Rondo, Celtics pick apart road-weary Bulls

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Rondo, Celtics pick apart road-weary Bulls

Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
Updated 11:56 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

BOSTON Derrick Rose isnt known for being the most verbose person in the world, but his postgame summary of what ails the Bulls was as accurate as they come.

Were out of sync right now, the Bulls All-Star point guard told CSNChicago.com. Were making the game harder than what it is and we need to change it.

In a matchup many regarded as a measuring stick of Chicagos progress with the much-anticipated addition of Carlos Boozer on his second trial run the Bulls (9-8) fell to the Celtics (15-4), 104-92, Friday evening.

Forget measuring up to the leagues elites Chicago couldnt get out of its own way as poor shot selection, lackluster defense, below-average rebounding, low energy and what is now becoming trademark slow starts to the game and following intermission plagued the Bulls in the loss.

Those negative aspects were compounded by Bostons crisp offensive execution, stout team defense, the top-flight playmaking ability of point guard Rajon Rondo and a vintage night from venerable veteran Kevin Garnett.

Although Rose (20 points, eight assists) got off to a quick and aggressive start, a balanced Boston attack put the Bulls in an early hole, as all five Celtics starters were on the board by midway through the first quarter.

An early positive sign for the visitors was Boozers (12 points) outside touch, as the power forward knocked down two mid-range jumpers albeit uncovered showing hed make more of an impact in his second game back from injury.

On a more disappointing note, the Celtics were able to get easy transition opportunities seemingly at will Ray Allen (14 points), in particular, more noted as a sharpshooter, was a beneficiary as well as deep post position that led to point-blank baskets from Garnett (20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists) and Shaquille ONeal (12 points, five rebounds).

Adding to the Bulls woes was their own poor shot selection and errant marksmanship, which allowed Boston to further widen the gap

Theyre a quality team, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. I thought we had some good shots in the first quarter. We missed. We came back and defensively, were hanging a little bit and we cant do that. We cant allow our offense to affect us defensively.

I thought we played low energy defensively instead of having greater fight down there and theyre a great shooting team. Youve got to challenge their shots. Theyre also posting the ball a lot more and weve got to fight harder, keep the ball out of the paint. I didnt think we did that. I thought defensively, we gave them too much.

Taj Gibson (10 points, eight rebounds), now in a reserve role, gave the Bulls a nice spark off the bench, enabling the Garden guests to quickly close on the home team.

Backup point guard C.J. Watson and reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer in addition to starters Joakim Noah (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Luol Deng (15 points, six rebounds, four assists) clicked effectively, as Chicago went on an extended 18-3 run, dating back to Dengs jumper toward the end of the previous period to tie the game at 34 apiece.

However, a stellar first-half performance by Garnett who, along with Noah, was issued a double technical foul, as the pair continued their war of words ensured Chicago wouldnt overtake the Celtics.

Hes active, hes rebounding above the rim, hes going to get rebounds out of his area, hes shooting the ball great, hes elevating on his shot, getting deep post position and hes always had great vision, always been very unselfish, said Thibodeau, going down a laundry list of Garnetts strong suits. When you look at the passing of that team, they share the ball, they move the ball, they execute and they play defense.

Chicagos defensive lapses perhaps partly due to Boozers gradual assimilation into the teams defensive scheme once again permitted Boston to surge, reeling off bucket after bucket to give the Celtics a double-digit winning margin.

The floor generalship of Rondo (12 points, 19 assists, six rebounds) was masterful, as he evenly distributed the basketball to the many weapons at his disposal the slender point guards pinpoint passing was the catalyst for a vintage Garnett stat line often getting the best available shot on each Celtics possession.

Were struggling defensively, said Thibodeau. Playing from behind, dug a big hole and against quality opponents, you cant do that. We fought hard to get back in the second quarter, but then in the third quarter, the same thing. Right back in the hole.

I think our first and third have been a problem for us all season, no matter who was out there. The first quarter, we dig ourselves a hole, the third quarter we dig ourselves a hole and weve been worse in some games, but the majority of games in the NBA, when you get behind to a very good team, youre not going to climb back, added Boozer, who played without the protective brace for his hand that he wore in Wednesdays debut, stating Id rather not wear it afterwards.

Weve got to have a better focus out thereon that circus trip, we got lucky. We were able to fight back in some games, but weve got to do a better job of that as we move forward.

Chicagos lack of offensive flow also plagued the team in the games final period. Instead of quality possessions and solid execution, Bostons defense yielded mostly awkward forces and end-of-shot-clock heaves, demonstrating the Bulls lack of cohesion and inability to push the tempo in transition, not to mention more meager than usual offensive rebounding.

Still, it was mostly Chicagos defensive effort that stuck with the team in the aftermath of its second consecutive ugly defeat.

Terrible. Thats the reason why were losing. Blown coverages, not doing the right thing, but like I said, well get a chance to play tomorrow, Rose told CSNChicago.com. Weve just got to step it up on the defensive side. We didnt stop anybody the last two games. Thats why were getting blown out. Hopefully we can change it.

Explained Thibodeau: Weve got to do a better job of containing the ball. Our weak side has to be a lot more alert. We have to have better body position on the cuts. All facets of our defense. Right now, its hard to judge because we have to do it with greater intensity.

One thing we can do is we can play a lot harder and again, when we make them missand rebounding was a problem alsoand thats preventing us from getting us out into the open floor and getting us some easy baskets, the coach continued.

When youre making them miss and youre rebounding well, then you get Derrick into the open floor, thats where you get your easy baskets. Everything is a grind right now because were playing out of the halfcourt so much.The Bulls couldn't stop Kevin Garnett (20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists Friday night) and realize they are struggling defensively in the last few games. (AP)

Deng concurred: Weve been winning because of our defense, so weve got to get back to that. Try to get easy baskets, try to get stops and get out and run.

We get a lot of looks when we get stops. When we slow down, right now, were not running our stuff the way we should be. I think eventually we will, but where were at right now, were more of a running team that gets stops and runs, he added. I know we play tomorrow, so weve got to make a quick switch and get back to that defensive mentality. Weve got a lot of guys that can score and its going to be spread out, but every night the defense has got to be there.

The home crowds persistent chants of Scalabrine (for the Bulls reserve forward; he would eventually enter the contest with the game out of reach) obscured Chicagos attempt to get back into the contest, as the foregone conclusion that the Celtics would coast to victory was reached the previous quarter.

Fighting hard but making up little ground, the Bulls simply couldnt overcome Rondos top-flight playmaking, Bostons offensive execution All-Star swingman Paul Pierce (18 points) became more of a factor as time wore on and stout team defense, and frankly, their own unforced errors.

Rationalized Thibodeau: The games keep coming. Weve gotten into this together; weve got to get out of it together. Weve got to fight a lot harder. Were capable, well play better, but weve got to put more into it.

Rose summarized things in a similar vein.

Weve got to change a lot of things, so hopefully tomorrow youll see a whole other team, the All-Star told CSNChicago.com.

Hosting a Houston squad likely eager for revenge at the United Center Saturday evening, theyll have to make a quick turnaround.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

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 Brook 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."