Bulls survive scare in Detroit for holiday split

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Bulls survive scare in Detroit for holiday split

Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
Posted 7:56 PM Updated 10:02 PM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

AUBURN HILLS, MICH.A day after a disappointing finish to a former heated rival, the Bulls (19-10) took on another ex-foe and in a down-to-the-wire ending, played a game much more fitting of traditional warfare, holding off the Central Division rival Pistons (10-20) in overtime, 95-92, Sunday night.

Possessing a lot of offensive firepower and performing better in their past few games, Detroits offensive attack seemed ready to give the Bulls a challenge in the early going. To counter, Chicago went with a steady diet of Carlos Boozer (31 points, 11 rebounds) in the early going and the power forward delivered.

Boozer used his arsenal of offensive weaponspost moves, powerful finishes and a soft touch from the perimeterto score at will, as well as rebound the ball at a high level.

Carlos, hes such a threat, even when hes not getting the ball. Hes pulling so many people toward him, so often times, that opens up other things that are easy. That might open up a driving seam for Derrick, said Thibodeau. They start leaning one way to keep the ball out of the post and he can hit the paint on the attack without the defense being quite set. As he continues to get more comfortable, I think in transition, we might be able to get him in the paint more, too.

You look at the matchups, you look at how things are going. I thought it was easier for them to maybe double team Carlos going straight post-up, so we tried to spread them out a little bit. They were putting two on Derrick, so we were trying to get Carlos going.

Concurred Boozer: Im starting to feel more comfortable out there. Im feeling the game a little bit quicker. The games slowing down for me, so I can make my moves and at the same time, I can react a little bit quicker.

I just tried to be aggressive, back-to-back nights on the road. Every team looks for guys to feed off of and on this team, they look to me and D-Rose for that. I just tried to be aggressive and make baskets to make it easier for them. I thought we did a good job early of attacking.

Although nobody else was truly proficient scoring the ball, the visitors held a 23-15 advantage after a quarter of play.

Chicagos bench maintained its cushion in the second period, with backup center Omer Asik providing an unexpected lift, including a monstrous dunk over two Pistons, which drew rave reviews from his teammates on the bench. Unfortunately, Asik couldnt sustain the positive effort, but the second unit did its job, holding down the fort until Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau reinserted his regulars.

The starters extended Chicagos winning margin, as Derrick Roses (23 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) jet-quick jaunts to the rim were too much for Detroit to contain. The home team, however, made a brief late-quarter surge, but the Bulls led, 40-34, at the half.

Chicago was on the wrong end of a 7-0 run to open the second half, giving the Pistons the lead. Turnovers, poor shot selection, defensive lapses and generally uninspired play enabled Detroit to seize momentum of the game behind strong play from Tayshaun Prince (17 points, four rebounds, six assists), Richard Hamilton (15 points) and Rodney Stuckey (16 points, five rebounds, four assists).

The thing is, they went small. We had some matchup problems and offensively, I thought we had some good looks. The ball sometimes doesnt go in, but weve got to stay inside-out. I thought we had some drives that maybe we have to drive it a little but harder, I guess, explained Thibodeau.

The visitors snapped out of their malaise, tightening things up on the defensive end and executing better offensively, with a surprise contribution from Keith Boganswho hit a pair of long bombspart of a 17-4 Bulls run that gave Chicago a double-digit lead. While the Bulls didnt necessarily keep their foot on the gas, led by Boozers inside dominance and Roses all-around play, they took a 68-57 lead into the final stanza.

Improved play from Taj Gibson (five points, nine rebounds) and a solid effort from reserve point guard C.J. Watson buoyed Chicagos attack at the outset of the fourth period, but Detroit battled back against a unit of mostly reserves, with former All-Star swingman Tracy McGrady (15 points)now a reserve, but still capable of producing pointsexperiencing a mild flashback, making the deficit it faced more manageable. Upon Thibodeau reinserting Rose into the contest, however, the South Side native took all of the air out of the Palace with multiple moments of individual brilliance, both subtle and flashy.

But the Pistons exhibited qualities of resilience as the games stretch run approached and coupled with either Bulls miscues or misfortunedepending on ones point of viewthe visitors lead gradually dwindled to a too-close-for-comfort margin. McGrady mustered up more heroics, hitting a triple with 1:10 to play, slicing Chicagos lead to four.

Theyre talented. McGradys healthy, so he puts a lot of pressure on you, said Thibodeau, who conferred with McGrady, his former player in Houstonwhere he was a Rockets assistantafter the game. I thought it was a good game for us.

A Rose turnover on the ensuing possession opened the door for Detroit and after Prince followed his own miss with a layup. Rose missed a jumper on the Bulls next trip, the Pistons rebounded the ball with 18.4 seconds remaining.

It was officially a ballgame. After a timeout, Detroit had three cracks at either a win or a tieMcGrady missed a deep two, Hamilton missed a three, then a leanerbut on their third offensive rebound of the possession, forward Charlie Villaneuvas (12 points, 10 rebounds) tip-in with 0.6 seconds on the clock evened the score at 85 to extend the contest past regulation.

Get a rebound! Thibodeau said he told his team afterwards, before overtime started. It was a scramble play. Youve just got to find a way to come up with it, but I have no complaints.

Said Boozer: Obviously we wanted to get that last rebound in regulation and when we missed it, they got a nice layup.

We played much better in overtime.

In the games extra session, Prince and Boozer exchanged jumpers on each teams initial possession. Following a Chicago stop, Boozer picked up a charge on the Bulls subsequent trip, then a foul the next time down on defense, giving him five for the game and the visitors a one-point deficit after a Pistons free throw.

The Alaskan put the play behind him, finding reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer for a layup, then making a steal on the next possession. On Chicagos next trip, Boozer missed a bunny, but it was tipped in by grizzled veteran Kurt Thomas to give the Bulls a 91-88 lead with 1:33 left in the abbreviated period.

Thomas followed that play with by stripping a driving Prince, who avenged his error by subsequently making a steal on Boozer and finding Stuckey in the open court for a layup. Chicago went back to the well, with Rose going to Boozer inside and a strong finish giving the Bulls a 93-90 advantage with 40.8 to go.

Out of a Pistons timeout, Villaneuva scored from point-blank range to cut the lead to a single point. Rose missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but when Detroit couldnt convert on the other end, Luol Deng secured the rebound at the 4.7-second mark and Chicago called timeout.

Thibodeau put it in a shooter-heavy lineup and after sharpshooter Kyle Korver was fouled, he drained a pair of foul shots to put the Bulls up, 95-92. Villaneuva once again had an opportunity to send extend the game for another five minutes, but was errant on a 3-point attempt.

Well take the win any way we can. It was ugly tonight, but sometimes on the road, youve got to win ugly and we did, said Boozer. On the road, youre not always going to get the calls you get at home. Youre not always going to hit the shots you usually hit.

Sometimes youve got to win ugly, even if it has been a couple on this trip. Well take the win any way we can get it.

Added Thibodeau: I thought we played hard the whole game and things werent going our way. We werent shooting well. We just kept grinding. I thought our defense was good, I thought our rebounding was good.

Well take it. It was a hard-fought game and we hung in there at the end. I thought our rebounding was great all night, until that last one and it was the most important one. We didnt come up with it, but the thing I liked, we didnt hang our head in the overtime. We kept fighting and we did what we had to do to get the win.

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.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

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Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

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When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”