Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011
By Chris Cason
It was the effort they had been lacking during the two-game losing streak as the Chicago Bulls (24-12) defeated the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics (28-8) 90-79 Saturday at the United Center.
The win improved the Bulls to a 16-3 record at home and prevented the first three-game losing streak of the season.
Derrick Rose scored 36 points with a career-high in both free throws made and attempted, going 15-for-19 from the charity stripe. Carlos Boozer finished with 22 points to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds.
In road losses against New Jersey and Philadelphia, the offense wasn't as much a concern as the defense had been.
"The big thing is it's not any one particular guy right now," head coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game about the issues on the defensive end in the prior two games. "You can point the finger at this guy and that guy but it's our entire group right now. Every aspect of our defense requires five people being tied together. Whether it's defense in transition, low post defense, pick and roll defense, catch and shoot defense -- if two or three guys aren't doing their job, it's going to show. We have to get back to being tied together with all five and we have to be able to sustain it for 48 minutes."
The Bulls held Boston to 5-of-17 shooting in the fourth quarter, holding Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to only one field goal attempt between the two of them. Chicago blocked five shots in the period, highlighted by Taj Gibson's four as he was a defensive presence around the rim.
"I thought Taj had a huge impact on the game," said Thibodeau. "His activity was great. He had four blocks in 20 minutes, but he altered a lot of shots."
While the defense was finally able to put together a consistent effort through a full game, as Chicago held Boston to 37 percent shooting for the game, it was Rose getting inside the teeth of the Celtics defense and not eluding contact, as his trademark forays to the hole display, but looking to initiate it.
"From the start of the game, to the end of the game, he was aggressive," said Thibodeau." When he plays like that, because he is generating speed, if there is contact, he will get more calls. He was taking the contact tonight and he was getting the calls."
Another issue of concern during the two losses was the energy in the third quarter. In both road games, the Bulls were outscored 32-18, leading to them playing from behind in the fourth.
While the Celtics did win the third quarter, scoring 22 to Chicago's 21, Rose went 7-for-10 from the free throw line, and kept the game at the Bulls pace. Chicago went into the fourth with 67-64 lead and its defense was able to close the game and keep the ball away from Boston's closers.
It was Thibodeau's first win against the team he spent three years with. His knowledge of what the Celtics ran was instrumental in holding them to just 37 points in the second half.
"As soon as they called it, we were calling it out," Boozer said on knowing Boston's sets. "Thibs does a great job of preparing us for every team but he knows this team through and through. He had us prepared again tonight. We knew what they were going to run because he was there however many years he was there. When you have the insight -- we also had former Celtic Brian Scalabrine. Scal helped us a lot tonight too, by talking to us about what they were trying to do, how they were trying to play defense, their offensive schemes and we just ran with what they told us and we did a great job of executing our game plan.
"They're a great defensive and very good offensive team. They execute very well and we held them to 79 points. That speaks volumes for all the guys in this locker room, having a tough road trip and coming in tonight and putting in the effort in that we had. Moving forward, we have to have this same effort every night."
After avoiding a three-game losing streak, the Bulls will try to use this as motivation going forward to Monday's game against the Pistons.
"It's definitely a momentum-builder," said Ronnie Brewer, who contributed 10 points and some crucial defensive plays in the fourth. "We had some let downs on the road. You have to give it to the teams that we played because they played really well. They fought every possession and got wins. For us, to play well at home against a team like the Celtics, it definitely is a statement-maker for us and we're just trying to build off this win and go into the next game with this momentum."