Boozer-less Bulls bow to Bobcats once again

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Boozer-less Bulls bow to Bobcats once again

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011Posted: 9:40 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A second bite at the apple wasnt enough for the Bulls (28-14) to overcome the Bobcats (16-24), even at home, as visiting Charlotte defeated Chicago, 83-82, Tuesday evening at the United Center, despite Derrick Roses 33 points. For once, Rose couldnt muster any last-second heroics, failing to hit a game-winner for the Bulls and giving the Bobcats their second win over the Bulls in a less than a week.

Thats a great accomplishment for us because this team has not been known to win against winning teams and as a matter of fact, theyve been getting blown out," said Bobcats head coach Paul Silas, a midseason hire. "Tonight was just the opposite. We hung in there and gave ourselves a chance to win. Weve been doing that the last few ballgames, but tonight was very special because they are a very, very good team. Im not going to say weve got their number, but were playing them well and thats what counts.

An active Taj Gibson (nine points, nine rebounds, six blovked shots) helped Chicago get off the marks in a positive fashion, but Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin (15 points, five assists), power forward Boris Diaw (12 points) and center Kwame Brownthe first-quarter scourge of the Bulls last week in Charlotteprovided the visitors with scoring balance. Despite Roses (33 points, five rebounds, four assists) scoring punch, the United Centers efficient-shooting guests from the Tar Heel State erased the Bulls early winning margin and overtook their hosts to take a 27-24 lead into the second quarter.

In the first quarter, I thought our defense was very poor and then I thought it caused us to start pressing, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team committed 14 turnovers, in addition to shooting a season-low 39 percent from the field. Youve got to make simple plays against this team. You try to thread the needle and you try to go too much one-on-one, that doesnt work against this team.

You cant turn the ball over against this team, he continued. We created our own problems. Another big first quarter for them, similar to the game down there. You cant win like that.

After reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer (12 points, five rebounds) began the subsequent period with two consecutive jumpers, Chicagos offense got stagnant, as the recently reliable second unit couldnt manufacture offense consistently. With the reinsertion of Rose, that changed.

Sharpshooter Kyle Korver knocked down his first shot attempt, then found Brewer on a nifty backdoor feed for a running, one-handed reverse dunk baseline. Korver maintained his hot handperhaps carried over from his prolific scoring afternoon in Memphis the day beforeto hit a triple, prompting new Bobcats head coach to call a timeout with the home team making up ground swiftly.

Although the Bulls clearly had momentum, the end of the half didnt go in their favoran apparent Augustin travel was missed by the officials, much to the fans displeasureand they trailed, 47-44, at intermission.

Rose, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, went on one of his trademark individual spurts, almost singlehandedly lifting Chicago past the visitors to start the third quarter. Following the Bulls initial pushthey started the quarter on a 13-4 runthings werent as one-sided, as Charlotte recovered, putting its fate in Augustins hands.

In the battle of floor generals and close off-court friends, Rose struck the quarters final blow, draining a 3-pointer just before the period ended, to give Chicago a 66-64 advantage heading into the final stanza.

Bulls head coach Thibodeau kept his rotation short on this eveningGibson, starting in place of injured starting power forward Carlos Boozer, played nearly the entire contest and responded with a second consecutive big defensive outingand by starting Rose in the fourth quarter (instead of backup point guard C.J. Watson, who typically enters the contest at that juncture), the message that he wasnt taking any chances with the games outcome was sent, despite sending in Watson to give him a brief rest.

Without Rose in the contest for the time being, the Bulls maintained their slim advantage through solid defensive play and timely scoring from the likes of Brewer and veteran Kurt Thomas (six points, 10 rebounds, two blocks), who combined with Gibson and Luol Deng (10 points, eight rebounds, four assists) to give the home team an edge on the boards.

An interesting off-the-ball sequence in which Thomas and former Bull Tyrus Thomas antagonized each other until the latter was finally assessed a foul was followed by a bizarre incident where Brewer and Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace (13 points, 16 rebounds, four assists) got tangled up. Brewer upended Wallace, causing Wallace to apparently tweak his ankle, then kick Brewer in retaliation, drawing a technical foul.

At the end of the game, Wallace got going, observed Deng. He was crashing, getting second-chance looks, but thats the kind of player he is. Youve got to take that away from him."

Added Silas: Gerald, he was just terrific tonight, offensively and defensively. Thats what hes got to do all the time.

Wallace responded with his play, throwing down a monstrous follow-up dunk over Korver on the subsequent Charlotte possession. This was followed by a typically exciting Rose lightning-quick drive and finish, after which Wallace, now in attack mode offensively, went directly at Korver, drawing a foul.

The events basically repeated themselves, with Rose hitting a floater and Wallace responding on the other end with a tough finish, plus the foul for a three-point play, giving the Bobcats a one-point lead. After a timeout, Rose got a layup rejected, but gathered the ball and finished his next attempt.

With 47.5 seconds remaining, Bobcats swingman Stephen Jackson (12 points, five rebounds, three assists) answered, hitting a turnaround to give the visitors an 81-80 lead. Following a timeout, Rose found Brewer under the basket and he kicked it out to Deng, who missed an open 3-pointer.

I thought we had good looks. I had the best lookwide-open at the 3-point lineI thought when it left my hand, it was good, said Deng. Nothing went our way.

Added Brewer: When D-Rose threw me the ballas a basketball player, you always try to be aware of your surroundingsand when I had it, I knew Gerald Wallace is an above-average shot-blocker.

I felt him coming down aggressively, so I tried to pivot and I saw Lu wide open on the 3-point line. Thats kind of his bread-and-butter shot and it was a good look.

Jackson corralled the rebound and was fouled with 36.3 seconds left. He nailed both free throws and on the ensuing trip, Rose dropped in a floater.

Charlotte milked precious time off the clock before calling timeout with 10.3 seconds to go.

Explained Gibson: "Weve been in that situationand we fouled too quickly, so we wanted to just trust our defense first, let our defense sort it out.

Watson deflected the Bobcats inbounds pass and after initially being ruled Charlottes possession, an official review reversed the call, giving it to the Bulls with 8.2 seconds on the clock.

Charlottes Thomas blocked a Korver layup attempt out of bounds with 3.1 seconds left, giving Chicago one final chance underneath their own basket. The inbounds came to Rose, but his closely-guarded, fading jumper from the top of the key fell short with no time remaining.

When I came off, I was just trying to get to the middle as quick as I could and just try to get something off, but it was short, Rose explained afterwards. It was a good look, but short. Just learn from it. Next time Im in that position, Ill just shoot it as high as I can.

It was a lack of energy tonight. We didnt play that hard. This is whats going to happen if you dont go out there playing aggressive and with intensity.

Added Thibodeau: There were a few different options off of it. We knew Derrick would get a lot of attention on the play. They made a good play.

Derrick was the first option on the play, he continued. What happened is, on the back pick, they had two go with Derrick and Kyle was wide open. It was the right play and they made a good reaction from the weak side and got the block.

In the end, when you lose a game by a point, theres a lot of plays that lead up to it. Hey, weve got to do better.

Concluded Deng: Honestly, its one of those games. I dont know what it is. I dont want to take anything away from them. I just think were better than we played against them twice. At the same time, I just think theyre athletic, they play hard...it wasnt really one of our best games, for whatever reason it is. I thought we played great with a lot of energy. Today, just the little things werent going our way.

It was just one of those nights. We tried to get it going; nothing was going.

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Brian Hedger (nhl.com) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel.  The Bulls beat the Pistons in a game with huge playoff implication.  So could they actually make the postseason?

The Blackhawks are closing in one division title but what’s their biggest weakness?

Plus Theo Epstein’s a really great leader, Kyle Hendricks is going to have to wait a while to pitch plus DeShone Kizer loves the band “Chicago” but will he play here?

NBA Buzz: 2017 Draft could be the best in more than a decade

NBA Buzz: 2017 Draft could be the best in more than a decade

If you've been watching the NCAA Tournament closely, it's apparent this June's draft will include a number of elite prospects, maybe the best top 10 talent since the LeBron, Melo, Bosh, Wade draft in 2003. 

Washington didn't qualify for the tournament, but NBA scouts seem to be in agreement that Washington point guard Markelle Fultz will be the No. 1 pick. The 6-foot-4 freshman has the size and ball-handling ability to play either guard spot, and word out of Boston is Fultz will be the pick if the Celtics get the first choice in the draft lottery.

UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball put on quite a show in the Bruins' win over Cincinnati on Sunday, finishing with 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. The 6-foot-6 Ball reminds scouts of a young Jason Kidd, showing amazing court vision and passing skills with the size to see over the top of smaller defenders. And don't caught up in his unusual shooting form. Ball can knock down shots, hitting almost 56 percent from the field this season and 42 percent beyond the 3-point line.

The other consensus top-3 prospect is Kansas small forward Josh Jackson. The 6-foot-8 Jackson is an Andrew Wiggins clone who has amazing quickness and finishing ability. Jackson improved his draft stock with a sensational performance in the first two games of the tournament. If the Bulls decide to trade Jimmy Butler in a deal for one of the top picks this June, the rangy 20-year-old Jackson would be an ideal replacement. If he ever gets a consistent jump shot, look out. We could be talking about a 25 points per game scorer.

Since Fultz, Ball and Jackson appear to be the kind of players NBA teams build around, the Bulls could potentially negotiate with the teams holding the top 3 picks for the best possible Butler deal. Right now, the Nets (pick will be swapped with Boston), Lakers and Suns own the worst records, and if the order isn't changed by the lottery, the Bulls could obtain a quality package centered around this year's first-round pick and a quality young player from any of the three teams.

Here's a look at how the lottery selections could fall based on the draft order as of March 23.

1. CELTICS (from Brooklyn)  Markelle Fultz  PG   Washington
2. LAKERS                              Lonzo Ball        PG    UCLA
3. SUNS                                  Josh Jackson   SF    Kansas
4. MAGIC                                Jayson Tatum   SF     Duke
5. 76'ers                                  De'Aaron Fox     PG    Kentucky
6. KINGS                                  Malik Monk         SG    Kentucky
7. KNICKS                               Dennis Smith      PG   N. Carolina St.
8. TIMBERWOLVES              Lauri Markkanen  PF    Arizona
9. KINGS (from Pelicans)       Frank Ntilikina      PG    France
10. MAVS                                 Miles Bridges    SF    Michigan St.
11. HORNETS                         Jonathan Isaac   SF    Florida St.
12. BLAZERS                          Justin Jackson   SF    N. Carolina
13. PISTONS                           John Collins      PF     Wake Forest       
14. BULLS                                OG Anunoby     SG-SF   Indiana  

Alright Bulls fans, I'm sure you're asking, why would the Bulls want to draft a player coming off a serious knee injury? Well, the Bulls haven't done all that well drafting productive older players from major programs, so why not roll the dice on a 19-year-old who could develop into the next Butler?

Scouts raved about Anunoby's potential heading into his sophomore season at Indiana. At 6-foot-8, Anunoby has good positional size to play both the small forward and shooting guard spots and figures to be a plus-defender from Day 1 in the NBA. Right now, his rehab from right knee surgery and lack of a consistent jump shot are the biggest concerns, but looking at mock drafts in the 13-20 range, do the Bulls really want to take a project big man or a mystery international player? 

Even if it takes a couple years for Anunoby to reach his ultimate potential, he seems like a good choice in today's position-less NBA. Plus, in the Bulls' current position, they need to take some chances and try to get lucky in landing a future star.

Two other athletic possibilities who are projected as late 1st round picks right now are SMU junior swingman Semi Ojeleye, a 6-foot-7 bundle of energy and muscle who should be able to contribute right away, and Oklahoma St. point guard Jawun Evans, one of the fastest players in the college game who could ignite the Bulls' fast break after Rajon Rondo moves on.

AROUND THE ASSOCIATION

If the Bulls are going to make a late season run to the playoffs, they'll have to find a way to pass two of the league's hottest teams. Milwaukee has won eight of its last 10 games to pull into a 6th place tie with the Pacers, while Miami has been one of the league's biggest surprises over the last two months, going from an 11-30 record on January 13 to 35-36, and a game and a half lead over the Bulls and Pistons for the final playoff spot.

Both late surges are surprising, especially the job Erik Spoelstra has done in Miami. After the controversial departure of Dwyane Wade, Pat Riley decided to hedge his bets for the future and signed a number of journeyman veteran types like Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Derrick Williams and Willie Reed to short-term contracts.

Williams was released and signed on with Cleveland, but Spoelstra and his staff have done a masterful job in piecing together a roster with a lot of duplication into a consistent winning team. Hassan Whiteside has continued to improve, averaging 17 points and 14 rebounds, while the guard rotation of Waiters, Goran Dragic, Ellington and Tyler Johnson has been especially effective.

Bulls fans will remember James Johnson as a guy who arrived from Wake Forest with a lot of potential, but went on to bounce around the league with little success. Now that he's finally in optimal physical shape, Johnson is averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3.5 assists off the bench while doing a strong job on the defensive end.

Spoelstra probably won't win the Coach of the Year award, but it might be his best job yet after losing Wade and Chris Bosh, then seeing promising second-year forward Justise Winslow go out with a season-ending shoulder injury.

It's been a different story in Milwaukee, where the Bucks got off to a fast start behind the amazing rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo to All-Star status. A mid-season slump dropped the Bucks out of the top 8 in the East, and when Chicago native Jabari Parker suffered another devastating ACL injury, it appeared Milwaukee was heading towards another trip to the lottery.

But Bucks' coach Jason Kidd got Khris Middleton back from a hamstring injury, and inserted rookies Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon into the starting lineup. All of a sudden, the Bucks took off with Antetokounmpo getting back to his early season production, and the bench unit of Greg Monroe, John Henson, Michael Beasley, Mirza Teletovic, Matthew Dellavedova and Jason Terry becoming a real strength.

It's unlikely either Milwaukee or Miami will be a threat to Cleveland and Boston in the opening round of the playoffs, but the hard work and persistence of those coaching staffs should not be overlooked.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Yet another example of the Bulls' maddening inconsistency under Fred Hoiberg over the last 2 seasons is the number of impressive wins offset by blowout losses.

These numbers courtesy of CSN's stats cruncher, Chris Kamka.

Bulls 20+ point wins and 20+ point losses

(with Fred Hoiberg as Head Coach)

                 20+ point wins             20+ point losses

2016-17              6                           7
2015-16              3                           7

total                      9                          14
========================================
(With Tom Thibodeau as Head Coach)

2014-15              7                           1
2013-14              7                           4
2012-13              5                           5
2011-12             14                          0
2010-11              8                          1

total                     41                         11

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

I'm pretty sure Hoiberg was being sarcastic when asked early in the week if battling for one of the final playoff spots in the East is "fun".

The coach's response? "It's miserable." 

Hoiberg won't get a lot of argument from Bulls fans who see their team stuck in the middle among the 30 NBA franchises right now. That's the worst place to be in professional sports, with no hope of contending for championships and little chance of getting a franchise-changing talent in the draft.