Rose, Bulls' stifling defense slow Mavs attack

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Rose, Bulls' stifling defense slow Mavs attack

Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
Posted 9:58 PM Updated 11:23 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

When the Bulls (29-14) play this way against inferior competition, its automatically labeled an ugly performance, win or lose. When they play their league-leading brand of stifling defense against an upper-echelon squadsuch as Thursday evenings opponent, the Mavericks (27-15)its as aesthetically pleasing as can be, as evidenced by their 82-77 home victory at the United Center.

Wed like to have a pretty win, but sometimes, youve got to get down, dirty and ugly and thats what we did tonight, summed up reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: It was hard to score in this game, I know that. Their defense was terrific. Their size was a problem for us, but we found a way to win.

Theyre a terrific team and I think that we caught them at a good time tonight, he continued. That team has everything.

Although they shot a season-low field-goal percentage for a second consecutive game (36.9 percent from the floor), Chicago held visiting Dallas to 35.6 percent shooting from the field and won the battle of the boardsdespite being undermanned on the interiorbut a second-half eruption from All-Star point guard Derrick Rose (26 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) and solid play out of his supporting cast gave the Bulls the upper hand in the contest.

Dallas isnt really known for their defense, but for their high-profile offense, noted Brewer. I think we were slowing those guys down and I think they were doing a very good job of slowing us down tonight.

Weve got a lot of fight on our team, he went on to say. We knew we were undersized coming into tonight and we just had to want it more than the other team.

After the Bulls jumped out to an early 10-4 leadled by the early hot hand of Luol Deng (seven points, 12 rebounds), as well as Roses playmaking abilitythe Mavericks, called timeout to regroup, then stormed back, going on a 11-2 run of their own.

In an opening period that featured starting Chicago post players Taj Gibson and Kurt Thomas (nine points, 11 rebounds) each picking up a pair of early fouls, and light-scoring starting shooting guards Keith Bogans and Dallas DeShawn Stevenson (12 points, four 3-pointers) each draining two 3-pointers apiece, the Bulls trailed the visitors by the count of 20-19.

Neither team could get into an offensive rhythmstagnant offensive sets led to getting into the offense much later in the shot clock than intendedand along with poor shot selection, protecting the basketball was also an issue. Even with the respective presences of superstars Rose and Dallas Dirk Nowitzki (19 points) back on the court, the low-scoring affair persisted. Forced to go small until halftimeThomas and Gibson both were saddled with their third foulsthe Bulls still werent able to manufacture any transition opportunities, but managed to build a small cushion, aided by reserve sharpshooter Kyle Korver knocking down some shots late in the second period.

Before the intermission, the Bulls gained some momentum by virtue of some crowd-rousing hustle playson the play that started the charge, Deng rebounded his own miss and the ball eventually got to Rose, who found reserve swingman Brewer for a baseline dunkto reel off five points in the quarters final minute, permitting Chicago to head into the break with a 44-35 advantage.

Behind Nowitzkis offensive presence, former Bulls center Tyson Chandlers (12 points, 12 rebounds) activity around the rim and Stevensons perimeter marksmanship, Dallas gradually surged ahead of its hosts early in the third quarter, although it quickly became a neck-and-neck affair.

Rose began to assert himself offensively and his teammates responded with better ball movement, resulting in higher-quality shot attempts and a Mavericks timeout, as Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle seemed to sense a shift in Chicagos approach. Dallas adjustments did the trick temporarilyoffensively, the Mavericks exploited undermanned Chicagos size deficit and took advantage of mismatchessquashing the Bulls momentum, which led to the visitors claiming a 60-56 lead after three quarters.

Rose employed a one-man gang mentalitynot in terms of selfishness, but simply being his teams catalyst by doing whatever it took, from swashbuckling drives and finishes to offensive rebounds, getting to the charity stripe and everything in betweenearly in the final stanza.

Derrick didnt have a great shooting night, but his will in the second half just created scoring opportunities for us, Thibodeau explained.

Hes seen every kind of defense there is, the coach added. So hes figuring all that stuff out and then sometimes were just going to flatten out for him to create more space and just let him go.

Added Brewer: You know what D-Rose is going to provide every night.

Guys are going to have off nights, guys are going to struggle from the field, but I think we continued to work hard and continued to play together.

Rose was aided in his efforts by Thibodeaus usual insertion of backup point guard C.J. Watson at the start of the final periodthe strategy of using the smallish backcourt worked with Dallas also going small at the guard positions, utilizing sixth-man extraordinaire Jason Terrywhich let him play off the ball and utilize screens, as well as being able to attack from the wing.

Watson contributed in his own right, knocking down a pair of threes, as he and Rose functioned interchangeably as dual scorers and playmakers, eventually guiding Chicago back in front of the visitors.

Derrick Rose blocks a Jason Terry shot in the fourth quarter against the Mavericks. The Bulls defense held Dallas to 35.6 percent shooting and their sweep of the season series is the first by a Bulls team since the 1996-97 season. (AP)C.J., the shots he hit for us were huge for us, lauded Thibodeau. The matchups really dictated that and I was concerned with their quickness. I thought that would help negate it or at least help us to match up better.

Thomas, engaged in a physical battle with Chandler, started to give the Bulls a boost with his offense, scoring on putbacks and his patented mid-range jumper off screen-and-roll scenarios.

We knew if we could win the rebounding game, it would definitely increase our chances, but along with that, we felt that if we could control Dirk and control Terry, wed definitely have a chance to come out with a win tonight, the 38-year-old veteran told CSNChicago.com. Weve just been solid out there. Weve been trying to limit our opponents possessions as much as possible because we know that were undersized, were undermanned with Booz being out and Joakim being out, but were just sticking to our game plan. Were just focusing on the defensive end of the floor and just try to keep scrapping and just try to find a way to get a win.

As the games stretch run approached, the Mavericks got the ball to their hobbled star, Nowitzki, who delivered, but missed a well-defended jumper over Deng that would have given Dallas a one-point lead.

The player that I am today is a lot different than I was in the past. Struggling shooting out there, in the past, Id start thinking too much and not do other things, observed Deng. My defense on Dirk, I felt like I had to do something out there and I tried to really help on the boards. Thats just maturity for me, just being a vet now.

Concurred Thibodeau: Thats what I love about Luol. He can play well and effectively, even when hes not shooting wellhes invaluable to us.

Dirk is a tough cover, he continued. You have to defend every aspect of the game with him and I thought Taj and Luol, they did a good job.

On the subsequent possession, Rose kept the ball in his hands and buried a deep two-pointer under duress with 55 seconds remaining to give Chicago an 80-77 advantage. A Mavericks turnover on their next trip gave the Bulls an opportunity to make it a two-possession game, but Rose was off with a jumper. However, Dallas couldnt capitalize, as Terry missed a potential game-tying triple and after a Chicago rebound, Brewer was eventually fouled with 9.2 seconds on the clock.

Initially, Watson couldnt get the ball inboundsit was a non-shooting foul, as the Mavericks had one more to give before being over the limitbut after a Bulls timeout, Korver, one of the leagues purest shooters, ended up with it and knocked down both of his free-throw attempts with 5.5 seconds to go to seal the deal.

Of the Bulls effort, Deng opined, Not taking anything away from Charlotte, but its really easy to be up for a game like tonight, a game like Miami or after you lose. Weve got to get to a level where we have that edge every game, not just playing good teams.

Its crazy were No. 1 in the NBA on defense because in this locker room, we still feel that we could get so much better on defense, he continued. It just shows when you commit to defense, how good you can be and thats how were winning games. We have our offensive slumps here and there, but our defense is winning games.

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.

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What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

The Bulls have made their biggest decision of the offseason but the future of Rajon Rondo and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade, is still in the air.

Due to the trade for Kris Dunn and the Bulls having acquired Cameron Payne at the trade deadline last season, it doesn’t appear to be much room for Rondo. Even moreso, considering Dunn and Payne’s lack of production, one would think the Bulls would easily guarantee Rondo’s $13.3 million for next season.

But with the June 30th deadline approaching, it seems more and more like the Bulls will buy Rondo out for $3 million and go with a total youth movement, despite Rondo’s success with guiding some of the young players on the roster.

If not for Rondo’s wrist injury in Game 2 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, the Bulls could’ve advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Instead, they’re embarking on what could be a long process that may take years to recover from.

“He’s always been a great teammate and nurturer of the young guys,” said Bill Duffy, Rondo’s agent. Duffy also serves as Zach LaVine’s agent, so he was in attendance for LaVine’s introduction at the United Center.

The handling of Rondo’s benching, re-emergence and subsequent importance to the Bulls this past season has helped Rondo, in a sense. Rondo proved to be a galvanizing force to a degree after being shuffled in and out of the starting lineup.

“I think it’s fair to say he definitely showed a different persona that what had existed but like I said, he’s always been that way, I think it’s more publicized,” Duffy said. “I think he just loves to develop people, always managing and directing. So I think that’s always the case with the younger guys.”

If Rondo is released—and it certainly appears matters are trending in that direction, the 31-year old could have suitors in the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers, sources tell CSNChicago.com. One would think the Bulls could use Rondo’s type of straightforward but encouraging brand of leadership in the locker room, but the Bulls have yet to guarantee his contract for next season.

“That’s still to be determined,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’re going to sit down with Bill and talk it through. We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team, the right veterans – guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys and can continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”

“The proof’s always in the pudding and I think if you talk to the front office and coaches, they really love what he brought and how he handled the challenges last year,” Duffy said. “I think we all mature over time and he’s been in the league a long time. He wants to win but he loves the game. I think he appreciates it more, he’s kinda of in his twilight years or approaching it.”

As for Wade, he exercised his $23.8 million option for next season as he was expected to, but that was before the Jimmy Butler trade that ushered in a new day of change.

There’s been speculation Wade would seek a buyout from the Bulls at the start of free agency but so far, those conversations haven’t been held and Paxson intimated Wade would have to give back a significant amount of that money to become a free agent.

There’s been speculation of Wade joining LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as Carmelo Anthony getting a buyout from the Knicks and following suit.

But the Cavaliers will have very little to offer in the way of cap space, so it’s tough to see Wade giving back a large sum then going to Cleveland for the veterans’ minimum—which would not make up the difference of a “significant” amount.

“I know Gar has spoken with Leon Rose, Dwyane’s agent, As far as the buyout, that has not been broached,” Paxson said. “I would say this: In this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us. It would have to benefit us. Dwyane was a great pro last year, and he’s been around a lot of different situations.”

But with Wade’s history of giving up large sums of money in the name of team, it’s harder to predict his moves. As strong as his relationship with Butler is, the possibility of Butler being moved didn’t affect him picking up his option, so his desire to play competitive or at least meaningful basketball could be weighed against wanting to keep his family comfortable after relocating to Chicago last year and collecting every dollar of his deal.

“He was in Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years as well,” Paxson said. “So right now we’re operating under assumption that he’ll be here. But like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, it would have to be advantageous for us."