Bulls' 'Big 3' combine for 80; 76ers still prevail

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Bulls' 'Big 3' combine for 80; 76ers still prevail

Friday, Jan. 7, 2011
Posted 8:40 PM Updated 10:14 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

PHILADELPHIAThe supposedly defense-first Bulls (23-12) are officially in a funk on that end of the floor, allowing the 76ers (15-21)a team they beat by 45 points last monthto use hot shooting to defeat them, 105-99, Friday evening at the Wells Fargo Center. Additionally, the plague of low energy, the most common rationalization for the malaise infecting Chicago, has finally reared its ugly head, manifesting itself in a two-game losing streak.

After being demolished in the aforementioned previous meeting, Philadelphia came out with clear determination and much better offensive execution. However, despite the Sixers shooting the ball efficiently from the fieldsecond-year sharpshooter Jodie Meeks (24 points, 4-for-7 3-pointers) sparked the home teamthe Bulls, by virtue of Carlos Boozers (31 points, 13 rebounds) strong inside play, held a slim early advantage.

While young floor general Jrue Holiday (19 points, six assists) did his best to keep the point-guard matchup competitive, Derrick Rose (27 points, nine assists)with able scoring assistance from Boozer and Luol Deng (22 points, five rebounds)was too much, getting to the basket and finishing almost at will, inspiring awe from the sparse Wells Fargo Center. After a quarter of defense-optional basketball, Chicago led, 30-28.

Chicagos reserves once again propelled the team, extending the lead, with Dengwhom Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau typically pairs with the second unit to start the second quarterand Taj Gibson leading the way. Still, the home team remained within striking distance.

Meeks and reserve scoring guard Louis Williams (20 points) both gave the Bulls issues on the defensive endPhiladelphia went with a three-guard set, with Holiday joining the duoresulting in the Sixers cutting into the deficit. At the intermission, the visitors maintained a tenuous 56-54 winning margin, following a Williams near-halfcourt jumper at the halftime buzzer.

Explained Rose: We gave them confidence in the beginning and they thought that they could take those shots and the shots that they were taking, they were hitting. If you give anybody in this league confidence, theyll knock anything down.

Added Thibodeau: From A to Z. Our catch-and-shoot defense wasnt very good, containing dribble penetration and then challenging shots; youve got to challenge shots. Sometimes were right there and if we dont challenge shots, theyre going to make them. They got in rhythm early on us. When a team gets confidence, its much harder to slow them down. Theyve got their confidence going and we had a hard time all night.

"The energy level was better tonight from an offensive standpoint, but defensively, we have to correct it. We have to get back to being a defensive team first."

The third quarter began with a sluggish pace; neither team could truly establish a rhythm and both defenses were as porous as the first half. Chicagos proved to be the more yielding of the two, as Philadelphias balanced attackMeeks, Holiday, veteran Elton Brand, big man Spencer Hawes and ex-Bull Andres Nocioni were all productiveeventually led to the Sixers overtaking the visitors to seize control of the contest with a 20-4 run.

When you play a team and they shoot over 50 percentwell over 50 percentits hard to beat them on their home court and even if theyre on your home court," Boozer said. "If you let a team shoot 50 percent and above, youre not going to win too many of those games. Weve got to play better D. Weve got a lot of big-time games coming upobviously Boston tomorrow starts us offso weve got to correct that defense overnight."

Ill be honestlistenthey had a couple of wide-open ones, but most of their shots were contested. You saw the halfcourt that they hit; we were right there in their face. You saw a couple other shots they hit. We did a decent job contesting them. They had a couple open shots, but for the most part, we were right there in their face.

Gaudy Philadelphia shooting numbersaided by a lack of defensive intensity on Chicagos partand stagnant Bulls offensive possessions were the main culprits in the turning of tables and Meeks torrid outside shooting bust the game open, as the Sixers went up by double-digit margin. In an upside-down microcosm of the two teams first matchup, nothing went right for the Bulls and everything the Sixers threw up seemingly dropped through the nets, resulting in a less-than-energized Chicago squad trailing, 86-74, at the conclusion of three periods.

Thibodeau again enlisted his reserves in an effort to bring the Bulls back, but they were unable to significantly chip away at the large deficit. Boozer, appearing determined to redeem himself from the teams previous outing, was a consistent force, but he couldnt do it alone and untimely turnovers didnt help the situation.

With Philadelphias suddenly inept offense, however, Chicago still had a chance to escape with a win, provided some shots started falling and the necessary defensive stops persisted. But after a few blown offensive trips and back-to-back Williams baskets with a little over a minute made it a three-possession game, the Bulls appeared to be out of luck.

Things like that, weve got to grind it out and get that win, said Rose. Theyre a teamI know theyve been in some close gamesbut I dont think that theyve won as many close games as us. We cant be in that position anyway.

Following a timeout, reserve C.J. Watson drained a corner 3-pointer to cut the Sixers lead to five points with exactly a minute remaining. On the subsequent possession, a Philadelphia turnover resulted in Rose getting fouled and hitting both free throws with 37.6 left.

A stop was needed on Philadelphias next trip and while the Bulls defense obliged by forcing a Williams miss, Nocioni came back to haunt his former squad by snatching an offensive rebound. He was fouled with 15.9 seconds to play and calmly nailed both of his foul shots, effectively ending the game.

They were hot all game," Thibodeau said. "We made a little run in the fourth quarter, but they got what they wanted all game. Thats how they got separation and were fighting out of a hole. Even at the end, weve got to come up with that rebound. That rebound at the end of games is a critical rebound. Our problems were caused much earlier than that. First quarter, allowed them to get going. Third quarter was a huge problem. Fourth quarter, we were scrambling to get back and it was better.

Boozer chimed in: Our offense isnt really the problem. Tonight, we shot over 50 percent, we had 99 pointsenough to winbut we didnt get enough stops to win. First and third quarter were bad again. Weve just got to do a better jobpoint-blankand weve got to do it overnight.

Rose searched for the answers to the teams recent woes.

If youre not playing defense, its going to hurt you and we didnt do it tonight, said the All-Star point guard. Its not even the offense. Our offense is going to be there. Its just defense. Weve just got to get back to our basics. Get back to where we have an edge on the defensive. But this loss definitely hurt us.

Im confused, but weve just got to find a way, where everybodys on the same page. Pushing the ball, getting easy baskets, then coming down and locking people upthats what we have to do. But right now, were not playing like ourselves. Were not stopping people and scoring at will. Weve just got to get back to ourselves. Weve got to be this grimy team when we come out. Defense is the first thing that were doing. Offense is just going to come. Weve got enough people on this team where offense is going to be there...We cant panic. We just lost two in a row.

If they can cure what ails them, perhaps the streak ends there. It won't be an easy task, however, with visiting Boston in town Saturday night.

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.

Kendall Gill, Ice Cube give their predictions for Mayweather-McGregor

Kendall Gill, Ice Cube give their predictions for Mayweather-McGregor

This story originally appeared on Big3.com. Hear from Kendall and Ice Cube as they give their opinions on the Aug. 26 fight in the video above.

Timing really is everything.

When I went to Las Vegas for the BIG3 combine and draft back in April, I liked my chances. Sure, I was one of the oldest guys there, but my training as a boxer (I fought professionally after my NBA days) keeps me in great shape.

So I was pretty shocked when I didn’t get drafted.

I tried to be positive about it. I figured maybe the man upstairs was saying, “Just sit tight. I gotta put you on the right team.”

So there I was, sparring in the gym the other day. I get out of the ring and there’s a text waiting for me from Corey Maggette, asking me if I want to play for Power.

He didn’t have to ask twice!

Next thing I know, I’m getting a call from Power’s coach, Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. I looked up to Clyde my whole career, looked at him as a big brother. To play for him in the BIG3 is the perfect scenario.

So it was great to be in Philadelphia last Sunday and help Power defeat the Ghost Ballers in my BIG3 debut. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Cuttino Mobley, DeShawn Stevenson, Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams and Paul McPherson.

I was a bit rusty on the offensive side, but my defense -- which has been a staple for me throughout my career -- my rebounding, passing, that was all on point. I found Cuttino and DeShawn for a couple of shots when we forced them to double-team down on me. I had Mike Bibby on me in the post, and they knew that he probably couldn’t guard me down there.

So it was a pretty good first day. Now that I’ve got that under my belt, here comes the fun part. Everybody was excited when I was finally added to a team, and when they found out we were playing in Chicago they got twice as excited. When I got off the plane from Philadelphia on Monday, I had about 50 messages waiting for me – friends and family asking for tickets to the UIC Pavilion for Sunday’s games.

And since I work Chicago Bulls games for CSN Chicago, the network is excited, too. They want to mic me up and follow me around for the day, go behind the scenes. Radio stations have been calling me for interviews about the BIG3 coming to Chicago. It’s exciting. But when it comes time to play, I’ve got to forget about all that and go out there and play.

A lot of people think I’m biased because I was born and raised here, and still live in Chicago, but if you look at the number of pro players that we’ve produced, there’s really nowhere else that can compare to Chicago as a basketball town. You look at all the number one picks in the draft. Look at the top five picks in the NBA Draft throughout history. I think you’d have to say Chicago is probably the number one producer of NBA players – and college basketball players for that matter.

Only a few fortunate kids make it up the ranks to college and the pros. For most kids growing up in Chicago, at least basketball can be an important recreational activity that helps keep them off the streets and out of trouble. But there’s so much more we can do. When I was preparing for the BIG3 draft, I was practicing with Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education. Duncan, who has played competitive 3-on-3 with USA Basketball, is doing some great work with underprivileged kids in Chicago.

For my part, I donated a home in Champaign-Urbana (home of my alma mater, the University of Illinois). It’s the Cunningham Children’s Home and it helps disadvantaged kids in the region. We just had our annual golf tournament last week. We’ve been doing it for 28 years and have raised more than $1 million for the home.

While Arne Duncan is doing great work with Chicago youth, I’m grateful for the work he put in with me on the basketball court. He showed me a lot about how to cut, do a lot of pick and rolls away from the ball. In 3-on-3, those aspects of the game are very undervalued. Some guys have a tendency to play too much one-on-one, which I saw in some of the other games I was watching Sunday. The 3-on-3 game is very easy if you do it right, like we did. I think that’s why we won that game. We did a lot of cuts, and it worked well for us.

So after the disappointment of not being drafted, I’m thrilled to be where I am now – playing for a Power squad that is 3-1 and looking good for the playoffs. Which got me to thinking…

I really love boxing – not just training and sparring myself, but watching it. Boxing is the sweet science.

If we are fortunate enough to make it to Las Vegas for the BIG3 championship game on August 26, there just happens to be a pretty big boxing match taking place that night, right down the road. You may have heard:  Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor.

Personally, I don’t think McGregor has a chance. I’ve seen Floyd train in person and I’ve seen all his fights at least 10 times. He’s one of the greatest fighters to ever live. Now a guy who has no boxing experience whatsoever is going to get into the ring with him? Not happening.

But it’s gonna be an event. Believe me, I’m planning to buy the Pay-Per-View.

Unless I’m in Vegas that day and get to see it in person. You know, right after we win the BIG3 title.

Wake-up Call: Rose returning to Chicago?; Willson Contreras takes over; State of Cubs-Cards

Wake-up Call: Rose returning to Chicago?; Willson Contreras takes over; State of Cubs-Cards

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Thursday: 

Is #TheReturn getting a reboot? Report says there's a possibility Derrick Rose comes back to Bulls

This is becoming Willson Contreras' team, whether or not Cubs add Alex Avila or another veteran catcher

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Why Blackhawks fans might want to tap the brakes on Alex DeBrincat

That escalated quickly: Cubs just a game back of Brewers, could be in first place as soon as this weekend

Ping-pong balls everywhere: Where do the Bulls rank among projected lottery teams?

Joe Maddon's prime-time message: 'Help or die'

Report: Derrick Rose is considering teaming up with LeBron James, Cavs

Cubs Talk Podcast: State of Cubs-Cardinals rivalry and what lies ahead

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since