Bulls hope to end road trip on a high note

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Bulls hope to end road trip on a high note

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011
10:33 a.m.
Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls are looking to end their five-game road trip with a winning record as Derrick Rose goes up against another one of the league's premier point guards.

Rose and the Bulls look to win their fifth straight over fellow All-Star Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.

Chicago (35-16) remains in the hunt for the Eastern Conference's best record. The Bulls enter Saturday three games behind Miami and 2 12 behind Boston as they close a five-game road trip against teams from the West.

After consecutive losses to Golden State and Portland, Chicago defeated Utah 91-86 on Wednesday to even its record on the trip at 2-2. Rose finished with 29 points and seven assists, and came up with a big steal with 1:05 remaining as he outplayed Deron Williams, who had five turnovers.

"He's been playing like that the whole season," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said of Rose, averaging 27.8 points on the road trip. "It's why we keep chanting his name for MVP because he's been phenomenal all year."

After dominating Williams, Rose will face another tough matchup in Paul and the Hornets (33-22).

Rose's Bulls have won all three of his previous matchups against Paul, including a 108-106 overtime victory at New Orleans on Jan. 29, 2010, the teams' last meeting. Rose had 18 points, including two key free throws, in the win while Paul had 18 points and 12 assists for the Hornets.

The Bulls will try to keep up the defensive intensity against the Hornets after stifling the Jazz. Chicago is holding opponents to an average of 88.1 points over its last 11 games.

The Hornets are looking for a second straight win after snapping their four-game losing streak Friday with a 99-93 victory at Orlando.

"This was very needed," said Paul, who had 15 points and seven assists. "After four losses in a row sometimes you forget what it's like to win. When we came out of that last timeout midway through the fourth quarter, I told the fellas: 'Let's win it. We've had enough close ones. Let's take this game.' And we did that."

Paul bounced back after being held to nine points in a 103-101 overtime loss to New Jersey on Wednesday. Putting a damper on his Friday, the league announced it was fining Paul 15,000 for verbal abuse of a game official following to defeat against the Nets.

The Hornets have lost their last two home games after winning 20 of their first 25 at New Orleans Arena. The Bulls have won their last two visits.

New Orleans has struggled in back-to-back scenarios, going 5-7 when playing for the second consecutive night.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

Here are some of Friday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

Dwyane Wade, Bulls take first blood with LeBron James, Cavs

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

White Sox reportedly asking for No. 1 prospect plus more in trade return for Chris Sale

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 1

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

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USA TODAY

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

Two nights after managing just 90 points in a lackluster home loss to the Lakers, the Bulls entered Friday night’s tilt against the defending-champion Cavaliers with a specific offensive game plan.

Attack, head coach Fred Hoiberg told his team, the interior of the Cleveland defense early to establish a presence in the paint. Knowing the Cavs, for all their strengths that made them NBA champions five months earlier, lacked a true rim protector, the Bulls made it a point to get Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez going.

The Bulls managed to do exactly that, tallying a season-high 78 points in the paint in their 111-105 victory over the Cavaliers. And while Lopez was again his usual efficient self and Gibson turned in his best performance of the season – the two scored 33 points on 15-for-23 shooting – it was point guard Rajon Rondo who proved to be the kick-starter for a Bulls offense that needed to be at its best to match Cleveland’s star power.

Rondo logged his first triple-double with the Bulls in the victory, tallying 15 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. But looking past the raw numbers, it was the shots Rondo took, and the passes he made, that allowed the Bulls to play so efficiently on offense and ultimately come away with their most impressive victory of the year.

Of Rondo’s 12 assists, all but two of the made shots off those passes came from a distance farther than 7 feet. Ten of Rondo’s assists resulted in baskets in the paint, of which the Bulls had 39 as a team. Squaring off against a subpar defender in Kyrie Irving, Rondo was active in knifing into the paint and finding open bigs inside. Rondo had six assists in the first quarter, and all but one resulted in baskets within 3 feet of the hoop.

All four of his made field goals in the first half were layups, as was his only bucket in the third quarter. His putback midway through the fourth quarter was also at the rim, and gave him his tenth rebound to secure the triple-double. Two possessions later he connected on a 3-pointer that gave the Bulls an eight-point lead; Cleveland never got closer than four the rest of the way. Rondo only took three shots outside of the paint. Friday marked the first time in a month Rondo had shot better than 50 percent from the field in back-to-back games.

Past Rondo’s own numbers, Gibson said that the Bulls’ point guard was instrumental in leading the Bulls’ offense to match up against a Cavaliers offense that entered the night second in the league in efficiency.

“He’s like a quarterback. Even though he never really played any contact football the way he always gathers the huddle, he always sees what’s going on in the game,” Gibson said. “He’s always encouraging. He’s pushing it. He’s a great teammate and I know he got a lot of criticism before the year, a lot of people talk about the negative that’s in it, but he’s been showing me nothing but great stuff on and off the court.”

In a game that had a playoff-like atmosphere to it simply because of the matchup between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, as well as the defending champs coming to town, the veteran Rondo took it upon himself to lead the Bulls offense. Though the Bulls wanted to avoid getting into a track meet against the fast-paced Cavs, Rondo didn’t allow the offense to become stagnant when it was apparent they could get into the paint at will.

“I thought Rondo was great all night long,” Fred Hoiberg said, “getting guys out and running, pushing them. You can hear him yelling “run with me” to get the guys down the floor. Rajon was a huge factor.”

His defense will continue to be a liability – Irving had an off-night shooting more than anything – and he won’t score 15 points each night, but his leadership and ability to run an offense with precision has the Bulls behind their floor general as they head into the season’s second month.

“He’s always inspiring. He’s one of those guys you want to go to war with. He’s one of those guys that’s in the huddle, you know that every time down the court if it’s a wrong call, a foul, a scuffle, if you not feeling right he’s always going to have your back no matter what.”