'Booz' Cruise: Bulls get their revenge on Thunder


'Booz' Cruise: Bulls get their revenge on Thunder

Monday, Dec. 6, 2010
Updated at 11:50 PM

By Aggrey Sam

Payback is, well, payback is a dish best served cold, as in the Windy City's weather.

After falling in Oklahoma City for both teams' season opener, the Bulls (11-8) avenged the defeat in Monday night's rematch at the United Center, triumphing, 99-90 over the Thunder (14-8).

Spurred by Carlos Boozer's growing comfort level in the offense, Derrick Rose's playmaking ability in an atypical scoring outing for the burgeoning superstar and strong efforts defensively and on the glass, Chicago used a stellar third-quarter performance to break open a close game.

In the early going, the Bulls made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to Boozer (29 points, 12 rebounds), who responded with Chicago's first two baskets. For the visitors, it wasn't Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green or even former Bull Thabo Sefolosha who did the early damage, but center Nenad Kristic, who scored eight of the Thunder's first 10 points.

An unexpected early contribution from light-scoring shooting guard Keith Bogans was a boon, although early foul trouble for Joakim Noah (six points, 12 rebounds before fouling out in only 21 minutes) put a slight damper on things. The game remained a neck-and-neck affair throughout the first quarter, with the Bulls ending things with a 24-22 lead.

The contest remained as tight as stretch jeans in the early portion of the second period, with reserve swingmen Ronnie Brewer and Oklahoma City's James Harden providing sparks for their respective teams with their slashing ability. Buoyed by the shooting of Kyle Korver (13 points) and the all-around scoring of Luol Deng (19 points, eight rebounds, four assists), the Bulls edged past the Thunder, building a nice cushion.

Instead of closing out the half with a double-figure advantage, however, Chicago permitted their guests to make a late push. The Bulls took a 53-48 lead into intermission.

The combination of Boozer and Bogans started the second half in strong fashion for the Bulls, as the duo's early third-quarter spurt pushed Chicago's lead into double digits. Rose's (11 points, nine assists) playmaking and distribution skills were on full display - Boozer was the primary beneficiary - as the All-Star's unselfishness permitted his teammates to get easy scoring opportunities, despite an off night shooting the ball in his point-guard battle with close friend Westbrook (15 points, seven assists).

"I think I played decent. One of the best scorers -- he averages 24 points -- he had 15 tonight; that's 'West' Westbrook. Just making sure that every shot that he had, making sure that somebody was in front of him or I was contesting all of them," said Rose. "I knew it was going to be a rough night after a couple of shots. My teammates came through and were hitting shots. When I was passing them the ball, they didn't hesitate. They were shooting, driving or making plays for others."

"The way he's playing right now -- attacking, going to the line, getting fouled -- he's playing the way he usually plays," continued Rose about his main target on the evening, Boozer. "He makes the game easy. I've just got to pass it to him. He's going to find a way to score or get fouled. That's what we need right now on this team, somebody in the post or somebody down low that can really score, and that's him."

Added Thibodeau: "I just mentioned it to Derrick. I thought he didn't have a particularly good shooting night, but I thought he played well. I thought he ran the team extremely well."

With Boozer's offensive game rolling, an active defense (reserve Taj Gibson, in Noah's absence, was key in this aspect) befuddling Oklahoma City and the team's rebounding advantage over Oklahoma City still intact even with Noah sitting with four fouls -- not to mention Thunder head coach Scott Brooks surprisingly benching starting forwards Durant (29 points, five rebounds) and Green for an extended stretch -- the Bulls cruised through the period. Following a precisely-measured Rose buzzer-beater from just inside halfcourt, Chicago led, 82-66, heading into the fourth quarter.

"The biggest thing people always tell me 'I remember Ben Gordon told me this'" he said, "In clutch situations like that, always try to aim for the backboard," said Rose. "I just thought about it at that point. I just aimed for it and it went in."

Neither team was particularly sharp to start the final period, as turnovers and fouls -- including Noah's fifth -- seemingly plagued every other possession. But while the Bulls had room to spare a few offensive lapses, their defense maintained its strong play, resulting in inefficient and unsuccessful Oklahoma City possessions, despite Green and Durant, the league's reigning scoring champ, being back in the contest.

Chicago prevented the Thunder from cutting their deficit down the stretch by virtue of mostly intelligent offensive possessions and a refusal to relax defensively. Toward the end, the biggest drama for fans was whether the Bulls would reach 100 points -- therefore, earning free Big Macs -- and although favorite son Rose couldn't pull off the feat, he'll likely remain in their good stead.

"It means a lot, knowing that we beat a team that's over .500, especially a team like this that's young, athletic. They usually give teams a lot of problems, especially on the inside and in transition," said Rose. "We stuck together as a team and a lot of people came out on fire tonight. Kyle gave us a boost and Ronnie, and of course, 'Booz.' We need to come out and play like that every night."

An addendum: Payback tastes best with a little 'Booz' to wash it down.

"We want to be an inside-out team and I think it's important. I think you can see what Carlos brings to the team," said Thibodeau. "He's such a threat in every aspect, from transition to pick-and-roll to even catch-and-shoot. He has the ability to find open seams and I thought our guys did a great job in searching him out."

"I think what's really good about it is all his shots come in the rhythm of the game, which is great. We can slow it down and throw it in the post if we have to, which is a thing we hadn't had before. The best is definitely yet to come because we still have a lot of work to do," chimed in Noah.

The man himself weighed in on his big night.

"I'm getting my legs back and my timing, and I feel like I'm getting better every day with our offense, with our defensive sets and I'm getting in a good rhythm," he said. "But I'm not satisfied; I'm hungry. I want more out of this. I'm not where I want to be at.

"The more easy buckets you get, it opens it up for everybody. Our whole mindset is to get as many easy buckets in transition, get layups because once you get layups, they start crowding the paint and it opens it up for our jump shooters. We've got Kyle Korver, the best shooter in the NBA from the three. We've got Luol Deng, one of the most versatile shooters. We've got guys that can hit shots, so our focus is to try to get layups and make them suck in to get open shots to everybody else.

"We're not a team that's satisfied easy. We've got big goals and we've got big aspirations, so we continue to have the mindset of trying to get better every day."

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.

LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan's record by becoming NBA's all-time leading playoff scorer

LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan's record by becoming NBA's all-time leading playoff scorer

The LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan debate tends to heat up around playoff time, and The King fueled the fire Thursday with his latest accomplishment.

After sinking a 3-pointer in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Boston Celtics, the four-time NBA MVP surpassed Jordan for most postseason points in league history with 5,989. Jordan scored 5,987 points in 179 games while it took James 212 to surpass that mark.

Before the game, James said that chasing Jordan has been a personal goal of his and left the debate to media members.

The SportsTalk Live panel talked about those comments, and joined in on the debate in the video above.

Swanigan's, Diallo's decisions and how it affects Bulls' NBA Draft

Swanigan's, Diallo's decisions and how it affects Bulls' NBA Draft

The deadline for underclassmen to pull their names out of the NBA Draft passed on Wednesday at midnight.

There were a few surprises, and a handful of decisions had an effect on how the Bulls will go about next month's draft.

Staying in the draft

Caleb Swangian, PF, Purdue: The sophomore All-American surprised many by keeping his name in the draft. Swanigan actually tested the waters after his freshman season but returned to the Boilermakers in 2016. He averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 35 games, earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors and was a National Player of the Year candidate. It's no secret the 6-foot-9 Swangian can score  - he had 15 games of 20 or more points - and showed some ability to shoot from deep, making nearly 45 percent of his 85 3-point attempts. Quickness and conditioning will be the real test for the 245-pound Swanigan, who has already lost significant weight since high school. Questions about his defense (he had just 27 steals and 36 blocks in two seasons) also stand out. With Nikola Mirotic's future in Chicago unknown, the Bulls could be in the market for depth at power forward. He wouldn't be an option for the Bulls at No. 14, but if he slides out of the first round he could be an option at No. 38.

D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan: After averaging just 6.1 minutes as a sophomore, Wilson burst onto the scene as a junior, averaging 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 30.4 minutes for the Wolverines. He did his best work during the postseason; during Michigan's Big Ten Championship run and Sweet 16 appearance, Wilson averaged 15.6 points on 54 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Standing 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Wilson leaves some to be desired on the defensive end but has the ability to play as a combo forward - he had a 3-inch growth spurt after high school. Like Swanigan, Wilson won't be an option for the Bulls at No. 14 but could be a second-round option. He'd give the Bulls a similar look to what Bobby Portis does with a little more versatility on the wing.

Going back to college

Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky: The NBA Draft's biggest mystery could have been a home-run selection for the Bulls in the first round. Alas, Diallo has decided to play a year under John Calipari at Kentucky and likely boost his draft stock. Having not played since December, where he played at a prep academy in Connecticut, so there wasn't much film of the 6-foot-5 leaper. Still, after Thon Maker went No. 10 to the Bucks last year there was thought that a team would take a gamble on a high-upside mystery.

Andrew Jones, PG, Texas: There was little surprise that Jones, a five-star recruit who put together a solid freshman season, returned. He's still a bit raw as a prospect despite having elite size (6-foot-4) and solid athleticism, and another year running the point with incoming five-star recruit Mo Bomba could really improve his draft stock. The Bulls clearly have a need at the point (less if Rajon Rondo returns) and if Jones had made the leap he likely would have been around at No. 38. Even still, Jones is a player to keep an eye on during next year's draft, assuming Cameron Payne and Jerian Grant don't make significant improvements.

Moritz Wagner, PF, Michigan: There's a need on every NBA team for a stretch forward with 3-point potential. But those teams will have to wait at least another year after Wagner decided to return to Michigan for his junior season. Like Wilson, who kept his name in the draft, Wagner had an excellent postseason run for the Wolverines. That stretch included a 17-point effort against Minnesota and a career-high 26-point outing in a win over Louisville. He weighed in at just 231 pounds and only averaged 4.2 rebounds per game, so adding some strength to his game will help his draft prospect for next year. He could have been an option for the Bulls at No. 38.