Bulls: Play must improve as series hits Indy

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Bulls: Play must improve as series hits Indy

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Posted: 11:14 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Judging from the downbeat tenor of their comments (in fairness, often guided by the tone of reporters questions) following each of the games in their first-round series against Indiana, one would never guess the Bulls hold a 2-0 series lead. It isnt like theyre not used to thisstruggling collectively offensively outside of Derrick Rose, playing down to competition early in contest, engaging in defensive slugfestsbut like the national audience that has eagerly joined their passionate Chicago fan base, the Bulls expect more out of themselves.

We did a good joba better jobbut again, I think we can do an even better job on defense. Our whole thing is improving as a team, so thats where are our mindset is at, to keep improving. Well get in the lab tomorrow, see what we did good, see what we didnt do so good and get ready for Thursdays game, said Carlos Boozer, described by Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau as a lightning rod due to his subpar Game 1 outing.

READ: Down but not out, Pacers look to corral Rose

I thought we improved from Game 1, continued Boozer, who bounced back with a 17-point, 16-rebound effort Monday. I think we can do better as a team. I think I can do better.

We try to strive for excellence. Youre not going to reach it, but you want to see how close you can get to it. We know we can play a lot better. We feel like we have the capability of improving throughout the coursed of the series. Weve got to put the work in, got to watch the tape, see our mistakes and try to correct them each game, and got to be a little bit more prepared.

Boozerwho helped hold Pacers power-forward counterpart Tyler Hansbrough in check after the second-year pro gave the Bulls fits, to quote sharpshooter Kyle Korver, in Game 1aside, Chicago has found the going tough against a confident young Indiana team that has competed neck and neck with the leagues top regular-season squad.

Im always concerned and I just want us to continue to improve, stated Thibodeau. Its the playoffs. Wins are hard to come by. Theyre a good team. I want us to play better, I want us to improve, but you have to give them credit also. Were not going to change our approach, so tomorrow, its back to improving and focus on the next game. Thats it.

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Thibodeau knows better than you or I the difficulty of being successful in the NBAs treacherous postseasonespecially this spring, where lower-seeded teams either pulled off upsets or took favored opponents to the wire in just about every game during the playoffs opening weekendbut after a 62-win season in which it seemed like the Bulls got contributions from multiple role players and secondary scorers on a nightly basis, it has now come down to the brilliance of one Derrick Rose for them to succeed.

Thats nothing new for Chicago, as the likely MVPthe votes are already in, just in case his teammates didnt know; theres no reason for them to put Rose in a position to prove his value to those who have already cast their ballots for Dwight Howard, LeBron James or othershas bailed them out plenty of times during the year. But now, more than ever, the Bulls are increasingly reliant on the Windy City native to come to the rescue, early, late and at all times in between.

The game dictates that. Hes a primary scorer, the balls in his hands a lot and we need him to score, so hes done it, said Thibodeau. But Im comfortable with his decision-making, too. Hes going to make the right play.

WATCH: Relive the Bulls' Game 2 win over the Pacers

Rose himselfever humble, selfless and more critical on himself than anybody (other than maybe Thibodeau) could hope to bewasnt awed by his Atlas-like performances in the series first two games. Instead, he focused on the negative from an individual aspect, while showing perspective that belied his youth.

The only thing Im worried about is my turnovers. Of course, I had six of them. That definitely changed the game. If anything, I can learn from it and do better next time. With the team, weve got to come out with an edge, got to take their confidence and we didnt do that tonight. It was still a pretty close game, all the way until the end, said Rose. Were very happy to be here, of course. We wouldnt take anything back, but our play has to get better. Weve got to be more smooth, more efficient, especially on the defensive end, where weve got to try a lot harder. But I feel like were going to get things together pretty quickly.

Im all right. These games are definitely tough. It takes a punishment to keep going in there and keep getting beat up. Tonight, I just tried to mix up my game, shoot jump shots a little bit. But Im going to still attack, play the way that I playaggressiveand that opens up my teammates, he continued, referring to the Pacers physicality, particularly when he drives to the basket. Im still learning myself. I have a little experience, but if anything, I think Thibs is getting us ready. My coaching staff has been doing a great job making sure that we know that these games are very important and every practice, every shootaround, every film session, guys have to be focused because we know that were trying to do something special.

But after narrowly avoiding the upstart Pacers losing not one, but two opportunities to beat them on their home court, Rose isnt taking anything for granted.

We know its going to be tough, he said, referencing the Bulls pair of upcoming games at Indianas Conseco Fieldhouse. Weve got to pull together. Coach always says, walk through the fire together and going there, were going to have to stay together. We cant have anybody coming in unprofessional, unfocused.

Echoed Boozer: This is what the playoffs are about. Playing, stakes are high, everybody wants to win. You dont want to give an inch.

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.

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Most NBA players have to let their adrenaline come down before the reality of what's coming next begins to hit them, but Robin Lopez had his moment of clarity at the oddest time during his altercation with Toronto's Serge Ibaka on Tuesday night.

When asked when he knew he would be serving at least a one-game suspension for his missed punch in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Raptors, Lopez said, "When I threw a punch."

The process from the NBA to Lopez was pretty straightforward, and Lopez called the one-game suspension "fair."

Ditching the caveman look for a clean shaven appearance at Friday morning's shootaround, Lopez seemed at ease with what happened and wasn't going to contest the one-game decision, especially since the NBA could've gone with two or three games as no precedent has been set for fighting this season.

"I mean, that's what the league gave. I'm going to stick with it," Lopez said, adding, "I didn't change my story."

The multiple camera angles would've made it impossible to believe a different recollection of the events had Lopez attempted to finagle himself out of the one-game suspension that stopped his 71-game starting streak with the Bulls this season.

[BULLS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

His matter-of-fact statement after an emotionally charged incident didn't hurt the Bulls. They beat the Pistons by 20 as Lopez was serving a banishment that ended his streak of 187 consecutive games played. But he was happy Joffrey Lauvergne got a chance to prove his worth.

Lauvergne had 17 points and seven rebounds Wednesday night, and he'll be behind Lopez against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night as Cristiano Felicio is recovering from a hard fall late in the Raptors game.

"He's very versatile. He's a playmaker, he can score from a lot of different spots on the floor. He's a really smart basketball player," Lopez said of Lauvergne. "I always want to be out there with the guys. But they took care of business and did their thing. So I was pleased to see them pick up the win."

Picking up two in a row shouldn't be a monumental task against the 76ers, though they are 3-3 in their last six games and the Bulls haven't won two in a row in nearly a month as their grip on a playoff spot has loosened.

For the moment, the Bulls sit ninth in the East, a full game behind the surging Miami Heat, with a 34-38 record. Teams with nothing to lose can be playoff spoilers, and the Bulls have lost more than their share of games to lesser teams this season.

"Those teams do play loose," Lopez said. "They kind of just go out there to play basketball, and that can be a bit dangerous. But we've got something to play for, so we've got to be more motivated. The Sixers especially, they play really well, they have a lot of energy. So we've got to go out there, we've got to play motivated."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Brian Hedger (nhl.com) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel.  The Bulls beat the Pistons in a game with huge playoff implication.  So could they actually make the postseason?

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Plus Theo Epstein’s a really great leader, Kyle Hendricks is going to have to wait a while to pitch plus DeShone Kizer loves the band “Chicago” but will he play here?