The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Cavaliers

The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Cavaliers

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011
4:20 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam

1. As much as Roses offensive game is lauded around the league, his individual defense has also improved under the guidance of Thibodeau, known for his expertise on the side of the ball. His defense looks a lot better to me. I think he's been very consistentI think he's much better on the ball, getting back in front of the ball and the way he's challenging shots right now, he's up on every shot and he's a hard guy to score over if he's up on the shot. He's getting better. His weak-side awareness is much better. Just his overall defense is vastly improved, said Thibodeau. It's not only individual, but it's team. It's tying everybody together. I think his individual defense has improved, but also his team defense and him giving help has improved alsoI think he's taking a lot of pride in it. I think he's really worked at it. Each day, he's come in and he's really worked at it. You can see it in practice. In practice, he's working extremely hard on his defense. Rose says the keys to his improvement have been Just making sure I get into the ball, fighting over screens, not giving up and contesting everybodys jump shot when they come off, although his perfectionist head coach holds him to an even higher standard. Its always, Try harder. It could be where the guys coming off a pick-and-roll and I just contest the shot, and they hit the shot. Ill look at him, hell look at me. Ill say, I contested it. Hell say, Try harder! Im like, Man, you come out here and try. Hes always making sure that Im always out there, giving my all, especially on the defensive end because thats where we really need to get it going, he quipped. One specific area in which hes used his athleticism to become a force is defending his man in pick-and-roll scenarios. Every time people come off picks, theyve got to look for me, especially when they have a little bit of room. Im making sure that Im getting out there, contesting their shot without fouling. Its kind of hard sometimes when theyre in front of you, but Ive j
ust got to find a way to make sure I dont foul them and send them to the line, said Rose. When guys game are usually coming off pick-and-rolls and shooting, when they do that only a couple times during quarters, that tells me Im getting to them.

2. In Luol Deng, while he doesnt garner the same attention as opposing defenses commit to Rose and power forward Carlos Boozer, the teams top two scorers, the Bulls have a luxury with a third scoring option capable of big offensive outputs, as evidenced by his last two games. Obviously Deng and Rose have developed on-court chemistry in their years together, but now Deng has a post-up threat in Boozer to deflect even more pressure away from himnot to mention much-improved effectiveness from 3-point range. Its been a while for me since Ive played with a low-post presence like that. I think the last guy I could say that about is really Eddy Curry, when I had him here my rookie year and my second year. Just getting back to the cutting game, the spotting up and just reading when Booz is being Booz and when the other team is double teaming him. I just feel like its going to come. Were going to get better as a team and were going to get better playing off him, said the small forward, who described playing with Boozer as really easy. He continued: Ive always had my 3-point shot. I always felt like spacing-wisea lot of times in the past, I was in the cornerbut now, Im finding myself floating into it. Im shooting it more in transition. I just know with Derricks penetration, I can widen out the floor for him and its something thats worked well for Derrick this year. Spacing out the floor, hes been able to attack. Teams just have to pick. Take out the threes and spread out the floor, Derrick will attack. A night like tonight, they tried to take it away and we hit shots. Rose acknowledged that when Deng is in his offensive groove, the team functions more smoothly on that end of the floor. We're great, knowing that he's got his flow going, got his game going and he's been doing a great job attacking the basket, where he's trying to get to the line, getting the rebounds. He's big for this team. Everybody comes into the game looking to stop me or Booz. Lu, you see where he'll have a couple of games where he'll score 20-something points or 30 points. That's huge for our team, said Rose. He's doing good, man. He's balling. He's comfortable, I'll say and that's the only thing he should be worried about, being comfortable. Thibodeau added: Lu has been terrific. He's averaging almost 18 points a game and again, I don't measure over one or two games, if a guy isn't making shots. I look at more the total season and 10 or more games, what's going on, but Lu has proven he can score in a lot of different ways for us, whether it's his post-up, the catch-and-shoot, slashing-cutting type game and he's a very efficient scorer, and adding the three, I think has made him even harder to guardYou want your team to play to its strengths and when you look at the strengths of our team--Carlos inside and in the pick-and-roll with Derrick, and of course, Luol has proven that he can score in the pick-and-roll also or catch-and-shoot--the important thing is to play to your strengths. When you look at the top teams in the league, most of them are broken down that way. Three primary scorers get the majority of the shots and often times, it comes down to your ability to get your three primary scorers better than your opponent can get their primary scorers.

3. Rose also discussed his ever-improving chemistry with Boozer, who has been a juggernaut since getting acclimated to his new squad. The duo has been extremely effective in pick-and-roll scenarios, as opposing defenses must choose between Roses devastating penetration ability and Boozers inside-outside offensive capabilities. It will be very tough for teams to stop it because their bigs have to make a choice whether to stop me with the ball and by that time, I'm close to the rim or Booz is going to have a jump shot, or if he's rolling, he's going to have a dunk, said Rose. He kind of rolls like Lakers star Pau Gasol. Gasol doesn't really go too far...usually, when you hit a big rolling, he's close to the basket, but Booz wants the ball a little bit off, so that he could shoot the shot or dribble--one dribble--and get to his left hand. So, it's kind of weird. That's the first big I've ever played with like that, but he's doing a good job at itIt's kind of weird where he catches it because there's a lot of commotion right there--a lot of people moving--but he finds a way to score. Thibodeau believes that the pair also benefits their teammates because of the attention they draw. When you put two primary scorers in the pick-and-roll, it also creates a lot of easy opportunities for others because if they commit to the double team, they put two on the ball and they're rotating quickly to Carlos, that means one guy's open. We have to make quick decisions, hit the open man and sustain our spacing, but I think they've gotten more comfortable with each other, I think it's a hard play to guard and Carlos does a lot of clever things on the pick-and-roll. Sometimes he's going all the way, sometimes he's rolling halfway and sometimes he's popping, so he knows how to read open areas.

4. After their last matchup with Clevelanda too-close-for-comfort affair in the midst of a snowstorm, the Bulls wont take the Cavaliers lightly. However, in the throes of a downward spiral that began with LeBron James return to his home state last month, the visitors have been struggling mightily. With a lineup devoid of a top-tier go-to scorerveteran forward Antawn Jamison appears to be past his prime and point guard Mo Williams is more of a complimentary playerand injuries also proving to be a major issue, Cleveland head coach Byron Scott might have bit off more than he can chew with his newest reclamation project. Still, its a Central Division rivalry game and although the Bulls are clearly superior, they havent been playing up to their potential lately, so another close call could be in order.

5.Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

Aggrey Sam is'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.

Bulls fall flat in blowout loss in Dallas

Bulls fall flat in blowout loss in Dallas

DALLAS (AP) -- Wesley Matthews has taken greater responsibility with Dirk Nowitzki out of the Dallas Mavericks' lineup much of this season.

Matthews scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half of Dallas' 107-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

"Matthews was the star of the game, obviously," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He is our leader right now with Dirk out. He really sets the tone for us in the locker room and on the floor. He is just the vocal guy."

Matthews has accepted the expanded role as Nowitzki has been limited to five games by a strained right Achilles tendon.

"I feel like that's one of the reasons why they brought me over here (from Portland). Through this rough patch, injuries and everything, everybody had to mold together. It's almost like we had to restructure ourselves. I think everybody has embraced that."

Harrison Barnes scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half to help Dallas improve to 4-15.

Chicago was coming off a 111-105 victory over defending champion Cleveland on Friday night.

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Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 26 points.

"I don't think anybody played well tonight," Butler said. "We didn't play with energy on either end of the floor."

Barnes powered the Mavericks to a 17-point first-quarter lead with eight points.

"They came out and threw the first punch and kept throwing, and we could just never recover from that," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We did expend a lot of energy (Friday) night."

Dwight Powell (17) and rookie Dorian Finney-Smith (11) had career highs in scoring, and Deron Williams had a season-high 15 assists with only one turnover.

"The biggest thing was we were even (43-43) on the boards," Carlisle said. Andrew Bogut had a game-high 11 rebounds, and Powell grabbed eight.

Neither team scored in the first 2:15, but Dallas went on a 7-0 run over the next 1:20. The Mavericks led 23-6 with 3:17 left. The quarter ended with Dallas leading 29-18. Bogut had six points and eight rebounds.

Chicago pulled within six points three times in the second quarter, but Dallas finished the first half with a 57-45 lead. In the third quarter, Matthews had 14 points, and the Maverick led by as many as 21 points.

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet


Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

Here are some of Friday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

Dwyane Wade, Bulls take first blood with LeBron James, Cavs

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

White Sox reportedly asking for No. 1 prospect plus more in trade return for Chris Sale

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 1