Deng celebrates birthday by protecting 'little bro'

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Deng celebrates birthday by protecting 'little bro'

Sunday, April 17, 2011
Posted: 12:49 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

No wonder Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel downplayed his teams Rose Plan before the game.

Vogel didnt want the Pacers game plan to limit Derrick Rose compared to the legendary Jordan Rules the Detroit Pistons notoriously used against the Bulls over 20 years ago, but it was hard not to think of those very same old-school tactics after Saturdays Game 1, won by the Bulls, who were led by Roses 39 points.

WATCH: Game 1's great finish revisited

Derrick Rose was too much down the stretch, Vogel marveled afterwards. I look at 39 points and Im shocked that I see 39 because I thought that we did a good job, the most of the night, on him.

"The kids out of this world. Hes got Allen Iversons speed, Jason Kidds vision, Chauncey Billups shooting and Michael Jordans athleticism. How do you guard that? We did a good job on him. He was too much.

Rose earned 19 of those points the hard way, via 21 free-throw attempts, in a physical affair that led to tempers flaring throughout the contest.

It was pretty physical, but from me working out, lifting weights, I should be fine, remarked a relaxed Rose. Right now, Im feeling good and I cant wait to go eat.

If anything, youre not going to get punked. I know that Im quiet, but that doesnt mean anything and when youre out there, if you think its a dirty play, youve got to say something. If you dont, theyre going to continue to do it and Luol, a couple of my teammates, they did what theyre supposed to do, continued the soft-spoken but fiery competitor.

I knew that they were going to be that way when I went to the basket try to be physical, try to put it in my head that its going to be hard getting there and I just tried to keep going. Some calls, I didnt get and a lot of them, I did.

Chimed in Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, a veteran of emotional playoff battles: Derrick was terrific all game long and to get to the line 21 times, it showed his aggressiveness and he probably could have been there a lot more, too. Thats the way it is. Thats the way its been all year. I trust that theyll make the calls and hell go to the line.

Roses teammates, however, took some exception to what they considered over-the-top physicality by the Pacers, leading to two in-game confrontations and a technical foul on normally mild-mannered Luol Deng, following Tyler Hansbroughs hard, fourth-quarter foul on Rose.

I consider Derrick like a little brother to me and when you see him getting hit like that, its tough. You want to do something about it, but weve got to keep our composure and understand that we cant let it happen all the time like that. Lu got a tech at the end. We cant have that happen either, said Joakim Noah, who with Rose, let Indiana veteran big man Jeff Foster know of his displeasure after a similar incident in the first half.

Added Deng: I dont think Tyler is a dirty player or anything, but I think its part of their game plan. When Derrick drives, instead of just fouling him, to really whack him. It happened a couple times in the first half and the last time we played them in Indiana.

Speaking of Deng who turned 26 Saturday after blanketing Pacers leading scorer Danny Granger in the first half, he turned his offense up a notch in the second half to complement Roses efforts. More important than his statistical contributions, however, might have been his exhortation of the crowd after picking up that aforementioned technical.

It was just a reaction, said Deng. Emotionally, I just stepped up. We needed the crowd behind us. That time of the game, we just needed whatever we could get and I think the crowd responded great, and it kind of got us going.

Noah, who is more known for displaying his emotions on the floor than Deng, appreciated both his teammate's energy and the United Center crowds hearty support.

This is my fourth year with Lu right now and hes playing his best basketball. I know that we wouldnt be in the position that were in right now if it wasnt for Lu. Just watching him enjoying the moment I know there have been some frustrating times for him and to see him just enjoying the game, it really helps us, said Noah, who also quipped, Its his birthday? He didnt tell me. How old is he, 42? about his longtime teammate.

Added Rose: We needed every fan in there to cheer. That really gave us the momentum in the last two minutes when we were making shots and thats a team that hasnt been playing together for a long time in their first playoff appearance. I think it got to them.

Maybe the young Pacers were rattled down the stretch, but their coach was still pleased with the performance of his squad, especially the second-year duo of Hansbrough and point guard Darren Collison, who each gave their defenders fits.

The kid Hansbrough is a big-time competitor, said Vogel. We knew they were come after us, they were going to get in our face and we took advantage of Boozer having foul trouble, and going at him. Tyler was very aggressive. He was either going to foul out or let Tyler score, and Tyler kept going at him. We had great poise. For our guys first playoff game, most of them, I thought they showed you what they were made of.".

Concurred Hansbrough: I think weve got to keep playing like we did. It gives us some confidence, but also shows us how we need to stay composed in the end and hopefully get a win.

This much is for sure: Indiana has the Bulls respect and full attention moving forward.

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.

As the NBA evolves, Bulls' Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez experiment with 3-pointers

As the NBA evolves, Bulls' Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez experiment with 3-pointers

Taj Gibson began working on his 3-point shot as early as this past offseason. That work in the gym from beyond the arc continued into training camp, the preseason and eventually the regular season.

The eight-year veteran didn't attempt his first 3-pointer until the 21st game of the season, and that came in the final minute as the Bulls trailed by nine against the Pistons. Gibson's 27-foot heave from the left wing was off, and he proceeded to play the next 17 games without attempting another.

But recently Gibson had a conversation with head coach Fred Hoiberg, who knew the 31-year-old power forward had been putting in additional time to work on his corner 3-pointers. Hoiberg told Gibson he believed in his corner 3-pointer and that he'd allow the Bulls' forward to shoot them in games.

On Jan. 10, Gibson took a pass from Rajon Rondo midway through the first quarter and hoisted a 3-pointer from the left corner. He connected, marking just the second made 3-pointer of his career, and his first since the 2010-11 season.

Between triples Gibson, always a reliable midrange shooter, attempted and missed 22 3-pointers. But with the added practice time and confidence, and a blessing from his head coach, Gibson believes the 3-pointer can become an asset, going as far to say he’d like to shoot two triples per game.

There is, however, one aspect of the shot still standing in his way.

"When you get out there you never really realize how far it is until you're lined up and the crowd is like, 'Shoot it!'" Gibson said after Thursday's practice at the Advocate Center. "Your teammates are behind you, but it's fun. Hopefully (I) look forward to trying to make some in the future."

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Gibson attempted two more triples in Saturday's win over the Hornets and another in Sunday's win over the Grizzlies. All three were off-target, but just seeing Gibson step into the attempts and fire with confidence was a sight for sore eyes on a Bulls team lacking from outside.

Through the season's first half the Bulls rank last in both 3-point field goal percentage (31.7 percent) and 3-pointers made (6.4 per game). Their 276 total made 3-pointers as a team are less than two pairs of teammates (Houston’s Eric Gordon and James Harden, 301; Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, 283).

The Bulls' expected top 3-point shooters – Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Denzel Valentine – have combined to go 114-for-350, or 32.5 percent. Starters Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade haven’t fared much better, albeit on fewer attempts, while Chicago's trio of point guards have made 29 percent of their 144 3-point attempts. Simply put, there's ample opportunity to see what Gibson can do from deep without messing up the team's current perimeter shooting.

"It's something that he worked on a lot in the offseason. So yeah if he's open in the corner we want those shots," Hoiberg said. "It’s obviously a huge part of today's game. The 3-point shot, to have multiple players that can stretch the floor out there, those teams are really hard to guard."

Gibson's not the only Bulls big man experimenting. Robin Lopez said he, too, has been working on his outside shot in practice. Gibson joked that Hoiberg hasn't yet given Lopez permission to fire away from deep, while Hoiberg cracked that Lopez might be jealous of the 5.2 3-pointers his twin brother, Brook, is attempting this season in Brooklyn.

Lopez, like Gibson, has always had a dependable midrange shot. Per NBA.com, his 44.4 field goal percentage on midrange shots is fifth among centers this season.

"That’s something I've been working on more this season. I don't know if it's game-ready yet. That's more of a confidence issue," said Lopez, who added he's been working with assistant coach Pete Myers on the shot. "I think the way the NBA is going, I don't see why not. If Brook can do it, I definitely can."

Lopez is 0-for-5 from distance in his nine-year career, including 0-for-1 with the Bulls this season. But the defensive-minded center knows the ever-changing NBA game now includes teams wanting to get as many perimeter shooters on the floor at once. If he and/or Gibson can eventually be part of that, he knows the difference it could make.

"I think it's wonderful for the game. I think there's a real premium on skill at all positions on the court. I think that's going to continue. You're going to have more skilled and more talented big men," he said. "There's always a new breed of big men right around the corner."

Bulls Road Ahead: Trying to get back to .500 yet again

Bulls Road Ahead: Trying to get back to .500 yet again

Mark Schanowski and Mark Strotman break down what the Bulls need to do to get back on track on this edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

A stellar win over the Grizzlies on Sunday has all but been forgotten, as the Bulls lost to the Mavericks on Tuesday. Now back under .500 for the fourth time this season, the Bulls will have to regroup as they prepare for a back-to-back against the Hawks and Kings.

See what else they had to say in this week's Bulls Road Ahead.