The Buck stops here: Bulls 'D' steps up for win

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The Buck stops here: Bulls 'D' steps up for win

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010
Posted Dec. 28, 9:27 PM Updated 12:13 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

For once, the fourth quarter wasnt the Bulls worst period of the game. Neither was the first.

Chicago (20-10) bookended a strong start and equally stout finish Tuesday evening, to knock off visiting Milwaukee (12-18), 90-77, at the United Center. It wasnt a picture-perfect performance, but in the end, the Bulls didnt permit an injury-riddled Bucks squad to challenge them down the stretch.

48 minutes thats hard, man, to play a whole NBA game like that, said Derrick Rose afterwards. I think thats what were fighting for right now, to get up to that caliber with the other teams thats great in the NBA, like the Lakers, the Bostons, just trying to get up to their level.

Preparedness to begin the game, a familiar lamentation of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, wasnt an issue against the Bucks, as Chicago scored the games first nine points.

Defended by Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut (16 rebounds, four blocked shots), Carlos Boozer (24 points, nine rebounds) was the teams early focal point, as he mixed improved explosiveness with range on his jumper.

Rose (18 points, 12 assists, six rebounds) was also assertive from the outset, displaying increased defensive awareness the All-Star point guard has addressed some of his deficiencies on that end of the floor to facilitate open-court offense, as well as the return of his 3-point stroke on his first attempt.

The early Chicago onslaught, combined with Milwaukees offensive woes the visitors hit only one of their first 11 shots was enough for Bucks head coach Scott Skiles to call a timeout midway through the opening period for adjustment purposes.

Milwaukee bounced back from its early ineptitude and rapidly closed on the Bulls, as a balanced scoring effort and solid rebounding countered the home teams hot shooting along with Boozer, Luol Deng (24 points, five rebounds) also was an effective scorer even as they had continued solid ball movement to get all five starters on the board.

With its shooting again picking up toward the end of the quarter and improved defensive and rebounding approaches Chicago held a 27-15 advantage after the first period.

With both squads second units on the floor to start the second quarter, the Bulls simply strived to maintain their relatively comfortable winning margin until Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the contest.

Milwaukee, however, buoyed by powerful backup swingman Corey Maggette (15 points), a Chicago native, chipped away at its deficit to negate the efforts of Bulls reserves C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer.

Maggette and fellow wing John Salmons (18 points), a former Bull, both attacked the rim with regularity, usually drawing a foul in the process and keeping the Bucks in close contact, while Keyon Dooling (11 points, six assists) Milwaukees only available point guard, as regular starter Brandon Jennings is injured and diminutive backup Earl Boykins served a one-game suspension for contact with an official in the teams previous outing scorched the nets from the perimeter. With turnovers and suddenly poor marksmanship key contributing factors, Chicagos downhill spiral persisted, Milwaukee surged ahead before intermission, 45-44.

Although it didnt immediately translate into a drastic difference, Chicagos improved play and intensity at the outset of the third quarter transferred the games momentum and lead back into the Bulls hands, by virtue of Roses offensive assertiveness. That initial team-wide intensity, however, waned as time went on, giving way to uncontested Bucks jaunts to the basket, second-chance opportunities and a figurative lid on the rim for the home team in the friendly confines of the United Center.

Despite Milwaukees subpar shooting percentage, the Bulls inefficiency allowed the visitors to make it a close-knit affair, subduing the home fans. An overabundance of quick perimeter jumpers without the inside-out emphasis Thibodeau preaches was the central theme of the period until late when Deng, in particular, began working for more high-quality looks but at the end of three quarters, Chicago led by a scant five-point margin, 67-62.

Luol does a lot of things for our team and sometimes they go unnoticed. His defense has been terrific all year. Even when he wasnt shooting well, I thought he was playing well, said Thibodeau of his small forwards bounce-back effort after two subpar shooting nights in the Bulls previous pair of outings. Tonight, I thought he had his energy back offensively, hes moving without the ball, he did some off the dribble, some catch-and-shoot, some in the post he scores a lot of different ways but his overall play throughout the year has been terrific.

Added Deng: It felt great. The last two games, I didnt shoot the ball great, but I felt like I was still aggressive. I just try to bring something different to the team. Theres going to be nights where I shoot like that; its not the last time. My whole mindset is as long as we win at the end of the game, just bring something to the team every time.

I really didnt do anything different. I had good looks I knocked them down my mid-range game was good and I was slashing, but I really didnt do anything different. I think as the season goes on, Im just going to learn how to play off Carlos more. Im really very familiar with Derricks game when to let Derrick be Derrick, when to cut but were still getting used to Carlos. Hes a great guy to have on the team and it takes a lot of pressure off our hands, so its just getting used to playing off him.

Chimed in Rose: As a point guard, youve got to know what plays to call just to get him going and thats what we tried to do early. He was making a lot of great shots going to the hole a lot of great layups and hes got like three or four or five calls that he can get the shot that he wants.

I look at Thibs sometimes, but other than that, I go with the flow. I know if I come down and I know that Lu is not getting enough touches 33, three-down, three-flat just to get him going.

In the final stanza the period in which the Bulls have had significant issues over their past three contests Chicago couldnt sustain its focus on either end, although Deng provided a consistent scoring threat.

Despite lacking much of a flow on the offensive end, the Bulls were able to sustain their slim cushion over the visitors, who remained cold from the field, although their surprisingly large advantage on the glass persisted, as Bogut and forwards Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Ersan Ilyasova (10 points, seven rebounds) dominated the backboards.

They were terrific defensively and the way they rebounded the ball. That was a hard-fought game. It was hard to get the ball into the paint. We had to move the ball side to side, set good screens. Theyre a tough team, tough competitors, said Thibodeau. When we got the ball moving and our players moving, it was more effective for usyou cant hold onto the ball against them. You cant dance with the ball against them. The ball has to move. As the game went on, I thought we got better at it.

Cohesiveness and efficiency on the offensive end miraculously reappeared for Chicago with reinsertion of Rose into the contest. The third-year floor generals playmaking ability permitted the likes of Boozer and sharpshooter Kyle Korver to get relatively unimpeded opportunities, transforming the Bulls tenuous lead into a double-digit advantage with the games stretch run approaching.

The home team didnt look back, with Chicago hustle plays, purpose-filled offensive possessions and defensive intensity defining Milwaukees ultimate demise to close the game out in an appropriate manner. The visitors final attempts to make a run were futile, as the Bulls cruised to an eventual triumph.

A win is a win in this league, especially when youre playing against a team like that where they dont have all their players and theyre just trying to prove a point by playing hard. Thats what they did tonight, but we put it away in the fourth quarter, said Rose. Weve just got to play hard throughout the whole game. We cant have periods of time where were not scoring the ball and our defense is lacking. Our defense should stay the same throughout the whole game and offensively, if were not doing what were supposed to do, weve got to have go-to plays.

Added Thibodeau: I liked our defense, but we had a lot of things in our favor tonight. They were playing back-to-back, Boykins suspended

Its ironic that Thibodeau, a proponent of never making excuses for defeat, would come up with reasons for the Bucks to have lost. But when youre winning gutting out wins and cruising atop your division, motivation has to come from somewhere.

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.

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

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Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."

Bulls' Rajon Rondo oddly runs behind back of former coach Rick Carlisle

Bulls' Rajon Rondo oddly runs behind back of former coach Rick Carlisle

Is Rajon Rondo avoiding his former coach?

During Tuesday night's Bulls-Mavericks game, Rondo awkwardly ran behind Mavs coach Rick Carlisle as the third quarter was winding down.

Take a look at the play in the video above.

Rondo, who played with the Mavericks in the 2014-15 season, had a weird relationship with Carlisle. Most notably, he and Carlisle had a heated exchange during a game on Feb. 24, 2015 against the Toronto Raptors. It eventually led to Carlisle saying that Rondo was a bad fit for the Mavericks and that the team should have never traded for him.

On Tuesday, Rondo apparently shook Carlisle's hand before he checked in the game for the first time in the first quarter. 

All is well, it seems, but that was still weird.