Bulls put on clinic, set record with 33-point win

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Bulls put on clinic, set record with 33-point win

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted 9:49 p.m. Updated 11:17 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
ATLANTA All Bulls, all the time.

At least thats how it felt Tuesday night in Phillips Arena, where the Bulls (51-19) dismantled the Hawks (40-31), 114-81, sparked by a first half in which they shot 73.8 percent from the field.

Derrick Rose (30 points, 10 assists, 6-for-8 from three-point range) and Luol Deng (27 points) served as ringleaders in the teams second consecutive blowout victory.

Bulls do something Rose has never seen before

Chicago emphasized its interior offense early, with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus preference of penetration and post-ups being followed, as both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah (eight points, seven rebounds) established themselves scoring the ball, as did Rose and Deng via the drive.

Boozer and Noah would depart the former was replaced by an energetic and productive Taj Gibson (nine points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots) - leading Rose and Deng to redouble their efforts to ensure the visitors maintained their advantage.

We came out ready to play. We had good balance. Carlos really got us going with his post-up early. Derrick very aggressive, Luol very aggressive. Great leadership from those guys, sharing the ball. Its good stuff, said Thibodeau, who joked Thats who we are when reporters asked him about the Bulls high point totals in back-to-back games, the first time the team won by 30 in consecutive outings since 1995.

We just want to be consistent with our approach, we want to be able to count on the defense, he continued. If we play the right away offensively, where we push the ball up the floor, get some easy baskets, go inside-out, share the ball and take care of the ball dont turn it over were going to be in position to win. I liked how unselfish we were. I thought the ball was hopping.

In fact, as Chicago buckled down defensively, Deng drove and finished at will and Roses blend of playmaking and scoring continued to baffle the Hawks with his former backcourt mate, Kirk Hinrich, guarding him.

Sometimes it gets hard, but to win games to win a championship it takes defense. Were just trying to stay together on defense, knowing that we cant take any steps back right now, stated Rose. I think that were moving in the right direction.

Echoed Deng: It starts with our defense. When our mindset is right on defense, we seem to work harder on offense. When were not as focused on defense, it kind of leads to our offense. Were kind of just going through the motions. It always starts with defense.

Dengs hot hand carried over to the second quarter, as he helped the Bulls second unit extend the teams advantage over their hosts. As productive as Deng was he scored 16 points before a well-deserved rest the reserves didnt miss a beat after his exit, further extending the lead with their torrid shooting from the floor.

Luol is Ive said this all year you cant say enough about what that guy does for our team and often times, it goes unnoticed, but to none of us. The way hes playing is spectacular, said Thibodeau. Our bench is playing great. Cant say enough about the bench, all of them C.J., Ronnie, Kyle, Taj was great, Omer, Kurt did a great job in limited minutes but everybody on the bench played great for us.

Every Chicago basket seemed to demoralize Atlanta who wasnt shooting poorly, but simply couldnt stop the Bulls and the gap continued to widen, as Bulls starters and reserves alike appeared to be incapable of missing a shot.

Rose and understudy C.J. Watson (eight points, six assists) had their way off the dribble as did Deng when he wasnt knocking down three-pointers, along with Kyle Korver Boozer took advantage of his bulk to abuse Hawks defenders and Gibson did the dirty work with flair.

Behind a team-wide unselfishness (16 first-half assists) leading to 73 percent shooting from the field, the Bulls, in their refusal to take their foot off the gas, took a commanding 72-43 lead into the intermission.

Perhaps the strongest indication that the Bulls had it rolling was the final play of the half. Following an Atlanta turnover with 4.3 seconds remaining, Rose took an inbounds pass full speed, stopping at the three-point line to size up Hinrich, then stepping back to bury his fourth triple (in four attempts; three in the period) of the half at the buzzer, tying him with Deng for a team-high 20 points at the break.

Im happy to be on the team thats doing it. Its better than being on the other side. Its just one of those games, said Rose of the quarter, in which the Bulls shot 81 percent from the field, missed only four shot attempts and scored 41 points.

You feel it as a player. Everything is going right, especially when youre playing defense. I think our defense really gets everything started the fast break, easy points then, weve got a lot of players on our team that when they get going, it can really take us to another level.

Thats what they were giving me. I told you, Im not going to stop shooting, no matter what, he continued, describing his individual efforts from long range. If they go under a screen or if Im open, Coach tells me to shoot the game tells me to shoot so Im putting a shot up.

Chimed in Deng: Just the way that the game went, I thought all of us did a good job with being smart, driving. We just did a good job of really moving the ball. They did a lot of switching out there and we had a good game plan for that.

Chicago didnt let up in the third quarter, as Roses individual three-point barrage persisted and the Bulls made a concerted effort to get Noahs offensive game going early in the period.

Although their ridiculous percentage dropped a tad, the Bulls lead - which surged above the 30-point mark, gradually grew. Roses penetration, Dengs versatile scoring and Noahs activity on the boards enabled the visitors to keep their substantial winning margin intact, by the count of 98-60 at the conclusion of three quarters.

The onslaught continued in the final stanza, as Chicago s bench kept pouring it on against a shamefully effortless Hawks squad. The extended garbage time rendered what was left of the Phillips Arena crowd lifeless, as they were well aware that unlike the Bulls last trip to Atlanta on March 2, there was no remarkable comeback in store.

When we came in, we knew that we were going to have to come in and play. Right when we got the lead, we were just telling each other that its not going to happen again, recounted Rose. When we get the lead, thats when we have to be tough.

Added Deng: Weve been there before. Its not the first time we had a huge lead. The main focus was to really come out in the beginning of the third quarter and just play, dont look at the score. Tonight we didnt play to our opponent. We just played Bulls basketball, just like we do in practice. Play defense, move the ball and execute.

At this time of the season Coach keeps talking about it its time to really get better. Its time for everyone to lock in, he continued.

We know the playoffs are coming up and were trying to do great things in the playoffs.

Box Score

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.

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Being a better defensive team was a prime objective for Fred Hoiberg coming into camp, as the Bulls hope to reclaim some of their defensive identity that disappeared last season.

Reciting a not-so-true stat routinely to reporters in the first few days, that the Bulls were last in forcing turnovers in 2015-16, means he’s likely barking it to the team in practices (they were actually second-to-last behind the New York Knicks).

“Absolutely,” said Hoiberg when asked if being more aggressive defensively is a goal. “We are turning the ball over way too much. After watching film, our defense is responsible for some of that. We have a guy in (Rajon) Rondo that's a high steals guy, got great hands, great instincts, great wingspan. Jimmy (Butler) is always had great anticipation and one of the top steals guy.”

Butler is one of the best two-way players, along with San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Indiana’s Paul George, but even he admitted his defense slipped last year as the Bulls fell to a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of advanced defensive rankings (15th).

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Rondo was once one of the league’s best defensive point guards before tearing up his knee his last full season in Boston, and averaged two steals last year in Sacramento, but gave up a career-high 107 points per 100 possessions, according to basketball-reference.com.

Whether Rondo was a function of a bad defense overall for the Kings or a player who no longer fully commits himself to that end remains to be seen, but it’s clear Hoiberg wants a more hands-y defense. Too many times last year, the Bulls defense had leaks from the top down, resulting in compromised drives to the basket and breakdowns all around.

More than anything, the Bulls defense was one of indifference, especially after the first 30 games or so.

“Like all staffs we watched a ton of film and tried to figure out with this group how to create more turnovers, how to impact the ball better,” Hoiberg said. “Every day it's been a big emphasis in our defense and we get out and force turnovers and make sure the help is there behind the trap and being aggressive on the ball.”

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

The common refrain among coaches in the first days of training camp is “this guy had an incredible summer”, a phrase Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has said so much that even he had to laugh when asked who didn’t have a banner summer period.

Of course, that’s before fans and media get to see anyone play, so we can only speculate who’ll win certain position battles, like the starting power forward spot or how deep Hoiberg’s rotation will go.

So in the spirit of speculation, Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine’s versatility makes him a candidate for the backup point guard position, a spot that is filled with different options for Hoiberg to choose from.

“He’s such an instinctive player. He does a great job,” Hoiberg said. “We talk about making simple plays. You’ve done your job when you beat your man, draw the second defender and make the easy, simple play. Denzel is great at that. That’s not a gift that everybody has. That’s not an instinct that all players have. But Denzel certainly has it.”

One wonders if Valentine could find himself on the outside looking in at the start of the season, like Bobby Portis did last year before all the injuries hit the Bulls and forced him into action.

It’s a different vision than when Valentine was drafted as a late lottery pick after a seasoned career at Michigan State. The Bulls hadn’t signed Dwyane Wade or Rajon Rondo in free agency, and had traded Derrick Rose 24 hours before the draft, so the thought was Valentine could be an instant contributor.

Even still, Valentine can likely play anything from point guard to small forward, but hasn’t gotten extensive reps at the point, yet.

“I’ve played on the wing so far. A little bit of point,” Valentine said. “I got a couple reps on the point, but like 70-30. Seventy on the wing, 30 on the point.”

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He got an early jump on the Hoiberg terminology at summer league, so the language isn’t a big adjustment, but having to learn multiple positions along with the tendencies of new teammates can mean a steeper learning curve.

“Yeah, I just got to continue learning sets and learning guys’ strengths so that I can use that to their best advantage,” Valentine said. “Play-make as best I can when I’m at the point guard spot. Just learning the system, learning guys’ strengths, and then I’ll be better at it.”

The presence of Wade and Jimmy Butler, one of whom will likely anchor the second unit as Hoiberg will probably stagger minutes so each can have the requisite time and space, means even if Valentine were on the floor, he wouldn’t have to be a natural point guard.

Hoiberg does, however, crave having multiple playmakers who can initiate offense or create shots off penetration or pick and roll action, meaning Valentine can work it to his advantage.

“I think he can. Jimmy played with the ball in his hands a lot last year,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy rebounds the ball and if Dwyane rebounds the ball, they’re bringing it. Rajon if he’s out there knows to fill one of the lanes. Denzel is an excellent passer. He’s got such good basketball instincts. So if you can get guys out there who can make plays, that’s what it’s all about. I think you’re very difficult to guard in this league when you have multiple ballmakers.”

Other notes:

Dwyane Wade won’t be taking walk-up triples for the Bulls, despite his call that Hoiberg wants him being more comfortable from behind the long line. Hoiberg does want him being willing and able to take corner threes, likely off guard penetration from Rondo or Jimmy Butler.

When Wade played with LeBron James in Miami, cutting from the corners became a staple, so putting him there could be an old wrinkle Hoiberg is adding to his scheme.

Wade took seven of his 44 3-pointers from the corner last season, hitting two from the right side, according to vorped.com.

“When he’s open, especially in the corners, that’s a shot we want him taking. It’s a thing we worked on yesterday, making sure he stays on balance,” Hoiberg said. “He’s got a natural lean on his shot, which has been very effective, being on the elite mid range shooters in our game. That’s allowed him to get shots over bigger defenders. When you get out further from the basket, especially by the line, you need to get momentum going in, work on your body position and work on finishing that shot. He’s got good mechanics, it’s a matter of finishing the shot.”