Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
Posted 8:30 PM Updated 10:33 PM
By Aggrey Sam
TORONTO Carlos Boozers season-high point total and a blowout victory took a back seat Wednesday night, as reports of Joakim Noahs impending right-thumb surgery were more of a concern to a Bulls team that has now won seven consecutive games. Noah played despite the pre-existing conditionteam doctors reportedly gave their assurance that no further damage could be done by playing in the contestand made an impact in the 110-93 victory over the Raptors, as did Derrick Rose, who played through soreness in his right elbow and right hip in the aftermath of a scary fall in Mondays win.
Chicago got off to a quick start, scoring the games first six points, with a clear emphasis on getting the ball inside to Boozer (34 points, 12 rebounds), who scored on consecutive possessions at the games outset. The teams inside-out strategy was effective against the undersized and inexperienced Raptorssans leading scorer Andrea Bargnani out on the evening, with rugged veteran Reggie Evans and floor general Jose Calderon already missing in actionwho had no answer for Boozer and Noah (11 points, 11 rebounds, two blocked shots) on the boards.
Boozer continued to overpower his Toronto counterparts in the paint, but a lackluster overall Bulls effort raised the ire of head coach Tom Thibodeau, who called multiple timeouts to express his displeasure to the team for letting the Raptors hang around, despite Chicago maintaining a slim cushion over the home team. After a quarter of play, the Bulls held a 23-18 advantage.
The feisty Raptors remained within striking distance early in the second period, as Toronto s regulars kept pace with a mostly-reserve Chicago lineup. Sharpshooter Kyle Korver (13 points, six assists) and swingman Ronnie Brewer (10 points, four rebounds) gave the Bulls an offensive lift, while backup point guard C.J. Watson capably ran the team, helping the visitors extend their lead to double figures.
Upon Boozers re-entry into the contest, the Bulls fed him a steady diet of low-post touches, which he converted into scoring opportunities, before the game deteriorated into a cavalcade of fouls and defensive three-second violations, with Chicago maintaining its comfortable winning margin throughout the ragged stretch. Boozer would resume his inside dominance before the half, which concluded with the Bulls taking a 63-44 lead into the locker room.
Our game plans always to go inside-out, said Boozer. We knew they had a mismatch problem with me, so they just kept getting it to me. I just tried to be aggressive all night long.
Added Thibodeau: Hes done it for a long time.
I thought Derrick ran a great game for us. I thought transition, he found him several times off penetration. He made some great calls, different plays. We executed in the halfcourt and Carlos is terrific. He can score in so many different ways. He does it in transition, he does it in the post, he does it off pick-and-roll, he does it off catch-and-shoot, so hes a tough matchup.
Chicago continued to extend its advantage after intermission, as Boozers continued strong play inside and offensive balance keyed by Roses (six points, 11 assists) unselfish playmakingclearly not as explosive as usual with injuries taking a toll, the All-Star point guard wisely opted to be more of a distributor in the contestand a transition game buoyed by a major advantage on the glass.
Im feeling good that we won, but definitely sore. My elbow was killing me tonight, even though I took a pill, but Im all right, said Rose afterwards. My arm is really, really bothering me, but Im glad we have two days until we play, so I can get a lot of treatment and really give it time to heal. Ive just got to fight through it and thats what I did tonight.
Thibodeau was positive about Roses play, though he denied that his star point guard looked to be in pain.
The way I saw it, I didnt see him laboring. I think he played extremely well. I thought thats what the game was dictating. We play inside-out on the road and we wanted to play with tempo, said Thibodeau. We wanted to play the game with pace and we did that, and I thought that once he saw that we had Carlos going pretty good, we kept going to it and that part was really good.
Roses passing and the Bulls ability to push the pace opened up the floodgates, and Toronto had no recourse in stopping the visitors onslaught.
Brewer again provided a spark off the bench, enabling the Bulls to maintain their momentum and deflate the initially energetic Air Canada Centre crowd. Heading into the final period, the Bulls were routing the home-standing Raptors, 91-64.
Thibodeau deployed his bench in the fourth quarter, playing it safe with Toronto facing such an insurmountable deficit. However, the Raptors attempted to battle back by virtue of their athleticism and the hot hand of sixth man Leandro Barbosa (21 points), garnering the support of the home fans, as Chicago lapses and suddenly cold shooting gave them life with the difference between the teams virtually sliced in half.
Thibodeau reinserted small forward Luol Deng (19 points, four rebounds) to add both offensive firepower and additional defense.
I really dont mind. I played a lot of minutes. Coach knows I really dont get tired like that out there. I could run all day, Deng told CSNChicago.com. But weve got to do a better job. Everyone in the locker room knows it. We spoke about it as a team.
With the team that we want to be, weve got to finish games. Were too goodwhether its first unit or second unitwere too good to give up leads like that.
The move worked and while Thibodeau couldnt be happy with how his team closed out their trip to the Great White North, the Bulls ultimately cruised to victory.
We did some good things for three quarters. Fourth quarter, weve got to do better. It was a good win, said Thibodeau. We were fortunate tonight, in terms of Bargnani being out, Calderon being out and a back-to-back for them.
But our defense and our rebounding, for the first three quarters, was very good.
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.