Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
Posted Jan. 4, 9:39 PM Updated 12:17 AM
By Aggrey Sam
They say familiarity breeds contempt.
Well, in the case of the Bulls and the Raptors, any animosity must be one-sided, as Chicago (23-10) routed Toronto (11-23), 111-91, Tuesday evening at the United Center for the home teams 14th victory in 16 games.
Toronto scored on five of its first six possession to open the contest, a fun fact that clearly didnt amuse Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Outside of Luol Dengs (24 points, four assists) aggressive approach, the most significant action on Chicagos end of things was a prolonged timeout for blood that eventually briefly sidelined Carlos Boozer (12 points, 13 rebounds).
Sparked by Dengs early hot hand, the Bulls quickly gained ground on the visiting Raptors by the midway point of the contests initial period. Derrick Rose (19 points, six assists) would start to find his groove shortly thereafter even taking a charge on the defensive end and display his ever-varying scoring repertoire with a 3-pointer and a dazzling dribble move and finish included in his bag of tricks.
Despite Chicagos surge, Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani (23 points, six rebounds) finally starting to live up to his potential as a former No. 1 overall pick, albeit on a losing team however, kept the scoring-oriented visitors competitive. At the end of a quarter, the Bulls held a 29-27 advantage.
Offensively, I liked us a lot in the first quarter. I didnt like our defense, but I liked our offense. So, we have to put the two of them together and well be okay, said Thibodeau.
He wouldnt have to be concerned about the team blending solid efforts on both ends for the rest of the contest, as the perfectionist grudgingly admitted by omission that he was pleased with his teams performance.
Perhaps emboldened by the solid first-quarter play of Taj Gibson (16 points, 14 rebounds) at first to spell Boozer following the aforementioned blood timeout and then a strong start to the second period from rookie Omer Asik (career-high 13 points, seven rebounds, career-high five blocked shots, two assists), Thibodeau let an all-reserve unit play extended minutes (Deng started the quarter, but would be subbed for relatively quickly; Thibodeau sent Boozer to the scorers table, then recalled him after evaluating the play on the floor) and his bench responded, widening Chicagos winning margin to double digits.
The bench was great, said Thibodeau. They played with great energy, their defense was terrific. Omer and Taj were great up front, Ronnie was very good, C.J., Kyle. They executed, they did a terrific job.
Added Rose: Theyre playing great for us, playing defense thats the biggest thing rebounding the ball, blocking shots, just chasing the ball down.
We tell Omer just to be aggressive; when you get inside, people are going to foul you and he was trying to dunk everything. Thats what we need. Taj was hitting his jump shot, hitting his layups, trying to dunk the ball. Theyre doing good for us.
While Asik would soon depart for Boozer, Gibson remained on the court and sustained his positive output, as did Ronnie Brewer (12 points, four rebounds), who provided his typical energy and slashing ability.
Thibodeau began filtering his regulars back into the game and the home team continued to click on cylinders, using opportunistic defense the Bulls forced 10 first-half turnovers and held Toronto to 38.5 percent shooting from the field and mostly textbook execution of Thibodeaus desired inside-outside going into halftime with a 59-41 lead.
Chicago sustained its momentum to open the third quarter on a 6-0 run, with Boozer being much more of a focal point offensively and impacting the game in general, quickly joining Gibson in the double-double club.
The Bulls kept the pressure on the visitors on both ends of the floor before some minor slippage permitted Toronto to slice into its deficit, although they didnt put a major dent in Chicagos comfortable advantage.
I thought the offense ran well and what that did is it got them scrambling, and we did a good job of moving the ball and finding open shots, said Deng.
Although Bargnanis diverse scoring, point guard Jerryd Bayless (11 points, eight assists) floor generalship and athletic swingman DeMar DeRozans (18 points) slashing were all somewhat effective for the Raptors, the continued inside presence of reserves Gibson and Asik, combined with the scoring threats of Rose and Deng, allowed the Bulls to maintain an 81-69 lead heading into the final stanza.
Gibsons tremendous outing was curtailed by picking up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter, but Asik picked up some of his slack with his strong finishing, defensive prowess and high activity level.
Deng again playing with the second unit; he was the only starter to do so in the final period helped the Bulls push their lead to over 20 points, with help from C.J. Watson (five assists, three steals), who did a nice job distributing the ball throughout the contest.
I think its big, said Thibodeau of resting his starters. Any rest you can get in a back-to-back situation is important and again, the bench, just the way the played was terrific."
Concurred Rose: Its huge, knowing that the starters except for Lu, he was out there for a minute but everybody should be rested up. I think we came out there and did what we were supposed to do toward the end and thats play defense and make games hard for opponents.
With the game already out of hand midway through the quarter and the United Center crowd clamoring for fan favorite Brian Scalabrine Toronto simply couldnt get anything going. Eventually, both Scalabrine and second-year forward James Johnson entered the contest, a clear sign that even the ever-diligent Thibodeau was aware the game was indeed over, something made official when Scalabrine scored the games last basket.
Scalabrines really good, said Boozer afterwards, responding to a reporters question about the veteran reserve seeing late action. You guys dont see him play a lot, but he can play. Hes been in this league a long time for a reason.
Top to bottom, everybody played great. Everybody contributed. Great game. After the first quarter, we started playing better defense and it took care of itself. We had a big lead, clamped down, rebounded the ball, defended the ball, executed our offense and got a fun win for us, he continued. This is another time where we improved as we won. We had a great practice yesterday, had great preparation today and played a good game.
When we have contributions like that through all 1-13 guys, it makes it easier for everybody. We had fun out there you saw how much fun we had on the bench, watching those guys get busy and thats why were a team. We need everybody.
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.