Bulls' bench red hot, helps destroy Toronto

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Bulls' bench red hot, helps destroy Toronto

Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
Posted Jan. 4, 9:39 PM Updated 12:17 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

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.

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Whacked on his ailing left hand by Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler shook off the pain to hit a rare triple in transition while Middleton was complaining for a foul a couple possessions later.

Butler then darted into the passing lane for a pass intended for Jason Terry like a linebacker jumping into the flat for an interception, then trotted down for an uncontested dunk to give the Bulls an unlikely 17-point lead.

For the man who claims he’s the best football player in the NBA, playing through the pain and doing so with his team’s playoff hopes dwindling, Butler may finally have some believers to his boasts.

Not only did the Bulls avoid a season sweep to the Milwaukee Bucks with a resounding 109-94 win at the BMO Bradley Center Sunday afternoon, they restored a slight sense of pride after looking like they had none of it Friday night in their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Butler scored 20 with a career-high 13 assists in a grinding 39 minutes, but he could play the role of a semi-closer, making those big plays in the fourth when the Bulls pulled away.

Instead, it was March Madness as Nikola Mirotic played up to his career numbers in his favorite month on the calendar, drilling five triples on his way to 28 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.

Mirotic and Rajon Rondo helped the Bulls to a decisive double-digit lead in the third quarter with Rondo scoring 14 of his 18 points in the period, hitting a triple, getting into the lane for layups and dishing out a few of his eight assists.

It was an offensive masterpiece for the Bulls, a prospect that seemed highly unlikely given the opponent and the way they played coming into Sunday’s contest. And with the Bucks getting Giannis Antetokounmpo going early along with Middleton, it looked like a nightmare of a different kind was in store for the Bulls.

But Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wasn’t about to let an instant replay occur, having seen his own version of a “Nightmare on Madison Street” Friday night against the woeful 76ers when his backups let time stand still for minutes at a time, squandering a double-digit lead.

Hoiberg decided not to mess around with the second unit as the Bucks began pulling away in the same manner the 76ers did Friday night. He brought the starters right back in when the lead ballooned to 45-33 at the 8:29 mark.

Then the Bulls went to work to finish the half, with a 23-10 run, along with starting off the third as efficient as they had been in awhile against a worthwhile opponent, shooting 14 of 21 in the period to take a 91-79 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Mirotic was seven of eight from the field before halftime and his first miss of the third—a 30-foot triple that went wide right, wound up in a 3-point opportunity for Rondo, who scooped the ball and scored on a layup while being fouled.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Bulls, a team that can’t seem to decide who they want to be on a nightly basis—making it that much harder for an opponent to predict, that much more difficult to eliminate from the playoff conversation.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Milwaukee Bucks today on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

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