Bulls hang on after long halftime, control East


Bulls hang on after long halftime, control East

Friday, April 1, 2011Posted: 9:33 p.m. Updated: 10:48 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam

AUBURN HILLS, MICH.On a night celebrating Dennis Rodmana champion in both Chicago and Detroittwo longtime divisional foes battled in Detroit. And while the game didnt exactly bring back memories of the rivalrys heyday, it did come down to the final minutes, with the Bulls pulling out a 101-96 win over the Pistons Friday night. Coupled with Miamis win and Bostons loss on the same night, the Bulls are now 2 games ahead of the Heat and three games ahead of the Celtics with seven games remaining in the regular season.

I take a win any day," observed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. "Any way we can get it, Im taking a win. But its fools gold, too. Weve got to make the corrections. The three things we always look at on the road are the defense, the rebounding and the turnovers. We didnt rebound well, we didnt defend well and we turned the ball over.

Concurred Carlos Boozer: We didnt play our best basketball tonight, but well take the win.

Perhaps inspired by the packed housefans and basketball luminaries alike came in droves for the halftime ceremony to retire Rodmans Pistons jerseythe Pistons kept pace with their first-place Central Division and Eastern Conference historical rivals in the early going. Longtime Pistons bookend wings Tayshaun Prince (17 points) and Richard Hamilton (30 points), two of the last links to Detroits last NBA titlist, propelled the home team with their skilled perimeter games.

For the Bulls (55-20), All-Star point guard Derrick Rose (27 points, seven assists)named the Eastern Conference player of the month earlier in the dayLuol Deng (15 points) and Boozer (22 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) were the teams offensive catalysts. But, Thibodeau was dissatisfied with his teams defensive effort, which allowed Detroit (26-49) to keep the game close before tying it at 21-all. Toward the end of the opening period, however, Chicago played at a faster pace, forcing the Pistons into turnovers and capped a quarter-ending spurt with a Rose (13 first-quarter points) three-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls a 31-21 lead.

Even on a special night for Pistons fans, the visitors strong close of the opening period seemed to take some of the air out of the Palace and unlike the vehicles Motor City natives have so much pride in, Detroits offense sputtered. Conversely, the Bulls Bench Mob built upon the team's momentum, maintaining the double-digit lead while the Palace crowd could only take solace in video montages of the Bad Boys era.

But even after Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the contest, Detroit found its competitive spirit again and behind a balanced offensive attack led by Hamilton, the Pistons still attempted to claw their way back into the game, briefly making it a single-digit affair. The Bulls, however, again finished the quarter strong and at the break, they held a 58-47 advantage.

During halftime, the Pistons held an emotional ceremony during which Rodmans jersey was raised to the arena rafters. Afterwards, Rodman reportedly told assembled media that he was informed Thursday of his upcoming induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame at the NCAA Final Four in Houston.

Re-energized after halftime, Detroit scored the third quarters first six points and eventually cut the Bulls' lead to 60-57 at the 8:52 mark, at which point Bulls fans nearly had a collective heart attack, as Rose rolled his left ankle after landing on Boozers foot.

Its fine. I dont feel it right now. I told Jo, usually when guards do it, you bounce right back, but with themwith seven- footers and big menthats a bad injury for them, joked Rose afterwards, referencing his teammate Noahs sprained ankle, which kept him out of the lineup for the second consecutive game. At first, it was scary, but my will to play got me back in that game.

Its a tough game, especially to be on the road. We sat for like 30 or 40 minutes at halftime.

Added Boozer: We came out a little flat. We had the long halftime. We tried to talk about it, but for whatever reason, we couldnt overcome the inevitable. That long halftime took a little wind out of our sails, but we fought through it.

It became a game of who was going to win, who wanted it more.

Thibodeau, however, is a man who doesnt believe in excuses and didnt think the long intermission caused a competitive disadvantage.

Were faced with things like that throughout the course of the year. They had the same halftime. They came out more aggressive than us, said the NBAs Eastern Conference coach of the month for March. We were flat to start the third, then we got the lead and we got loose. We didnt play defense. That was a problem and Rip Hamilton was able to get to the line, so they made up ground on us and rebounding was poor. We had to scratch for it at the end.

Rose stayed in the game after a timeout, even incurring a technical foul, and the visitors rebuffed the hosts push with a 17-5 spurt led by Boozer, giving the Bulls some breathing room en route to creating double-digit separation between the teams again.

Carlos was outstanding. Post-up, making plays, praised Thibodeau. It makes us a different team. We have Carlos in the post, we have Derrick off the dribble and then pick-and-roll, it creates a lot of easy offense for you.

One thing about Carlos, if you cut and youre open, hes going to hit you every time, and I think our players know that. Were doing a better job searching him out, weve got to keep him in rhythm. Hes doing a better job running the floor, hes getting deeper into the paint and hes playing very well right now, so weve got to keep him going.

In addition to his scary moment, Rose also incurred a technical foulangered by not making trips to the foul line when he drew contact on shot attemptsbut that wasnt the least of his worries, as the Pistons battled back as the period waned on. Through three quarters, the Bulls clung to an 80-72 lead.

Detroit initially persisted with its rally in the final stanza, but Chicagos second unit met the challenge and solid play from the likes of Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson, the Bulls rebuilt their prior double-digit advantage midway through the period. The constant swings in momentum continued, as the Pistons repeatedly cut into the deficit, only to have their guests widen the gap.

A fast-break layup by Pistons guard Will Bynum (12 points), a Chicago native, with 2:37 remaining, however, made it a 90-87 contest, threatening the Bulls' once-safe lead in the midst of the games stretch run. After a timeout, the Bulls went to Boozer, who converted a traditional three-point play with 2:22 to play, giving the Bulls a six-point lead.

The teams exchanged turnovers on the next two possessions and after a pair of Hamilton free throws cut the Bulls lead to a four-point margin, veteran Kurt Thomas came up with a key offensive rebound, then knocked down a baseline jumper with 57.7 seconds left, making it a 95-89 contest in Chicagos favor.

When I was coming out, they called me Dennis Rodman with a jumpshot, joked Thomas, a native of the same Dallas neighborhood where Rodman was raised. Its definitely great to see his number retired, but the bottom line is we wanted to get the win.

Added Thibodeau: Hes just smart, tough. Hes going to make big plays, he plays great defense all the time for you, he sets great screens and is always ready. He had not been playing a lot, Jo goes down, throw him right in and hes ready to go.

An exchange of baskets ensued, leading to Hamilton nailing a triple with 24.1 seconds on the clock, once again cutting the Bulls lead to just three points. C.J. Watson hit a pair of foul shots with 20.5 seconds to go and although the teams exchanged turnovers on each of their next two possessions before a Bynum layup, Rose sealed the deal by hitting two attempts from the charity stripe.

It might sound crazy, but Im just worried about over here, said Rose, after being informed of the Celtics loss. Our destinys in our hands.

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.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Looking ahead to opening night matchup against Celtics

Bulls Talk Podcast: Looking ahead to opening night matchup against Celtics

In our latest installment of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill get you set for opening night against the Celtics. 

They debate realistic expectations for the team and break down the decision to start Taj Gibson at power forward. Later, Schanowski and Gill analyze the team's biggest concern, defense. 

Finally, CSN New England's Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely joins the panel to discuss what Rajon Rondo has left in the tank. 

Check out the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast below: 

Mark Schanowski's 2016-17 NBA playoff predictions

Mark Schanowski's 2016-17 NBA playoff predictions

With the 2016-17 NBA season tipping off tonight with three games, here's a look at how the playoff races might end up.

Let's start with the West, where Kevin Durant's move from Oklahoma City to Golden State may have shifted the balance of power for the next half decade.

1. Golden State (Projected record, 67-15). Sure, it might take the Warriors a little time to build their on-court chemistry, but if you watched any of the preseason games, that lineup is absolutely lethal. Durant looks relaxed in his new environment, and will get more open 3's than he ever could have imagined in Oklahoma City. The "Splash Brothers", Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, should be more rested come playoff time since they won't have to do all the heavy lifting during the regular season. Add in do-everything forward Draymond Green, underrated veteran center Zaza Pachulia and elite sixth man Andre Iguodala, and it's pretty clear Steve Kerr's guys will run away and hide from the rest of the Western Conference field.

2. L.A. Clippers (55-27). It's now or never for Doc Rivers' crew, with a number of key players potentially headed for free agency next summer, including starters Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. Griffin got off to a fast start a year ago, but then saw his season ruined by injuries and a suspension for fighting with a team employee. Paul is still an elite point guard, but may decide to leave if things don't go well this time around. Lots of talent on this roster including first-team All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan, and Rivers again tweaked his bench with the addition of free agent stretch five Marreese Speights (from Golden St.), forward Brandon Bass and swingman Alan Anderson.

3. San Antonio (53-29). Never underestimate the ability of Gregg Popovich to put together a championship contender, but with Tim Duncan retired and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker past their prime, the Spurs don't seem to have the ingredients to survive three brutally tough playoff rounds in the West. This team now belongs to Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, with former Bulls center Pau Gasol taking over for Duncan. The Spurs are trying to get younger, but it looks like the championship window may have closed.

4. Houston (50-32). Interesting experiment by first year coach Mike D'Antoni to put ball-dominant guard James Harden at point guard. I guess D'Antoni figured since he has the ball in his hands all the time, what's the difference? It's no secret Harden did not get along with big man Dwight Howard (who's now in Atlanta), and he could put up MVP-type numbers this season with the freedom he'll get at the offensive end. More importantly, the addition of three-point shooting threats Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon in free agency could make the Rockets one of the most entertaining teams to watch on League Pass.

5. Portland (49-33). How about another first round playoff shootout between the Blazers and Rockets? We could do a lot worse. C.J. McCollum cashed in big-time after winning the league's Most Improved Player Award, and you can pencil the Blazers backcourt in for about 50 points a night with Damian Lillard emerging as a top 10-15 player in the league. Portland could use a little more punch in the frontcourt, but with wingmen Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe also capable of scoring points in bunches, they should be okay with a big man rotation of Mason Plumlee, former Illini Meyers Leonard, former Warrior Festus Ezeli and young power forwards Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh.

6. Dallas (46-36). Rick Carlisle is one of the NBA's best coaches, and he'll figure out a way to build another playoff team around the skills of all-time great Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas added Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut from the Warriors, and should benefit from a full season from Wesley Matthews. Former Illini star Deron Williams returns to run the point, and the bench is decent with J.J. Barea, Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell and Seth Curry, who played very well late in the season with Sacramento.

7. Oklahoma City (44-38). Russell Westbrook is determined to keep his team in the playoffs without Kevin Durant, which means you can count on Russ playing at an MVP level this season, possibly averaging 30-8-8. I like the addition of Victor Oladipo at shooting guard, but the Thunder sacrificed power forward Serge Ibaka in the process. OKC still has its big man duo of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, but a lot of question marks with depth on the perimeter.

8. Utah (43-39). After just missing the playoffs a year ago, the Jazz should find a way to break through this time around. Gordon Hayward is one of the league's most underrated talents, and Utah should really benefit from the addition of veteran point guard George Hill, plus proven winners like Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw to help out their talented young players. Derrick Favors has quietly emerged as a rock solid power forward, with the "Stifle Tower", Rudy Gobert anchoring the defense from the center position.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Now to the East, where everyone's chasing the reigning champions.

1. Cleveland (58-24). The Cavs should really go over the 60-win plateau, but LeBron James understands it's all about the playoffs, and will sit out a number of regular season games to stay fresh. The roster is almost identical to last year's, except for the addition of former Bulls' forward Mike Dunleavy and rookie point guard Kay Felder. Don’t be surprised though if the Cavs wind up signing former Heat point guard (and James teammate) Mario Chalmers when he’s fully recovered from injury. Assuming everyone stays healthy, look for Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith to take on a lot of the scoring load during the season, and let LeBron put on his Superman cape for Round 3 against Golden St. in the Finals.

2. Boston (52-30). The Bulls' opening night opponent should be stronger than ever with the addition of All-Star big man Al Horford and lottery pick Jaylen Brown. Former Butler coach Brad Stevens didn't take long to master the NBA game, and has waves of perimeter talent to run at opposing teams, led by All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas. Small forward Jae Crowder stole a page from his former Marquette teammate Jimmy Butler on how to be a force at both ends of the court, while big men Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller work well in Stevens' system.

3. Toronto  (50-32). Another 50-win season is in the cards for the team from the Great White North. The Raptors kept shooting guard DeMar DeRozan with a huge contract in free agency, and he'll again team with Kyle Lowry to form one of the league's best backcourts. Toronto needs more production from talented, but inconsistent center Jonas Valanciunas and a full season of health from defensive menace DeMarre Carroll. Depth could be an issue, especially with free agent addition Jared Sullinger already sidelined because of foot surgery.

4. Indiana (49-33). The Pacers decided to make a coaching change after last season's first round playoff exit because team president and Hall of Famer Larry Bird wanted to play faster. So, former assistant coach Nate McMillan replaces Frank Vogel, and the Pacers traded for long-time Hawks' point guard Jeff Teague to push the pace. Paul George is primed for the best season of his career, and Indiana made a great under-the-radar pick-up by acquiring power forward Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn. Second-year center Myles Turner should also have a big impact as a scorer and shot blocker. The Pacers also have scoring power off the bench with Al Jefferson, Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles. Great offseason for Larry Legend.

5. Detroit (47-35). Stan Van Gundy has done a tremendous job changing the culture in the Motor City, getting shoot-first point guard Reggie Jackson to buy in to his philosophy, while staying patient with Andre Drummond's free throw shooting woes. Drummond is a monster on the boards, and one of the league's best centers overall. Van Gundy also has done a good job on the personnel front, stealing talented forward Tobias Harris from Orlando at the trade deadline last season, and picking up Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson in the draft. Jackson will miss the start of the year after foot surgery, but the Pistons should take off when he returns.

6. Atlanta (46-36). It will be interesting to see how the Dwight Howard experiment works in Atlanta, because Howard destroyed team chemistry with the Lakers and Rockets. Howard looked good in the preseason, but will he start to pout in a 3-point heavy offense? Former Bull Kyle Korver is still going strong at the age of 35, Kent Bazemore is a better than average two-way wing player and Paul Millsap is an All-Star going into a free agent season. Biggest question for the Hawks: Is Dennis Schroder ready to be the full-time point guard, or did Mike Budenholzer make a mistake by trading Jeff Teague?

7. BULLS (45-37). One thing we know for sure, the Bulls won't be boring this season with the addition of strong-minded veterans Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. Wade seems genuinely excited about playing in his hometown, and Rondo spent all summer at the training facility getting to know head coach Fred Hoiberg and his new teammates. Jimmy Butler will be asked to increase his scoring from his two previous All-Star seasons, and the Bulls are counting on Doug McDermott to emerge as an offensive force off the bench. Robin Lopez will provide an upgrade over injury-plagued Joakim Noah in the middle, and the power forward tandem of Taj Gibson and Niko Mirotic should be solid. If newcomers Michael Carter-Williams and rookie Denzel Valentine can gel quickly as the reserve backcourt duo, the Bulls have the potential to be one of the NBA's biggest surprises.

8. Charlotte (43-39). Hornets coach Steve Clifford is a Tom Thibodeau disciple, emphasizing defense over everything else. Charlotte lost productive veterans Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee in free agency, but the cupboard is hardly bare. Point guard Kemba Walker could make the All-Star team this season, and perimeter players Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams all bring something different to the table. Depth will be the biggest issue with former Bull Marco Belinelli and Chicago-area product Frank Kaminski being asked to provide offense off the bench.

I would like to tell you we should expect some big surprises when we get to the playoffs in mid-April, but it’s hard to envision any team beating Golden State or Cleveland in a best of 7 series. Round 3 between the Warriors and Cavs will find Kevin Durant celebrating his first NBA championship after a Game 6 win at Oracle Arena.