Monday, Jan. 17, 2011
Posted 2:38 p.m. Updated 6:14 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
MEMPHIS Tom Thibodeau received an excellent birthday present Monday afternoon at the FedEx Forum. His shorthanded squad gave him a 96-84 win, most likely the only thing he wished for.
Led by Derrick Roses first career triple-double and the marksmanship of reserve sharpshooter Kyle Korver, the Bulls (28-13) cruised past the Grizzlies (19-22), without either center Joakim Noah or power forward Carlos Boozer, both starters, on an earlier-than-usual holiday matinee.
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I thought the way we came out to start the game, we got established defensively and we were able to get into the paint a little bit off the dribble. I thought our bench played well, Luol was terrific and of course, Derrick, excellent. Great team win, said Thibodeau. Obviously wed rather be whole and healthy, but were very confident in the guys that we have.
Added Rose: We lost two great players for us Joakim and Booz we just wanted to come out and let them know it was going to be a tough game. We just played together and played defense.
Playing with an edge, knowing that its going to be tough. We played with a lot of intensity. They made their run, we held them off and we won the game, continued Rose, when asked about the teams approach while missing their top two interior players. Its no big deal. We were talking about it in the locker room: Playing with an edge. Coach put it on the board: We have to play with an edge. Knowing that were missing some key players, weve still got to go out there and hustle, and make up for missing them.
A quick start by Luol Deng (game-high 28 points, five rebounds, four assists) not to mention an unexpected contribution from light-scoring starting shooting guard Keith Bogans propelled the Bulls to an early lead over the home team.
Despite Chicago not having either Boozer or Noah in the lineup, the Grizzlies sizable frontcourt couldnt take advantage, as starting center Marc Gasol and backup Darrell Arthur each picked up a pair of fouls in quick succession, forcing raw second-year center Hasheem Thabeet into the contest before he gave way to Iranian big man Hamed Haddadi.
Rose (22 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) struggled to find his touch early, but he remained aggressive and got to the free-throw line, and with Deng sharing the offensive load, the Bulls led, 25-17, after a quarter.
Reserve sharpshooter Korver (22 points, 6-for-10 3-pointers) helped the Bulls extend their led upon entering the contest, hitting two consecutive triples hed later hit a driving bank shot, a rarity for Korver to give the visitors a comfortable double-figure winning margin.
It feels very good. It does. Its been a pretty frustrating stretch and it definitely feels good to come out here and do well, said Korver. As a shooter, you need rhythm and when you play off a guy like Derrick, who gives you space and time to get rhythm, it means everything. You dont always need that rhythm, but it helps a lot and when youve got Derrick guys are trying to double him, theyre blitzing him, theyre always worried about him and youre able to kind of swing open it means everything.
Taj Gibson (10 points, seven rebounds, career-high six blocks) told CSNChicago.com, This team didnt get to him as fast as most teams did in the past, so theyre going to watch film and regret that because Kyle can really shoot the ball.
Thibodeau chimed in: Korver has had a number of shots in the last few games go in and out on him, and even when hes not shooting well, he still helps us because he spaces the floor for us. Nobody leaves him, so it gives Carlos more room in the post, gives Derrick more room off the dribble and he helps everybody.
Korver acknowledged that his clutch 3-pointer in the Bulls win Saturday over the Miami Heat helped his confidence.
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Its hard to say that it didnt because I shot terrible for a month and then you have a decent game. Ive felt good the last week or so, shooting the ball in practice. I just havent gotten good looks in games, he explained. Sometimes you just have to see the ball go in and it was nice to hit the first couple shots tonight.
Said Rose: If that shot didnt get him going, I didnt know what will. He has a lot of confidence in his jump shottonight he came out huge.
Despite a late second-quarter push from the home team, Chicago went into halftime with a 53-42 advantage.
Led by Zach Randolph's (team-high 21 points, 13 rebounds) interior scoring and offensive rebounding, Memphis started the second half in strong fashion, but the individual stylings of Rose in a semi-homecoming, as he spent his lone season of college playing home games at the FedEx Forum gave the Bulls a major boost and once again put a wide distance between them and the home team.
Deng was also a major contributor, showing his effectiveness in pick-and-roll situations with Rose and locking down small-forward counterpart Rudy Gay on the defensive end of the floor.
Really our defense is a team defense. Im just sticking to our game plan. Those guys can shoot the ball, Im really sticking to their body, but the help is really there. Guys are just in the right places and our game plan on Rudy really worked for us, said Deng. When Carlos was out, thats Deng as the screener in pick-and-rolls with Rose what we were doing and I knew Coach was going to back to thatI knew there were going to be a lot more pick-and-rolls and weve been there before, so with the adjustment, we did a good job.
Added Thibodeau: The thing about Luol is hes so solid. Rudy Gay is a great player. He got some good looks that he normally makes and I think Luol played him well. The thing that Luol does so well is hes going to make a guy work and as long as hes on the body and hes challenging the shot and the team defense is there to help and support, guys can score, but you want them to do it on volume shots and tonight, we were fortunate.
Rose chimed in: Deng and Gay always have a battle like that. Both of them are good athletes, play hard especially when they play against each other we just made sure that we keyed in on Rudy, making sure that all his shots and all his drives were contested.
With Gay shut down, Grizzlies reserve shooting guard O.J. Mayo (15 points) the subject of some Bulls fans affections sparked Memphis early in the final stanza, as the home team scored the first eight points of the period, leading to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau calling a timeout to stop the bleeding.
Chicago finally found the mark offensively, but Mayos hot hand didnt go away and Memphis chipped away at its deficit, making it a single-digit contest for the first time since the second quarter.
As the games stretch run approached, Roses scintillating drives to the rim, as usual, were important to the team rebuffing the Grizzlies advances, with Korvers marksmanship, Dengs versatile offensive game and timely shooting and solid defense from the post tandem of Kurt Thomas and Gibson factoring in.
Of his approach, Gibson told CSNChicago.com, Just bring energy Im a high-energy player just bring energy, contest shots, rebound and just play really aggressive, and I just brought that tonight.
It just showed that we can beat anybody any given night, as long as we play our style of basketball, play hard and theres a lot of players capable of playing, he continued. If you look at our bench, everyone on our bench has had a big-time starting role at one point in his career. Weve just got a lot of guys ready to step up when they have an opportunity to play.
Deng also credited the teams depth.
Even when Jo is out and Carlos is out and now theyre out at the same time, we feel like we have enough guys. I thought Taj was great tonight. His defense was good. Kurt has been playing great for us. We have guys who can step up as soon as they get the opportunity, he said. Its good to see Kyle shooting the ball that well and guys coming in like Taj is stepping up I think its just good for the team as we go on forward and we have everyone back, guys will have the confidence when you go in there.
Added Korver: It says were a really deep team. We can do this here and there; we couldnt do this all season long. Taj played his heart out tonight. He played so hard. Kurt, same thing. Those two guys really set the tone for us on defense. Thats where it all started.
Chicago cruised in the games waning moments and with the only thing left to accomplish was Rose notching his first career triple-double, the All-Star point guard grabbed his 10th rebound of the contest on the games final possession, corralling a Gibson miss after Thomas kept the ball alive.
It feels the same, said Rose, who previously expressed skepticism that hed achieve the feat anytime soon. A win is a win, no matter how my stats are. Im just happy that we got the win without some of the key players on this team.
Not at all. I was too caught up in the game, he continued, when asked if he was aware that he was close to getting a triple-double late in the game. My whole concern was trying to stop them, so that led to a triple-double, I guess.
Thibodeau was just as matter-of-fact when discussing it.
Obviously the scoring is there all the time and the assists are usually there, and Ive said this all along: I think hes made much more of a concerted effort to rebound the ball, so now when you add the rebounding component, thats where I think the triple-doubles will come, he explained. The better he rebounds the ball, the more well be able to get out into the open floor and get some easy transition scores. I think those fast breaks, the ones in which he rebounds and busts out with the ball, theyre impossible to stop
Gibson told CSNChicago.com, Rose just played the way he normally playshe came out aggressive leading the charge. It was a great win for us and a great thing for him.
Rose indicated his comfort level with the arena helped with his performance.
I played 20-something games on that court and kind of know everything about it, where you should shoot the ball. Tonight I didnt shoot the ball that well, but tonight everybody else was shooting the ball well. Just being back on this court felt good, said Rose. Just to be back here, be around the city brings back a lot of memories, but this time, we came here for business and we wanted to win this game.
Business as usual indeed, with the added bonus of pleasing the birthday boy, Thibodeau. Forget a cake, a defensive-oriented victory while facing adversity is enough for him.
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.