Vengeful Bulls crush Knicks, share best record

443981.jpg

Vengeful Bulls crush Knicks, share best record

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 9:49 p.m. Updated: 11:25 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
NEW YORK Vengeance is the Bulls, after Tuesday evenings 103-90 thrashing of the Knicks in Madison Square Garden . The win gave Chicago a victory over every team in the NBA this season. A 26-2 run to start the second half blew away New York in a game that featured a series of highlight-reel dunks from Derrick Rose and returns to the Bulls ownership of the backboardsled by Carlos Boozers yeomans effortand Joakim Noahs high-activity level, respectively.

New York s run-and-gun, freewheeling style of play set the tone from the games outset, with new Knicks Carmelo Anthony (21 points) and Chauncey Billups (10 points, eight assists) the prime beneficiary and benefactors early. Mike DAntonis team spread the floor on its' guests and looked to push the tempo, resulting in the Bulls having to stay on their toes defensively, especially in transition.
Watch: Thibodeau on defending Anthony and Billups

With Billups and Anthony, it puts a lot of pressure on your defenseyou have to have clean pick-and-roll coveragesand then the way they shoot the three, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. If you dont have a multiple-effort mentality against them, youre going to give up open looks at the three-point line, and if they start making, it could be a long night for you.

With All-Star power forward Amare Stoudemire out of the Knicks lineup, Thibodeau looked to Boozer (14 points, 22 rebounds) to use his blend of bulk and skill to score in the low post, and he responded with an eight-point, nine rebound quarter.

Thats the way that he plays. If it wasnt for some bunnies missed layups, he would have had 30 points tonight, said Rose. We were just trying to work inside-out.

Added Thibodeau: His rebounding was off the charts.

He and Derrick are doing a great job with that, he continued. Derrick making the play to Carlos, and then Carlos making the simple play to get us the open shot.

His partner inside, Noah (13 points), made a solid initial showing in his hometown, playing with the gusto and underrated skill that made him so effective when healthy.

Still, although Rose (26 points) put his MVP-worthy skills on display for the Madison Garden crowda jaw-dropping windmill finish of an alley-oop in transition certainly will be on his season highlight reelthe visitors trailed, 27-24, after the opening period.

New York (42-39) extended its lead behind its second unit, which outplayed the Bulls Bench Mob, beating them to the punch for loose balls and taking advantage of transition scoring opportunities.

Adjustments via Thibodeau and a 20-second timeoutand a significant increase in energybrought the Bulls back, as Luol Deng (23 points, 10 rebounds) carried the offensive loadthe heavily-used small forward played extended minutes, due to the Bulls losing swingman Ronnie Brewer to a sprained thumbwith C.J. Watson also contributing, putting the Knicks on their heels.

Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the suddenly close-knit affair and with his starterssans shooting guard Keith Boganssharing the scoring load almost evenly, Chicago (61-20) found its groove against the offensively-potent home team. But even with another Rose postera vicious two-handed flush on the baselinethrilling the Garden audience, the Bulls went into the half on the wrong side of a 55-52 score.

After a Bogans basket to start the third quarter, Rose went on an individual spurt to cap an 9-0 Bulls runincluding a technical foul on New Yorks Shawne Williamsprompting a Knicks timeout. Deng then stepped into his role of co-starNoah might be the second-most popular Bull and Boozer the next most-accomplished (both after Rose, of course), but Deng has been the second-most valuable player all seasontaking a charge on Anthony and scoring three baskets before a Bogans triple from the corner made the befuddled home team press pause on the growing snowball.

It didnt stop there, as the visitors eventually extended the run to 26-2, giving themselves a comfortable advantage, mostly by virtue of their swarming defense leading to easy fast-break scoresincluding yet another Rose poster-worthy dunk, this one an unchallenged double-pump reverseand crisp offensive execution in the halfcourt.

We had good energy, I thought we rebounded the ball well, so we got out into the open floor and got some easy scoring opportunities and I thought that energized us. that gave us some life, said Thibodeau. We put more into it, more effort and they missed some shots that they normally make, too. Once we started challenging shots, it got better. Our pick-and-roll defense was better in the second half. But you can never relax against this team because even if you get a lead, the way they shoot the three, they can make up ground quickly.

Concurred Rose: We came out focused and we knew that in the beginning of the game, we let things kind of get easy on them. They got confidence and we just had to keep playing defense.

Watch: Rose on the Bulls' focus
We hadnt won in this building or beat this team and when we came out, we came out kind oflong pause soft, Ill say. We werent into them, we were letting guys get off, we were letting guys beat us with their strength and at halftime, Thibs came in, talked to us and we changed things, he continued. When guys are playing like that, especially the way we did in the second half, I think were a pretty hard team to beat. Weve got everything working, guys taking charges, diving on the floor for loose balls. Little things like that can change the game.

His words proved prophetic and the Bulls, as been their trend lately, got lax and while the Knicks never threatened their lead, poor ball security and a lack of defensive disciplineNew York reserve swingman Bill Walker (18 points) caught fire late in the periodprevented them from increasing it, resulting in an 84-73 lead for Chicago after three quarters.

The Knicks bench again got it going, as Walker s hot hand persisted and backup point guard Toney Douglas (13 points) joined in, reducing their deficit to single digits. The tables had turned and Chicago became the cant-do-right bunch, missing layups, turning the ball over and allowing the Knicks transition opportunities, uncontested paths to the rim and open jumpers in fits of defensive lapses.

As poorly as the Bulls played, however, their hosts didnt truly capitalize and upon Thibodeaus reinsertion of Rose and Boozer, the visitors became more stable and quickly bumped the lead back into double digits. Boozers domination of the backboards on both ends, stingy team defense and steady, if unimpressive basketball down the stretch paved the way for the Bulls to cruise to an easy victory down the stretch, despite a late Noah injury scare.

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.

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls gearing up for realistic run at the postseason

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls gearing up for realistic run at the postseason

Today on CSN: White Sox continue spring training slate against Padres

Jimmy Butler, Bulls prep for stretch run with realistic eye on the postseason

Bears believe they got more than just a No. 2 QB in signing Mark Sanchez

Carlos Rodon headed to the disabled list, will start throwing program

Is Addison Russell still on track for Opening Night?

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

 

No Bears move yet on CB Deiondre' Hall except maybe to safety

Cubs release Munenori Kawasaki and keep the door open for his return

Kristin Cavallari shows off her favorite NFL tight end: A nude Jay Cutler

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bulls tickets right here!]

With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."