Rose takes charge, leads Bulls over Celtics

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Rose takes charge, leads Bulls over Celtics

Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011
11:45 PM

By Chris Cason
CSNChicago.com

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."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

On the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Kevin Anderson, Vincent Goodwill and Kendall Gill welcome in SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to discuss the Celtics' motivation to trade for Jimmy Butler. 

The guys also break down whether the league is undervaluing the Bulls All-Star. 

Later, they debate the contant Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan comparison and ask if it's fair after the King's poor showing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. O'Donnell also analyzes the NBA Draft. He believes Terrance Ferguson is the right pick for GarPax. 

Finally, a behind the scenes look at Goodwill vs. Kendall on the court, and Kendall on the right way to parent a young athlete. 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

Watching LeBron James tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs the way Michael Jordan used to do in his prime, it's become increasingly apparent other teams in the East will be chasing James and the Cavaliers for the next 3-5 years.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on inside the walls of the Advocate Center as the Bulls' front office prepares for the June 22nd draft and the start of free agency on July 1st. 

Jimmy Butler earned third-team All-NBA honors on Thursday, putting him in position to earn the Designated Veteran Player Extension with another All-NBA selection in either 2018 or 2019. Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that could mean a contract starting at $42 million in 2019-20 with a total five-year value of over $246 million.

Are the Bulls prepared to pay that kind of money to a player who has logged big minutes over his career and will turn 30 just before the 2019-20 season?

If not, the best time to deal Butler would be right now. Butler is coming off the best season of his NBA career, including a starting spot for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. Plus, he still has two more guaranteed years on his contract at far below market value for one of the top 15 players in the league.

Tuesday's draft lottery pretty much eliminated Boston from a potential Butler trade. Celtics' GM Danny Ainge loves Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and is locked in to drafting him with the number one pick. Boston's future couldn't look brighter after finishing with the best regular season record in the East, advancing to the Conference Finals, and winning the lottery.

The Celtics will add Fultz and still have enough cap room to offer a max deal to free agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately for Boston coach Brad Stevens at Butler. How does a starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley sound, with a second unit of Fultz, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk? It might not be good enough to take down the Cavs or Warriors, but should position the Celtics for a long run as a serious contender.

So, if the Celtics are out, where would the Bulls look for a possible Butler deal? Phoenix probably holds the best combination of assets, starting with the No. 4 overall pick. If point guards Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox go 1-2-3, the Bulls could grab Kansas forward Josh Jackson, an Andrew Wiggins-clone who could wind up being the best player in this draft.

The Suns also have a pair of intriguing young power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, both top 10 picks a year ago. Plus, Phoenix could include 23-year-old small forward T.J. Warren and Chicago native Tyler Ulis in the package going back to the Bulls.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is reportedly under pressure to show significant improvement next season after winning just 47 games combined over the last two years. Adding another young player to the roster isn't the best way to improve the team immediately, so don't be surprised if the Suns make a pitch to acquire Butler in the days leading up to the draft.

Similar story in Philadelphia, where the Sixers own the third overall pick next month. Under former GM Sam Hinkie, the "trust the process" approach led to a roster purge and the acquisition of lottery picks. Right now, the Sixers are overloaded with young players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Justin Anderson and Nik Stauskas.

Would current GM Bryan Colangelo be willing to trade the pick, along with Okafor and Anderson in a package for Butler? The Bulls could choose between Jackson and Kentucky's lightning-quick point guard Fox with the draft pick they’d acquire, potentially adding three young starters to a new-look line-up. 

Given all the trade rumors surrounding Butler in the past, you can expect a number of teams will be calling the Bulls leading up to the draft, including Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves, coming off a disappointing season with assets to offer like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which direction the Bulls' front office wants to go. Try to build a contender around Butler, or use him as the trade asset to start a full re-build. We should get our answer in the days leading up to the draft.

Around the Association

Thursday's All-NBA announcement could lead to a pair of All-Star forwards changing teams this summer. We already mentioned Hayward's situation in Utah. Without the designated veteran player extension, he might be seriously tempted to join his old college coach in Boston. 

Hayward could sign a one year contract with a player option for a second season in Utah with hopes of earning the DVPE next summer, but if Hayward hits the open market, it's clear he'll be the number one target for the Celtics this off-season. 

Paul George also could be in play after failing to make one of the three All-NBA teams. The Pacers were hoping to sign their All-Star forward to a max five-year extension at over $200 million, but George isn't eligible now. George still could sign an extension with Indiana, but not at the dollars he would have received had he made All-NBA. 

Rumors of George's desire to join his home-state Lakers in free agency after the 2017-18 season continue to grow, especially with Magic Johnson likely to add dynamic point guard Lonzo Ball in next month's draft. The Pacers might be forced to trade George to get some assets now, rather than let him walk away for nothing in free agency next summer.

Back to the Bulls, who will bring in dozens of prospects to Chicago to work out at the Advocate Center before the draft. Unless they make a major trade to move up, the front office almost has to go "best player available" with their picks at Nos. 16 and 38. Look for them to focus on an athletic wing in the first round with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's OG Anunoby, Duke's Harry Giles and Australian pro Terrance Ferguson among the likely options. 

But if the team decides to part company with restricted free agent Niko Mirotic, that could open the door for the Bulls to select a power forward like Cal's Ivan Rabb, Wake Forest's John Collins, Utah's Kyle Kuzma or UCLA's T.J. Leaf. They could even draft an athletic young center like Jarrett Allen of Texas, Creighton's Justin Patton or UCLA's Ike Anigbogu.

In Round 2, the Bulls might look to add another young point guard to the mix like Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Iowa State's Monte Morris, Villanova's Josh Hart, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams Goss or Big 12 Player of the Year Frank Mason from Kansas.

Quotes of the Week

The Celtics might have edged Cleveland out for the top seed in the East during the regular season, but after watching Game 1 Wednesday night, it's clear Brad Stevens’ team will be lucky to get a win in the series.

This from Stevens about the NBA's version of Benjamin Button, LeBron James. "It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better."

Still, Celtics' star Isaiah Thomas isn't about to concede the series just yet, saying, "We're not afraid of Cleveland. They're not the Monstars."  

Well, Thomas might be right about the rest of the Cavs. But if you remember the movie "Space Jam", I'm pretty sure James would be a good fit in that Monstars line-up. And the Celtics don't have Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny or Bill Murray!