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.

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.