Rose elevates Bulls to sixth straight victory at UC

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Rose elevates Bulls to sixth straight victory at UC

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
Posted 9:23 PM Updated 12:19 AM

By Aggrey SamCSNChicago.com

Talk about schizophrenic. A first-half effort that resembled last week's lackluster road losses was followed up by a dominant second-half performance Monday evening at the United Center, where the Bulls (25-12) roared past the Pistons (12-25), 95-82.

The visitors, in the midst of turmoil spawned from the rumored Carmelo Anthony trade saga (longtime guard Rip Hamilton is reportedly a key component), used perimeter shooting and a spread-the-floor approach to get off to a solid start. Chicago, on the other hand, went with the dual-pronged approach of primary scorers Derrick Rose (aggressive drives to the basket, mirroring the efforts that earned him a career-high 19 free-throw attempts Saturday) and Carlos Boozer (displaying excellent touch on the interior) to facilitate offense in the early going.

With Chicagos defense not quite at the same level as it was Saturday night against the Celtics, Detroit went often to versatile stalwart Tayshaun Prince (15 points, three rebounds, three assists), who was able to produce points in a variety of ways. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went deeper in his bench in the opening period than usual, but despite the adjustment, the Pistons held a 25-20 lead after a quarter.

Were still sluggish in the beginning, especially on defense, Rose observed. We cant do that against a great team.

Offensively, the Bulls continued to struggle early in the second period, thusly falling into a hole against the visitors. Pistons reserve swingman Tracy McGrady came off the bench to have another brief flashback (as he had in Detroit, the last time the two teams faced off) and suddenly, Chicago was down by double digits midway through the quarter, with Boozer (27 points, 10 rebounds) seemingly the only Bull who could get his offense going.

Then came the reinsertion of Rose (29 points, seven assists, five rebounds) and the subsequent rejuvenation of the United Center crowd, following one of trademark powerful two-handed dunks in transition. However, the Bulls couldnt significantly cut into the deficit, with Detroits sizable lineup of Prince and McGrady as 6-foot-9 ballhandlers, Hamilton and 6-foot-10 sharpshooter Austin Daye (14 points) on the wings and either rookie Greg Monroe or veteran Chris Wilcox (13 points, nine rebounds) inside (in the stead of former Bull Ben Wallace, who was sidelined with an ankle injury early in the contest), befuddling Chicago and giving the visitors a rare advantage on the glass, even without the services of Wallace.

The intriguing Daye perhaps benefited the most from the non-traditional set, first gaining momentum with a spectacular blow-by dribble move past Bulls reserve Kyle Korver and an explosive finish. Chicagos lack of offensive balancebesides Rose and Boozer, the only players to score were third option Luol Deng (suffering from a touch of the flu) and reserves Taj Gibson (eight points, five rebounds, two blocked shots) and Ronnie Brewer (11 points, six assists), the latter of whom contributed more with his passinghurt them tremendously and after a half, they trailed, 55-43.

Actually, the first quarter was just as bad as the second. In the second, we had a number of matchup problems because of the size we had out there, said Thibodeau. I thought we were low energy on both endsdefensively and offensivelyand so I thought the third quarter, we came and the first five minutes, I thought our energy was very, very good on both ends of the floor. Then, we got going a little bit and the game became easier. I thought our defense was terrific.

Added Rose: We knew that playing the way we did in the first half, we werent going to win the game like that. Theyre a team that can score a lot of points. Theyve got a lot of isolation players, where if one of them gets hot, they can get going. It was tough, but we came back.

Boozer chimed in: They kicked our butt. Second half, we tried to adjust and do a better job.

Theyve got talented guys. Tayshaun is as versatile of a guy as we have in the league. Obviously T-Macs been that throughout his career. I was very impressed with the kid Daye. Very good player, very good young player. Obviously Stuckey and Rip. Theyve got a lot of guys who can play. Theyre very talented, he continued. Its part of the game. Sometimes matchups can go one way or another. We run different plays that may or may not be effective, but you saw how we took care of it in the second half.

We werent playing good on offense or defense and we all came in the locker room pissed off and angry and basically, wanted to play better. We wanted ourselves to play better and so we did.

Deng started the second half with a more aggressive offensive mindset, scoring, then finding Boozer for a dunk on a nice drive-and-dish scenario in short order.

Boozer was also a major contributor and with an improved defensive effort, the Bulls quickly trimmed Detroits winning margin.

A considerably better shooting percentagein large part due to Boozers dominance and efficiency insidegave the Bulls a semblance of offensive flow, but just as they appeared to overtake their Central Division rivals, Detroit would muster up a timely basket to retain the lead. A Deng stealone of two notable hustle plays in the quarter for the longest-tenured player on the teamand uncontested transition dunk would eventually get the lead for the home team.

I wanted to come out with a lot of energy. Somebody just had to do something and everyone just follow. We just came out, we had a lot more energy and it turned out to be a better half, the flu-stricken Deng told CSNChicago.com. I had to do that receive IV fluids before the game. I was low on the energy; that kind of played into it, you could see in the first half. The second half, I kind of just put it aside and even if its just talkingsome kind of energyand hopefully guys would feed off of it, and we had better energy as a whole.

Coach always preaches about bringing something to the team the team needs. In the second half, I felt like we needed energy and I felt like I wanted to be that guy. I thought the whole team did, he continued. I thought the second half, everyone picked it up a level and being down 12, we did a good job of just getting our offense going from our defense.

The Rose M-V-P chants began in earnest toward the periods conclusion, after the All-Star point guard powered through contactThibodeaus reasoning for why hes finally getting more trips to the foul lineand finished, despite a strong foul. Rose then hit a deep jumper near the third quarters end, giving the Bulls a 76-70 advantage heading into the final period.

Part of our job as leaders on the team is to get everybody going, so we try to be aggressive on offense and try to be aggressive on defense. Obviously that third quarter, I took over early, he Rose took over late. Thats the mark of our job. Weve got to go out there and be aggressive from start to finish because the rest of the guys are going to follow what we do, said Boozer. As soon as the ball gets tipped, were trying to be extremely aggressive.

Rose justified his fawning kingdoms worship on an early fourth quarter fast break, when he caught a towering alley-oop pass from Brewer well above the rim for a see-it-to-believe-it one-handed flush.

Before I came to this team, I was at a restaurant in Utah and I saw D-Rose dunk against Phoenix. In my opinion, thats one of the better dunks of all last year. So, I knew he was capable of jumping that high, said Brewer. I just didnt want to throw it too low and have a turnover, and start a fast break in the other direction. So, I knew if I threw it high, it was going to be a turnover out of bounds or he was going to make a play and fortunately, he made a play and made me look good.

Recounted Rose: I just went up and got it. Ronnie threw it up. Simple one-hand dunkI dont know how I caught it. I was just in the moment.

Added Boozer: That was the play of the night for us. We got excited. It was a decent pass by Ronnie Brewer, then D-Rose made it spectacular.

His overall level of focus was tremendous, as he was aggressive as a scorer and even a playmaker on the defensive end.

Stuckey hit some great shots against me. I jumped at all of them, but hes a pro, hes going to hit some shots. Youve got to make sure you jump at all of them, said Rose of his defensive improvement. Im just trying to make it hardI can leap pretty good when Im in my vertical position and just jump as high as you can, and make sure theyre leaving their feet at the same time because you dont want to get a stupid foul.

Praised Thibodeau: Hes obviously a spectacular offensive player, but the thing that I like is the improvement that hes made defensively. I think hes gotten so much better and I think hes working on it really hard.

I also think, during the course of a game, he can read and react to what we need the most. I thought he came out in the third quarter with a lot of aggressiveness and he got them back on their heels. Hes tough to guard when he plays like that.

In fact, the entire team was opportunistic defensivelyplaying the passing lanes, protecting the rim and taking chargesand with long-coveted transition opportunities finally materializing, Chicagos lead swelled to a comfortable cushion. One play spelled out the collective effort better than anything: Gibson diving for a loose ball out of bounds, near the scorers table, as Detroit accrued a shot-clock violation; Thibodeau was the first to congratulate his player and help him to his feet.

A Brewer 3-pointer gave the Bulls a double-digit lead and down the stretch, Chicago maintained their advantage by keeping up their solid defense and executing on the offensive end. Chicago cruised to the win, with the visitors making the requisite late-game fouls, to no avail.

Tale of two halves tonight. We didnt do a very good job in the first half, but the mark of a good team is can you step up to the challenge and play better and to a man, we came out there and played better. We stepped up to the challenge of what they brought and played much better, especially on defense. Thats why we won the game, said Boozer.

We acknowledge that we have to play much better. This is a game that we pretty much escaped because we played so much better in the second half than in the first half. That cant be the mark of our team. We cant continue to get down early and have to rely on our capabilities to come back. We have to be a team thats consistent and works to be more consistent throughout a 48-minute game, especially now that we have two games on the road that are big games for us after playing poorly last week on the road.

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.

Tonight on CSN: Bulls shoot for five straight wins as they battle Nuggets

Tonight on CSN: Bulls shoot for five straight wins as they battle Nuggets

Watch as the Bulls take on the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

1. A pair of playoff teams....really. The average basketball fan thinks Bulls vs. Nuggets and doesn't necessarily think of a pair of playoff teams. But the Bulls have won four straight and are tied for sixth in the East, while the Nuggets have surprised the league and gone 25-31, good for eighth in the West. The Bulls opened as three-point favorites, meaning this one could go either way. And when it comes time for the playoffs this is one both teams may look back on as A) a helpful win or B) one the loser really could have used.

2. Going for five straight. The Bulls have won four straight for the second time this season. That fifth game the first time around was a seven-point loss to the Clippers. The Bulls won six in a row last season in December and January, so this is an opportunity to pick up a five-spot for the first time in more than a year. Currently the Bulls are tied with the Spurs for the longest winning streak in the NBA.

3. Cameron Payne getting involved. Expect to see more and more of the second-year point guard who came over in the deal from the Thunder. Payne got just a handful of minutes on Saturday against the Cavaliers but looked good, going for 6 points on 2-for-3 shooting in 12 minutes. There's a logjam at point guard to be sure, but the Bulls dealt for Payne because they want to see what he can do in extended minutes. He has a good matchup against Denver in Jamal Murray and Jameer Nelson, and could do some damage when he gets in.

4. What could have been. When the Bulls traded the Nos. 14 and 19 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft to the Nuggets for Doug McDermott, Denver used one of those picks on Michigan State guard Gary Harris. The 6-foot-4 guard has turned into one of the better young under-the-radar players, averaging 14.2 points on 48 percent shooting and providing solid defense in 29 minutes a night. Who knows if the Bulls would have selected Harris with one of those picks, but he sure would look good on the perimeter next to Jimmy Butler.

5. Bobby Portis momentum. With Taj Gibson out of the picture the starting power forward job is officially Bobby Portis' to lose. Portis has been impressive in his last five games, averaging 11.4 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds and is shooting 36 percent from deep. He'll get a difficult test against the Nuggets' frontline, but these are the kinds of games that can help the young forward's progression.

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Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

A milk carton was a more likely place to find Bobby Portis than on a basketball floor playing big minutes for the majority of his second season.

He could often be found in the locker room before games and listening to the older players talk to the media afterward, trying his best to fight off the frustration and admitted confusion that comes with the regression of not getting playing time.

When Portis did play, he looked nothing like the confident and borderline cocky rookie who often referred to himself in the third person in interviews. He didn't know when he would play, how long he would be out there or even worse, what was expected of him.

The trade of Taj Gibson at the deadline — preceded by the temporary benching of Nikola Mirotic — put Portis back in the spotlight and he's intent on making the most of it during the last 23 games of the regular season.

"It's fun. You know go out there every day just to know that it's another day I'm going to play," Portis said. "That's the biggest thing for me. I feel like that's already a confidence builder right there, just coming into every game knowing that I'm in the rotation. It's great fun to go out there and play."

It's no secret the front office the Bulls want Portis to succeed and not add him to the ledger of some of the first-round disappointments that can be recalled in recent memory.

The trade of Gibson was certainly underlined with the mantra that Portis should play and the way was going to be cleared for Portis, one way or another. Scoring 19 with eight rebounds against the Celtics on national TV right before the All-Star break probably gave Portis enough validation considering he was thrust into the starting lineup at power forward soon after.

"I don't care about nobody judging me," Portis said. "At the end of the day I'm going to play basketball. That's my job. I'm going to go out there and do the things I do well. I feel like sometimes people misconstrue just because you don't play and they can say some things like that. I don't really care about anybody judging me at this point. At the end of the day I'm still going to be Bobby Portis at the end of the day."

Well, clearly, the third person thing hasn't left the second-year forward, but he said he stayed in the gym waiting on his opportunity, even through a quick but confusing stint to Hoffman Estates to the D-League.

"Just being hungry. Humble and hungry," Portis said. "You know one thing I always strive off of is being humble and hungry. That kept me sane. My mom, I talked to her a lot. She kept me grounded. It's kind of tough not playing and going through the season knowing that some games you might play, you might not play. You know it's about waiting your turn, but at the same time you have to keep working."

Being the fifth big in Fred Hoiberg's rotation didn't leave him a lot of room for Portis to get much run or even find a rhythm, and like many others who've found themselves out of the rotation unexpectedly, it was without much of an explanation.

"Nah, I didn't really know what I could do to get minutes," Portis said. "The one thing that I know that I always do is just come in here every day, work as hard as I can, let the dominos fall how they fall. Every day I come in here, just bust my butt for some minutes, but sometimes it wouldn't work."

Now that he has found himself into Hoiberg's good graces, his improving range has allowed both units to play similiarly.

"I think Bobby has done a real nice job," Hoiberg said. "He was a huge part of our win against Boston in our game right before the break. He just goes out and plays with so much energy. What I really like about him right now is he has no hesitation on his shot. He's stepping into his 3 with good rhythm."