Deng, Bulls make scoring tough for Pierce

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Deng, Bulls make scoring tough for Pierce

When you think of the Bulls and Boston Celtics, you cant help but to remember their epic seven-game first round series that included a total of seven overtime periods.

Luol Deng would miss the entire series as his season was cut short due to injury and has always regretted not being able to be a part of that series.

Celtics small forward Paul Pierce averaged 23 points in that series and without the services of power forward Kevin Garnett -- who was done for the season with a knee injury -- its wouldnt be too far of a stretch to say things would have been different had Deng been available to guard Pierce.

An interesting fact has stood out from the last two seasons the two teams have matched up as Deng has held Pierce under 20 points in six out of the last seven meetings between the Bulls and Celtics.

While Pierce is no spring chicken, these days, hes always been one of the craftier scorers in the league, capable of getting to his spots with hesitation dribbles and pull-up jumpers and also getting himself to the free throw line with head fakes to get his defender in the air, or attacking the rim.

So whats been the key in Dengs success in limiting Pierce?

I got a lot better in just knowing guys are going to hit tough shots but every time down, Im listening to the opposing teams plays; knowing what play is coming helps a lot and if not, just try to get in my best defensive position, says Deng. If he scores, then the next time down the floor Im going to try my best again. Its just staying focused and reminding myself every time he comes down, I have to play my best D.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau may be the best in the league when it comes to preparing his team on what to expect from their opposition, from what sets theyre going to run during certain parts of the games to where guys like to get their points and the things they do to get them.

Its also a good thing that -- after spending three seasons in Boston -- he knows their offensive and defensive sets like the back of his hand.

Its good but one thing about that Boston team is its even tougher because we kind of do the same things they do offensively and defensively, Taj Gibson told CSNChicago.

One thing about our team is were able to switch a lot, deny the ball. Luol is really talkative on offense and defense, so when hes on defense, he communicates well and we all help him but hes really active on the defensive end as far as shot-blocking, contesting and hes athletic."

While Dengs defense gets high praise, its important to note any individual recognition for holding Pierce below his averages is more a reflection to the Bulls team defense as finding easy baskets against them is a rarity as all five guys are tied to one another.

We have good vocal leaders and Thibodeau lets the bigs decide on what to do on the defensive end, said Gibson. We call theopponents plays out, we call out the defensive adjustments for the guards to hear us. We call out to the guards and they respond to us and it works in a great way.

After playing under a Thibodeau-instructed defense that helped Boston win a title in 2008 and return to the Finals one season later, Paul Pierce would agree with Gibsons assessment.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Gar Forman defends Jimmy Butler trade

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AP

Bulls Talk Podcast: Gar Forman defends Jimmy Butler trade

On the latest Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Vincent Goodwill recap the Bulls' busy NBA Draft and the decision to trade Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. 

Bulls general manager Gar Forman joins the panel for an exclusive interview. He breaks down why the organization decided to move the three-time All-Star. 

Click here to Bulls Talk Podcast.

Nikola Mirotic and why the Bulls traded their second-round pick

Nikola Mirotic and why the Bulls traded their second-round pick

The Bulls entered rebuild mode on Thursday night after they dealt Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They acquired a pair of guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick which they used to select Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen.

But the Bulls opted not to continue adding youth to their roster when they sold their second-round pick, No. 38 overall, to the Golden State Warriors. That pick was Oregon power forward Jordan Bell, who many considered a late first-round prospect.

The move was perplexing for a team that hours earlier had traded away its franchise player to start a youth movement. But VP John Paxson said after the draft that the decision to move the pick was based on team depth, hinting at a significant move the Bulls will make in free agency.

"We had some wings on our board that we had targeted that were the only way we were going to keep that (No. 38) pick, and they went before us. And drafting Lauri (Markkanen), and the fact that we have, Niko’s a restricted free agent we intend to bring back, Bobby Portis, we didn’t want to add another big and that’s really all that was left on our board."

Both Paxson and general manager Gar Forman have said since the season ended that Mirotic, who will become a restricted free agent on July 1, is part of their future plans. The Bulls will be able to match any contract that another team offers Mirotic, and they intend to keep the 26-year-old in Chicago. After Butler's departure, Mirotic is now the longest tenured member of the Bulls. He's been with the team for three seasons.

The wings Paxson may have been referring to include Miami's Devon Reed (32nd overall to Phoenix), Kansas State's Wesley Iwundu (33rd overall to Orlando) or SMU's Semi Ojeleye (Boston, 37th overall). Point guards Juwan Evans (Oklahoma State) and Sterling Brown (SMU) were still on the board and potential options, but the Bulls were set on looking for wing help after receiving point guard Kris Dunn and shooting guard Zach LaVine in the Butler trade.

The Bulls frontcourt depth looks filled, as Cristiano Felicio is expected to return behind Robin Lopez. Mirotic, Portis, Markkanen and Joffrey Lauvergne should make up the power forward depth chart. Opting against using the 38th pick, which Golden State bought for a whopping $3.5 million, also leaves the Bulls with room to add a 13th player in the fall.

"It keeps us at 12 roster spots and gives us real flexibility for our roster," Paxson said. "So we didn’t just want to use up a roster spot on a player that we probably wouldn’t have kept."