Rose's 42 can't prevent Bulls 'step backwards'

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Rose's 42 can't prevent Bulls 'step backwards'

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted 9:24 p.m. Updated 10:57 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLIS All good things must come to an end, as the Bulls (49-19) learned Friday night, following a 115-108 overtime loss to the Pacers (30-39) at Conseco Fieldhouse, ending their eight-game winning streak.

Despite an improbable comeback, led by Derrick Roses MVP-solidifying and career-high-tying 42-point performance, Chicago lost its first contest to Central Division competition this season.

You usually get what you deserve, a melancholy Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau stated cryptically. This is a step backwards.

Rose, who used a career-high 18-for-21 free-throw outing to get the Bulls back into the game in the fourth after the Pacers turned back repeated Chicago comeback attempts, blamed himself for the loss.

WATCH: Rose takes loss hard

All you can do is learn from it, said the downcast All-Star point guard, who capped a 19-point individual fourth quarter with three clutch foul shots after being fouled on a last gasp, long-range attempt with 1.2 seconds left to tie the game at 102-all, sending it into overtime. Next time, I should do something different to change the game.

Thats the time where Im supposed to take over and I didnt show up, Rose continued, referring to the extra session, in which the Pacers reeled off the first seven points and he eventually fouled out. Thats a team that we could possibly see in the playoffs and I cant wait to see them again.

Chicago still the top team in the Eastern Conference after Boston also lost Friday night made its mark this season with an aggressive brand of basketball with a heavy emphasis on rebounding and defense. Both areas were dominated by the Pacers for much of the contest.

They just came out with a lot more energy than us to start the game. They were aggressive, said Luol Deng, who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds on the evening. We played hard, we fought back, but we could have definitely played smarter. Weve just got to move on to the next game.

They outrebounded us. they were just more aggressive, more physical than us. in the second half, we started to be more physical. If we would have done that in the first half, we would have been fine. Just a slow start.

A disappointed Thibodeau concurred: We shouldnt have been surprised. Thats who they are, thats what they do.

Youve got to get in the fray. Youve got to make contact, then youve got to fight and we didnt do that until late," said the coach. When you wait around, now all of a sudden, youre in a hole. So youre fighting your way out of a hole and then you dont have enough energy to finish it off in the end. Thats exactly what happened.

Propelled by the post duo of Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert, Indiana jumped out to an early lead and didnt look back scoring 31 points in the opening period by going inside typically an unwise strategy against the Bulls legion of solid post defenders and continued to go back to the well early and often.

Rose provided much of the Bulls offense in the first quarter and while center Joakim Noah ably assisted him, he admitted that his trademark energetic play and tenacious rebounding werent as impactful as usual.

It just shows you that if you dont come with the right mindset to start the game Im talking about for me, personally Ive got to do a better job, said Noah, who missed the Bulls home win Tuesday over Washington with flu-like symptoms and still appears to be under the weather. Ive been playing with low energy.

I just feel like individually, Ive got to step it up, play with a little bit more juice.

Thibodeau opted to pair veteran Kurt Thomas starting in place of Carlos Boozer, who missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle with Taj Gibson, who corralled a game-high 16 rebounds, for much of the contest, including the teams fourth-quarter comeback.

It was definitely physical out there. Thats what Im used to. I like to play that kind of game, it was a lot fun, but we came up a little short, Thomas, whose hard screens and veteran savvy Thomas noticed, when the game officials didnt, that Indiana tried to avoid sending woeful free-throw shooter and veteran counterpart Jeff Foster to the line after he was fouled certainly kept Indiana on its toes, recounted to CSNChicago.com.

Gibson told CSNChicago.com: It was just a tough game. Normally, were the aggressor, hit teams in the mouth and set the tone, but tonight, they set the tone early on us. its kind of hard to slow down a hot team.

As the game went on, we were able to get some crucial stops, Derrick made some tough plays. We just couldnt close it out in overtime.

According to Thibodeau, Gibson was the only member of the Bulls usually-reliable second unit to come up with a consistent performance all evening.

Taj had really good energy off the bench, said the first-year NBA head coach, regarded as a favorite for the league Coach of the Year award. He was the only one off the bench that gave us a spark. We were flat.

The contest was extremely physical throughout and while the Bulls made it a more competitive game in the third quarter, foul trouble and inconsistent officiating, on both ends was an issue, as Rose was forced to hit the pine with four fouls.

I dont get that many fouls in games. I could go a whole game without getting a foul, reasoned Rose afterwards. I was just telling them the referees to make sure they look at the tape with some of those fouls. Thats all I said.

Adding to Chicagos woes was a preponderance of long-distance attempts, a recent trend for the normally conservative, inside-oriented offensive squad, but one Thibodeau found disconcerting, as well as a surprising game-long disadvantage on the glass.

They got 23 second-chance points. Thats probably the difference in the game right there. We came out, we settled, they were attacking us, we were back on their heels, he explained. Theyre a physical team, they killed us on the boards to start the game and then we never adjusted. Weve got to get the ball moving. The balls not moving, were settling for quick threes. Wrong shots.

Thats fools gold.

It seemed as if the visitors wouldnt be able break through in the final period of regulation, but Rose - the consensus favorite for league MVP honors - put on a show worthy of the hype hes been afforded, relentlessly willing his way to the basket and either finishing at the rim, getting to the line, or both.

I was just trying to do anything to get my team the win and at the time, it was me putting pressure on their defense, stated the ever-straightforward 22-year-old. Thats with me attacking.

Chimed in Deng: Derrick was great. It was one of those games where they couldnt stop him. He kept going to the hole, he kept getting to the line and he got us back in the game, and made the huge free throws to get it to overtime.

We always play hard as a team, no matter if were down 20, 30, he continued. Derrick is always going to make great plays. He led us to a comeback today.

Roses aforementioned heroics put the game into overtime, but after the Pacers reeled off the first seven points of the extra session and the All-Star point guard subsequently fouled out, it was clear the Bulls had run out of gas.

The only quarter we played defense was the fourth, said Thibodeau, unimpressed with his stars effort, as he was more focused on the teams overall showing. We should be able to count on our defense and our rebounding every night, and when we dont and we dont defend, were not very good.

Acknowledging that the Pacers could be first-round foes next month made the loss doubly hard for Rose, whose body displayed scratches all over as he conducted interviews in the Conseco Fieldhouse visiting locker room.

Im beat up, but thats basketball. Im fresh. I was out there playing my hardest, giving my all, but physically, I feel fine, he said. When you lose, it hurts the same, unless youre in the championship game thats when I think it hurts worse but all these games, when you get to the playoffs, its going to hurt bad if you lose.

We definitely have their attention, have everybodys attention. We started the game off bad, gave them confidence, sluggish and you cant do that against teams like this, Rose continued. Our biggest thing is playing with an edge and being aggressive, and we didnt do that this game. And its because of me.

Although he took it just as hard personally, Noah put the defeat in perspective.

Theyre fighting for their lives, trying to make the playoffs, said Noah, remembering the Bulls plight the previous two seasons. Losing always sucks because you look back and you feel like theres a lot of things we could have done better.

Weve got to move on from it quickly because were playing for big things.

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.

As the NBA evolves, Bulls' Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez experiment with 3-pointers

As the NBA evolves, Bulls' Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez experiment with 3-pointers

Taj Gibson began working on his 3-point shot as early as this past offseason. That work in the gym from beyond the arc continued into training camp, the preseason and eventually the regular season.

The eight-year veteran didn't attempt his first 3-pointer until the 21st game of the season, and that came in the final minute as the Bulls trailed by nine against the Pistons. Gibson's 27-foot heave from the left wing was off, and he proceeded to play the next 17 games without attempting another.

But recently Gibson had a conversation with head coach Fred Hoiberg, who knew the 31-year-old power forward had been putting in additional time to work on his corner 3-pointers. Hoiberg told Gibson he believed in his corner 3-pointer and that he'd allow the Bulls' forward to shoot them in games.

On Jan. 10, Gibson took a pass from Rajon Rondo midway through the first quarter and hoisted a 3-pointer from the left corner. He connected, marking just the second made 3-pointer of his career, and his first since the 2010-11 season.

Between triples Gibson, always a reliable midrange shooter, attempted and missed 22 3-pointers. But with the added practice time and confidence, and a blessing from his head coach, Gibson believes the 3-pointer can become an asset, going as far to say he’d like to shoot two triples per game.

There is, however, one aspect of the shot still standing in his way.

"When you get out there you never really realize how far it is until you're lined up and the crowd is like, 'Shoot it!'" Gibson said after Thursday's practice at the Advocate Center. "Your teammates are behind you, but it's fun. Hopefully (I) look forward to trying to make some in the future."

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Gibson attempted two more triples in Saturday's win over the Hornets and another in Sunday's win over the Grizzlies. All three were off-target, but just seeing Gibson step into the attempts and fire with confidence was a sight for sore eyes on a Bulls team lacking from outside.

Through the season's first half the Bulls rank last in both 3-point field goal percentage (31.7 percent) and 3-pointers made (6.4 per game). Their 276 total made 3-pointers as a team are less than two pairs of teammates (Houston’s Eric Gordon and James Harden, 301; Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, 283).

The Bulls' expected top 3-point shooters – Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Denzel Valentine – have combined to go 114-for-350, or 32.5 percent. Starters Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade haven’t fared much better, albeit on fewer attempts, while Chicago's trio of point guards have made 29 percent of their 144 3-point attempts. Simply put, there's ample opportunity to see what Gibson can do from deep without messing up the team's current perimeter shooting.

"It's something that he worked on a lot in the offseason. So yeah if he's open in the corner we want those shots," Hoiberg said. "It’s obviously a huge part of today's game. The 3-point shot, to have multiple players that can stretch the floor out there, those teams are really hard to guard."

Gibson's not the only Bulls big man experimenting. Robin Lopez said he, too, has been working on his outside shot in practice. Gibson joked that Hoiberg hasn't yet given Lopez permission to fire away from deep, while Hoiberg cracked that Lopez might be jealous of the 5.2 3-pointers his twin brother, Brook, is attempting this season in Brooklyn.

Lopez, like Gibson, has always had a dependable midrange shot. Per NBA.com, his 44.4 field goal percentage on midrange shots is fifth among centers this season.

"That’s something I've been working on more this season. I don't know if it's game-ready yet. That's more of a confidence issue," said Lopez, who added he's been working with assistant coach Pete Myers on the shot. "I think the way the NBA is going, I don't see why not. If Brook can do it, I definitely can."

Lopez is 0-for-5 from distance in his nine-year career, including 0-for-1 with the Bulls this season. But the defensive-minded center knows the ever-changing NBA game now includes teams wanting to get as many perimeter shooters on the floor at once. If he and/or Gibson can eventually be part of that, he knows the difference it could make.

"I think it's wonderful for the game. I think there's a real premium on skill at all positions on the court. I think that's going to continue. You're going to have more skilled and more talented big men," he said. "There's always a new breed of big men right around the corner."

Bulls Road Ahead: Trying to get back to .500 yet again

Bulls Road Ahead: Trying to get back to .500 yet again

Mark Schanowski and Mark Strotman break down what the Bulls need to do to get back on track on this edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

A stellar win over the Grizzlies on Sunday has all but been forgotten, as the Bulls lost to the Mavericks on Tuesday. Now back under .500 for the fourth time this season, the Bulls will have to regroup as they prepare for a back-to-back against the Hawks and Kings.

See what else they had to say in this week's Bulls Road Ahead.