Bulls' top guns spark victory in Nation's Capital

347015.jpg

Bulls' top guns spark victory in Nation's Capital

Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010
Posted 8:44 PM Updated 11:24 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTON Anybody with raised expectations after Tuesdays drubbing of Philadelphia would be disappointed, but in the end, the Bulls got the same result Wednesday, outlasting the Wizards, 87-80, in a cover-your-eyes ugly affair.

However, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau opened his postgame comments, A win is a win, no matter what.

It wasnt a repeat of the previous nights flawless start for the Bulls, as the hapless Wizards proved competitive early, with swingman Nick Young (22 points) keeping the home team within striking distance with his scoring prowess.

The visitors were balanced at the games outset, with veteran Kurt Thomas proving his performance Tuesday was no fluke, Carlos Boozer (30 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) having his way with Washingtons frontline and Derrick Rose (25 points, five assists) attacking former backcourt partner Kirk Hinrich (19 points, nine assists).

Captain Kirk, however, using insight into his old squad, proved to be a thorn in Chicagos side in the early going, using his trademark pesky defense and scrappy all-around play to buoy his new team.

Although Luol Deng also contributed positively for the Bulls, Hinrich-led Washington aided by a successful debut Wizards appearance for newly-acquired forward Rashard Lewis led, 33-29, after a quarter.

A ragged style of play actually benefited the Wizards, who possessed the athleticism and talent to succeed in a sloppy, foul-plagued contest without much structure or cohesiveness, especially with Chicago turning the ball over like there was no tomorrow. Still, the Bulls managed to stay in the game due to the ineptitude of their inferior opponent.

A scoreboard malfunction causing a slight delay on the court was fitting, as the Bulls were unable to slip out of their malaise, enabling the Wizards to extend their slim cushion, with Youngs continued scoring and the Hinrich-Rose back-and-forth actually more even than expected. Heading into intermission, Chicago trailed, 50-46.

The visitors uninspired play persisted after halftime, but Washingtons equal lack of sharpness gave way to a 13-0 Bulls run, allowing Chicago to surge back ahead. Boozers effectiveness inside and Roses always-dangerous penetration ability keyed the extended push, changing the tenor of the game to a more familiar one for Washington.

Toward the end of the period, however, the Wizards once again made it a neck-and-neck affair, with the starting backcourt of Young and Hinrich propelling the home teams effort, along with Lewis and swingman Josh Howard (13 points) providing boosts off the bench. Chicago clung to a 73-70 advantage after three quarters.

Boozer, who was in the midst of an excellent all-around game particularly passing the ball, probably the most underrated aspect of his skill set carried the Bulls early in the final stanza, as Chicago gradually widened its winning margin.

Its amazing that hes doing what hes doing. I still think hes working himself into shape and his legs arent under him yet. His timing. Hes in great shape, but not great basketball shape and theres a difference between the two. But you can see what great instincts he has to score 30 points, and every night, he knows how to find seams around the basket and the way hes rebounding the ball, its a testament to his ability and I think hell just continue to get better and better, said Thibodeau.

Chimed in Boozer: I just had a good matchup going, tried to be aggressive, tried to get to the line a little bit and just keep playing. Joakim Noah is out, so everybodys got to step up a little bit, including myself.

The festival of fouls on both ends resumed and became significant on the Bulls side when Boozer picked up his fifth personal on a charge with 6:57 remaining; Thibodeau would leave him in the game, as he did with Thomas after the veteran drew his fifth shortly thereafter.

Were both vets, weve been around the block, weve been in a lot of playoff games, played a lot of games where weve had five fouls with Thibs and against Thibs. We knew what to do. Play solid defense. Even Kurts sixth foul was a smart play, said Boozer. At that point in the game, you cant. Youve just got to keep playing because otherwise, you may be in a position where you lose if you dont play hard or dont do the right things. At that point, youve got to trust in yourself and trust in your principles and trust what weve been taught to continue to keep playing the way were been playing because its win or lose at that point.

Added Thibodeau: It was at around the six-minute mark when they both had five and the question is, do you take one out? Usually, with five, they go back at the five-minute mark but with the way it was going, I thought wed take a chance. We were probably a little more cautious than we would have liked. It was a strange sort of game for us. We were grinding away, grinding away and trying to be in position at the end.

Neither team appeared much inclined to score the basketball or play with any type of flow, for that matter for a crucial stretch, which eventually benefited the Wizards, who inched closer to Chicago as the games conclusion approached.

There were a lot of calls. It had a weird rhythm to it. It wasnt a fluid fourth quarter. A lot of free throws, a lot calls being made, a lot of physical play. Thats part of it, though. Some quarters are going to be like that. This game, it just happened to be the fourth quarter, Boozer observed.

Despite the Bulls multiple attempts to leave the door open for Washington, the home team simply couldnt convert and a Boozer basket with 35.2 seconds left effectively shut the door on any comeback hopes.

We made it hard ourselves because of the turnovers, particularly with their team. Putting them in the open floor is something you dont want to do, particularly on the road. I thought the first quarter giving up 33 points and the high percentage I was concerned about that, Thibodeau recounted, referring periodically to his teams 21 turnovers. But I liked the second quarter. I thought we changed our mindset. I thought we started to defend. I thought we established the paint. We got the ball into Carlos to start the second quarter and I thought that helped us get control of the game, where we felt, Okay, if we do these things, we should have a chance.

Then, the second half, I thought we attacked. We got some calls, we got to the line in the third quarter. The fourth quarter, I thought the defense was terrific.

Concurred Boozer: As you can see from the course of the game, the way it went, we gave up 33 in the first quarter. In the fourth quarter, we gave up 10. So, as the game progressed, our defense got more like the Chicago Bulls defense. They only had 80 points total, but they did have 33 in the first quarter. Grind-out win. Well take it and keep moving.

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.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Rangers tonight on CSN

Bulls erase recent struggles, hand Spurs first road loss of season

Joe Maddon breaks down Wade Davis vs. Aroldis Chapman as Cubs ramp up for another World Series run

Rick Hahn: White Sox 'still thoroughly, deeply engaged' in trade talks as meetings close

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook out vs. Rangers

Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls

Bears, Lions have been totally different teams in fourth quarters

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Cubs unveil championship Trophy Tour