage, Thibodeau observed. We didnt take care of the ball as well as we would have liked.

Chimed in Rose: I think its Chicagos transition game helping us a lot, especially when we can score at will and stop somebody on the other end. I think our transition defense still needs to be up to par a little bit more, but other than that, I think its real tough for people to score on us in a halfcourt set.

The always-energetic Bulls second unitsans Luol Deng (21 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals), who usually starts the second quarter, but was atypically subbed for in the first period by Thibodeaugave the visitors a lift and increased the lead, with back-to-back dunks by Taj Gibson (seven rebounds, four blocked shots) leading the way, prompting Wizards head coach Flip Saunders to put a brief halt to the proceedings. Although the Bulls werent exactly proficient shooting the ballor protecting itthe abysmal early showing of the Wizards allowed them to build a double-digit lead in the sloppy affair.
The Bulls went down low to Joakim Noah early and often against the Wizards Monday night. Noah responded with 8 points in the first quarter on his way to a double-double effort with 19 points and 11 rebounds. (AP)
Chicago continued to be effective when going insideoutside shooting was another storybut its winning margin was maintained, as the defensive clamps put on Washington werent released through the first half. Following a Deng three-pointer (the teams first in nine attempts) at the halftime buzzer, the Bulls took a 50-37 lead into intermission.

After a lackluster start to the second halfdefensive lapses seemed to infuriate Thibodeau, leading to a 30-second timeout early in the third quarterChicago picked up its play in spurts, with a balanced scoring effort from the starting quintet. A quick flurry from Rose midway through the perioda beautiful southpaw reverse layup in transition excited the somewhat apathetic Verizon Center audience, followed by a pull-up triple on the subsequent Bulls possessionhelped open up the floodgates for the visitors, who increased their lead to blowout proportions.

The inside dominance of Noah and Carlos Boozer (12 points, 10 rebounds) against the alternately undersized, inexperienced, too slender or defensively-challenged Washington big men, combined with Roses outside marksmanship and Dengs slashing created the separation expected of a contest between a contender and cellar-dweller. Through three periods, the Bulls led, 78-57.

Were playing well. Were still getting a feel for each other, Noah said of his post partnership with Boozer. Hes somebody who demands a lot of attention and its good. It gives me a lot of easy opportunities. Im hoping that when I get back to playing at a high level, I can help him out, too.

Expounded Boozer: Every second were out there together, were getting better and better. We talk the game throughout the course of the game. The great thing about our chemistryme and Jois that were both great competitors and were able to talk to each other in a way that helps us get better while were on the job, while were still playing. So, if we make a mistake one time down, the next time down, its corrected already.

The way hes been playing since hes been backyouve got to remember, he missed 30 gameshes been a monster. Its impressive, he continued. I might not ever play with another man like Joakim Noah. You know his personality, too. Hes a fun teammate to be around.

A two-minute scoring drought between both teams started the final stanzabringing out the boo birds in the nations capitalbut the games pace quickly picked up, briefly reversing the trend to a more transition-oriented, defense-optional affair, much to the displeasure of Thibodeau. Instead of giving his starters an early rest, the scoring of explosive Wizards swingman Nick Young (14 points, five rebounds) led to the return of Chicagos regulars midway through the quarter, in order to firmly cement the victory.

As if there was any doubt about the result, a pair of Rose plays with the game approaching its waning moments removed any notion: After a steal, the All-Star point guard found Deng in transition with a behind-the-head pass for a dunk; on the ensuing Bulls possession, the Chicago native drove into traffic before dropping off a wraparound dish to Noah for another slam. Thibodeau finally sat his starters and although a pair of late Kyle Korver three-pointers only made the onslaught continued, the home fans still thirsted for an appearance from reserve forward Brian Scalabrine, who not only entered the contest, but obliged them with the games final basket.

Rose discussed the teams mentality when facing an inferior opponent.

Were getting there. I think defensively, were still working Jo back into it. Hes doing a great job with a lot of energy, helping us be aggressive on both ends. But I think that everybodys pushing to hurry up and jell very quickly, said Rose. Thibs came in, talked to us, just telling us that we cant let down against teams like this. Weve got to come out, be aggressive on both ends and have an edge. He always says have an edge to every game and you never want to go into a game like this and give a team confidence.

We just tried to take their confidence from the beginning.

As Noah put it, We can do something special, but its on us to stay focused on the next task.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.