Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted 9:49 p.m. Updated 11:17 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
ATLANTA All Bulls, all the time.
At least thats how it felt Tuesday night in Phillips Arena, where the Bulls (51-19) dismantled the Hawks (40-31), 114-81, sparked by a first half in which they shot 73.8 percent from the field.
Derrick Rose (30 points, 10 assists, 6-for-8 from three-point range) and Luol Deng (27 points) served as ringleaders in the teams second consecutive blowout victory.
Bulls do something Rose has never seen before
Chicago emphasized its interior offense early, with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus preference of penetration and post-ups being followed, as both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah (eight points, seven rebounds) established themselves scoring the ball, as did Rose and Deng via the drive.
Boozer and Noah would depart the former was replaced by an energetic and productive Taj Gibson (nine points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots) - leading Rose and Deng to redouble their efforts to ensure the visitors maintained their advantage.
We came out ready to play. We had good balance. Carlos really got us going with his post-up early. Derrick very aggressive, Luol very aggressive. Great leadership from those guys, sharing the ball. Its good stuff, said Thibodeau, who joked Thats who we are when reporters asked him about the Bulls high point totals in back-to-back games, the first time the team won by 30 in consecutive outings since 1995.
We just want to be consistent with our approach, we want to be able to count on the defense, he continued. If we play the right away offensively, where we push the ball up the floor, get some easy baskets, go inside-out, share the ball and take care of the ball dont turn it over were going to be in position to win. I liked how unselfish we were. I thought the ball was hopping.
In fact, as Chicago buckled down defensively, Deng drove and finished at will and Roses blend of playmaking and scoring continued to baffle the Hawks with his former backcourt mate, Kirk Hinrich, guarding him.
Sometimes it gets hard, but to win games to win a championship it takes defense. Were just trying to stay together on defense, knowing that we cant take any steps back right now, stated Rose. I think that were moving in the right direction.
Echoed Deng: It starts with our defense. When our mindset is right on defense, we seem to work harder on offense. When were not as focused on defense, it kind of leads to our offense. Were kind of just going through the motions. It always starts with defense.
Dengs hot hand carried over to the second quarter, as he helped the Bulls second unit extend the teams advantage over their hosts. As productive as Deng was he scored 16 points before a well-deserved rest the reserves didnt miss a beat after his exit, further extending the lead with their torrid shooting from the floor.
Luol is Ive said this all year you cant say enough about what that guy does for our team and often times, it goes unnoticed, but to none of us. The way hes playing is spectacular, said Thibodeau. Our bench is playing great. Cant say enough about the bench, all of them C.J., Ronnie, Kyle, Taj was great, Omer, Kurt did a great job in limited minutes but everybody on the bench played great for us.
Every Chicago basket seemed to demoralize Atlanta who wasnt shooting poorly, but simply couldnt stop the Bulls and the gap continued to widen, as Bulls starters and reserves alike appeared to be incapable of missing a shot.
Rose and understudy C.J. Watson (eight points, six assists) had their way off the dribble as did Deng when he wasnt knocking down three-pointers, along with Kyle Korver Boozer took advantage of his bulk to abuse Hawks defenders and Gibson did the dirty work with flair.
Behind a team-wide unselfishness (16 first-half assists) leading to 73 percent shooting from the field, the Bulls, in their refusal to take their foot off the gas, took a commanding 72-43 lead into the intermission.
Perhaps the strongest indication that the Bulls had it rolling was the final play of the half. Following an Atlanta turnover with 4.3 seconds remaining, Rose took an inbounds pass full speed, stopping at the three-point line to size up Hinrich, then stepping back to bury his fourth triple (in four attempts; three in the period) of the half at the buzzer, tying him with Deng for a team-high 20 points at the break.
Im happy to be on the team thats doing it. Its better than being on the other side. Its just one of those games, said Rose of the quarter, in which the Bulls shot 81 percent from the field, missed only four shot attempts and scored 41 points.
You feel it as a player. Everything is going right, especially when youre playing defense. I think our defense really gets everything started the fast break, easy points then, weve got a lot of players on our team that when they get going, it can really take us to another level.
Thats what they were giving me. I told you, Im not going to stop shooting, no matter what, he continued, describing his individual efforts from long range. If they go under a screen or if Im open, Coach tells me to shoot the game tells me to shoot so Im putting a shot up.
Chimed in Deng: Just the way that the game went, I thought all of us did a good job with being smart, driving. We just did a good job of really moving the ball. They did a lot of switching out there and we had a good game plan for that.
Chicago didnt let up in the third quarter, as Roses individual three-point barrage persisted and the Bulls made a concerted effort to get Noahs offensive game going early in the period.
Although their ridiculous percentage dropped a tad, the Bulls lead - which surged above the 30-point mark, gradually grew. Roses penetration, Dengs versatile scoring and Noahs activity on the boards enabled the visitors to keep their substantial winning margin intact, by the count of 98-60 at the conclusion of three quarters.
The onslaught continued in the final stanza, as Chicago s bench kept pouring it on against a shamefully effortless Hawks squad. The extended garbage time rendered what was left of the Phillips Arena crowd lifeless, as they were well aware that unlike the Bulls last trip to Atlanta on March 2, there was no remarkable comeback in store.
When we came in, we knew that we were going to have to come in and play. Right when we got the lead, we were just telling each other that its not going to happen again, recounted Rose. When we get the lead, thats when we have to be tough.
Added Deng: Weve been there before. Its not the first time we had a huge lead. The main focus was to really come out in the beginning of the third quarter and just play, dont look at the score. Tonight we didnt play to our opponent. We just played Bulls basketball, just like we do in practice. Play defense, move the ball and execute.
At this time of the season Coach keeps talking about it its time to really get better. Its time for everyone to lock in, he continued.
We know the playoffs are coming up and were trying to do great things in the playoffs.
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.