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.

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Being a better defensive team was a prime objective for Fred Hoiberg coming into camp, as the Bulls hope to reclaim some of their defensive identity that disappeared last season.

Reciting a not-so-true stat routinely to reporters in the first few days, that the Bulls were last in forcing turnovers in 2015-16, means he’s likely barking it to the team in practices (they were actually second-to-last behind the New York Knicks).

“Absolutely,” said Hoiberg when asked if being more aggressive defensively is a goal. “We are turning the ball over way too much. After watching film, our defense is responsible for some of that. We have a guy in (Rajon) Rondo that's a high steals guy, got great hands, great instincts, great wingspan. Jimmy (Butler) is always had great anticipation and one of the top steals guy.”

Butler is one of the best two-way players, along with San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Indiana’s Paul George, but even he admitted his defense slipped last year as the Bulls fell to a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of advanced defensive rankings (15th).

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Rondo was once one of the league’s best defensive point guards before tearing up his knee his last full season in Boston, and averaged two steals last year in Sacramento, but gave up a career-high 107 points per 100 possessions, according to basketball-reference.com.

Whether Rondo was a function of a bad defense overall for the Kings or a player who no longer fully commits himself to that end remains to be seen, but it’s clear Hoiberg wants a more hands-y defense. Too many times last year, the Bulls defense had leaks from the top down, resulting in compromised drives to the basket and breakdowns all around.

More than anything, the Bulls defense was one of indifference, especially after the first 30 games or so.

“Like all staffs we watched a ton of film and tried to figure out with this group how to create more turnovers, how to impact the ball better,” Hoiberg said. “Every day it's been a big emphasis in our defense and we get out and force turnovers and make sure the help is there behind the trap and being aggressive on the ball.”

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

The common refrain among coaches in the first days of training camp is “this guy had an incredible summer”, a phrase Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has said so much that even he had to laugh when asked who didn’t have a banner summer period.

Of course, that’s before fans and media get to see anyone play, so we can only speculate who’ll win certain position battles, like the starting power forward spot or how deep Hoiberg’s rotation will go.

So in the spirit of speculation, Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine’s versatility makes him a candidate for the backup point guard position, a spot that is filled with different options for Hoiberg to choose from.

“He’s such an instinctive player. He does a great job,” Hoiberg said. “We talk about making simple plays. You’ve done your job when you beat your man, draw the second defender and make the easy, simple play. Denzel is great at that. That’s not a gift that everybody has. That’s not an instinct that all players have. But Denzel certainly has it.”

One wonders if Valentine could find himself on the outside looking in at the start of the season, like Bobby Portis did last year before all the injuries hit the Bulls and forced him into action.

It’s a different vision than when Valentine was drafted as a late lottery pick after a seasoned career at Michigan State. The Bulls hadn’t signed Dwyane Wade or Rajon Rondo in free agency, and had traded Derrick Rose 24 hours before the draft, so the thought was Valentine could be an instant contributor.

Even still, Valentine can likely play anything from point guard to small forward, but hasn’t gotten extensive reps at the point, yet.

“I’ve played on the wing so far. A little bit of point,” Valentine said. “I got a couple reps on the point, but like 70-30. Seventy on the wing, 30 on the point.”

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He got an early jump on the Hoiberg terminology at summer league, so the language isn’t a big adjustment, but having to learn multiple positions along with the tendencies of new teammates can mean a steeper learning curve.

“Yeah, I just got to continue learning sets and learning guys’ strengths so that I can use that to their best advantage,” Valentine said. “Play-make as best I can when I’m at the point guard spot. Just learning the system, learning guys’ strengths, and then I’ll be better at it.”

The presence of Wade and Jimmy Butler, one of whom will likely anchor the second unit as Hoiberg will probably stagger minutes so each can have the requisite time and space, means even if Valentine were on the floor, he wouldn’t have to be a natural point guard.

Hoiberg does, however, crave having multiple playmakers who can initiate offense or create shots off penetration or pick and roll action, meaning Valentine can work it to his advantage.

“I think he can. Jimmy played with the ball in his hands a lot last year,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy rebounds the ball and if Dwyane rebounds the ball, they’re bringing it. Rajon if he’s out there knows to fill one of the lanes. Denzel is an excellent passer. He’s got such good basketball instincts. So if you can get guys out there who can make plays, that’s what it’s all about. I think you’re very difficult to guard in this league when you have multiple ballmakers.”

Other notes:

Dwyane Wade won’t be taking walk-up triples for the Bulls, despite his call that Hoiberg wants him being more comfortable from behind the long line. Hoiberg does want him being willing and able to take corner threes, likely off guard penetration from Rondo or Jimmy Butler.

When Wade played with LeBron James in Miami, cutting from the corners became a staple, so putting him there could be an old wrinkle Hoiberg is adding to his scheme.

Wade took seven of his 44 3-pointers from the corner last season, hitting two from the right side, according to vorped.com.

“When he’s open, especially in the corners, that’s a shot we want him taking. It’s a thing we worked on yesterday, making sure he stays on balance,” Hoiberg said. “He’s got a natural lean on his shot, which has been very effective, being on the elite mid range shooters in our game. That’s allowed him to get shots over bigger defenders. When you get out further from the basket, especially by the line, you need to get momentum going in, work on your body position and work on finishing that shot. He’s got good mechanics, it’s a matter of finishing the shot.”