Bulls make statement against Magic

Kudos to commentor csharp3410:


How many times are we going to let the Magic kill us with their shooters? I say we should try something new!

The Bulls did just that.   They single covered Howard pretty much all night, and Howard went off.   The times where Boozer had to defend him may as well have just been a lay up line for Howard.   Yet, the Magic didn't go to Howard nearly enough despite his season high 40 points on only 28 offensive possessions.


Derrick Rose has transformed into a superstar 

Yes, his shooting percentage was sub 30% this game, but Rose has found ways to make a huge positive impact even when shooting terribly.   First, he's started getting to the free throw line a ton. 

Next, his passing vision has improved immensely as he's generating much better and cleaner looks for his teammates.

Finally, the attention the defense regularly gives him is among the most you'll ever see a team give to anyone.   The double team typically starts 5 feet beyond the three point line now, but Rose's ball handling has also improved enough to dribble through the traps regularly and avoid turnovers.

Rose has also picked up his defense and become an impact defender for the Bulls rather than a sieve.

Luol Deng needs a game ball

We've complained about Deng coming up small in big spots before, and I noted in my pre-game comments that we needed Deng to step up in this game.   Mission accomplished. 

After a very lack luster first half for Deng, he came out and just destroyed the Magic in the second half.   Hedo Turkoglu will have nightmares about Luol Deng for the next week. 

He destroyed Hedo on both ends of the court, and his offense lifted the Bulls to victory.   Deng drilled a couple threes and hti some long range twos, got to the foul line, completed his drives and was a one man wrecking crew in the second half offensively.

Defensively, he forced Turkoglu into a 2 for 12 night and with Jameer Nelson leaving the game in the first quarter, the Magic needed Turkoglu to step up as their initiator.

Dwight Howard won the battle of the superstars, but the Bulls won the game largely because of Luol Deng.

Carlos Boozer did his part

He started off 1 for 5 on offense, but he was 7 for 12 the rest of the night, and he did a nice job of positioning himself to break the Derrick Rose traps.   Rose found Boozer repeatedly on passes to the middle of the court when trapped five feet behind the free throw line and Boozer did a nice  job cutting to the basket or passing to the open man.

Boozer as well have not existed when defending Howard.  He tried to stay in front of him, but Howard had too much size, strength, and speed.    However, he wasn't matched up on Howard all that much, and Brandon Bass simply doesn't have the skills to take advantage of Boozer on the other end.   The Magic really exploited Boozer last game with Rashard Lewis's shooting range, but Bass couldn't do the same thing.

Boozer also did a nice job keeping the Bulls alive in the second quarter while Rose sat, and the Bulls used him as the key offensive player with Watson feeding him the ball.  

The rotation the Bulls have settled into of leaving Boozer out there for the majority of the time Rose sits has given the Bulls much more offensive push in that second unit.

Keith Bogans' streak lives on

Bogans scores six or more?   Bulls win.  

He knocked down two threes early in the game which helped keep Orlando from breaking it open early at a point  where Rose and Boozer had thusfar combined for 2/12 from the field.   

I jested early that the game was in the bag once Bogans scored six the game was in the bag, it turns out the Bogans indicator was correct again.

Nice job by Keith of chipping in early, his confidence is building as his first three was one where he had relatively little room and shot immediately without the hesitation he had earlier.  

Kurt Thomas did a nice job of chewing up minutes

His stats were terrible as was his plus minus.  He lost his cool with Howard on the court as well and was visibly disturbed.   He didn't get much benefit of the doubt when Howard just threw him around either.

However, with all that said, you need someone to go toe to toe with Howard when he's on the floor, and even if Howard is mauling you, you need to play physically enough to stop him from mauling you ever single possession.

Thomas did that, making Howard work for his shots and annoying him some with physicality.

Ronnie Brewer / Korver / Watson did their things

Brewer gave the Bulls some disruptive defense, found ways to knock down shots and brought energy while he was on the court, while Korver knocked down a couple of threes even if he only shot 2/7 from the field.  Watson was 0-5 from the field, but played pressure defense and moved the ball well while on the court.  

Taj played well, but Howard limited his minutes

The Bulls needed more Taj Gibson out there, but they could only play him while Boozer was on the bench, or they had to put Boozer/Gibson on Howard.   The Bulls didn't want to do either of those things, and who could blame them?

With the Magic struggling to get any perimeter penetration and having no offensive threat at PF, the Bulls elected to go with Boozer's offense more than Gibson's defense for the majority of the game.

However, Gibson played really well while in the game bringing a lot of energy, pushing the pace of the Bulls offense.

Omer Asik gave the Bulls some great defense

Without Noah, and Thomas limited due to foul trouble, the Bulls desperately needed Omer to step up and give the Bulls some type of presence on Howard.   He started his run by getting an incredibly cheap off the ball foul, quickly picked up another foul after getting thrown around by Howard.

His minutes were limited, and he drew five fouls in 17 minutes, but he did a great job of bothering Howard, and the Bulls basically won the game during the stretch he anchored the defense in the third period.

Final thoughts

I said the Bulls would find out what they were made of over the next 20 games, and they started that stretch off with a win against the Magic, one of their personal demon teams.  

The Bulls now need to head off on the road where they've struggled against even mediocre teams, and watching them beat Boston, Miami, Dallas, and Orlando at home, you start to think that homecourt is going to be awfully important for the team in the playoffs.

The Bulls are presently tied for the third best record in the league and the second best in the Eastern conference as Tom Thibodeau has to be the front runner for coach of the year at this point.



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  • Nice Summary Doug - nice to see the Bulls step up and exact some revenge against Howard and the magic.

  • In reply to MNBullsFan:

    Definitely good to get some vengeance after they beat us down in our house earlier.

  • Awesome game ... but the team certainly enjoyed that win as much as us, so watch out tonight... trap game!

    If I was Thibs, depending on how much Rose is hurting, I might consider giving him the night off. Not only to rest him and his ailments until Wednesday, but also to wake up the rest of the team. With him out, there is no doubt that each player must step up their play.

  • In reply to Swish14U:

    I doubt Rose would let that happen, and I doubt he's hurt enough for it to be a real consideration.

  • Read some comments on other threads about the lack of D by Boozer... could not agree more. Was just telling some of my guys that I hope he doesnt make All-Star game, I don't want him to be reinforced for his lack of effort. It just kills me to see him take one step out at shooter and then turn around before challenging the shot, so that he can pad his stats with another potential rebound. He gets way too much of a free pass because of his offense - which is most definitely All-Star capable.
    If Thibs can get through to him to start playing better D, then he could be a perennial All-Star.

  • In reply to Swish14U:

    You nailed it there with your view of Boozer.

  • You know even though Dwight Howard beasted, I still credit Boozer for not quitting on defense. He got roasted, but he squared him up, and kept trying. Boooz's 16 rebounds were maybe under the radar but they were huge. And 'second half Deng,' we need that from you from time to time the rest of the way through this year.

    Derrick, you have to love him. He's in a funk right now offensively, didn't eat for three days, has very painful swallowing/eating and stomach. And the kid drops 12 dimes with two turnovers plus two critical three point plays in the second half(at least should have been two I'm not sure if the hanger on the left side of the basket was called when he was banged).

    Derrick, you are the man. Albeit a modest and sometimes mild one. Justice will serve us if when Noah returns the team finds ways to free up Derrick from the Jordan rules, and he can unleash the beast, and have some real fun. It hurts seeing him struggle right now scoring, but in the end I think his persistence is going to pay off huge for not only him, but his team and Bulls fans everywhere. Great job to everyone including Asik, Taj, and even Bogans. Way to smack those punks back Keith!

  • Good confidence building win against the Magic for the Bulls. When the team is totally focused and plays solid D and "everyone" does their part in scoring not too many teams can beat them. And although I do agree with swish14u about Boozer's poor defense he is a big part of the Bulls offense and that's where Noah job with the team gets very important cause he's basically there to back up Boozer's defensive lapses.

  • I am so happy with this win because the Magic have had our number.
    Rose played good D and had an amazing 12:1 Assist/TO ration.
    He also ran the team offense really well. You can notice the difference when in the 4th q Rose went out and we had 3 turnovers in 4 minutes.

    BTW, I loved the podcast with you, Fred and Mark. It sounded like the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs.

  • In reply to postdiction:

    Fred and I are going to try and do a regular lunch time podcast, we meet once a week for lunch, so we're going to try to record one a week.

    I might see if he wants to turn it into a new show, otherwise I might just be a regular on the Bullseye.

  • JJ:

    I just watched the replay on NBA FUTURECAST.

    He had the DUNK OF THE NIGHT at the 1:35 mark of the 3rd quarter.

    It's on Youtube already.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Could be good for him. Not a lot of pressure, can just play his game & not think to much. Looks like he was having a lot of fun dunking all night.

  • Rose wasn't sub-25% shooting last night, though he wasn't considerably better. He was 6 for 21 which is roughly 29%.

  • In reply to WearShades:

    For some reason I had thought he was 5/21, my bad.

  • no jameer, that changes things a great deal but yes nice win! (and I do realize Jo is out as well)

  • In reply to drob:

    no that's a good point. Without Jameer Arenas started chucking & really kept them from making a closing run.

    Next 2 both in Orlando will be tough

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    and let's not forget Noah's history against Dwight, remember that 0 rebound game he had came againt Howard in december.

    So how about next time Thibs, in Orlando, you go with a some Noah at PF? Leaving him free to do his thing while Asik or K Thomas bodies him up. Every second Howard is on the bench, you have Boozer out there beasting whoever they have out there. No one but Howard can stay with him now.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Since Boozer has become aclimated, & everyone now knows the defensive system and is more comfortable with it, everyone's playing on a string, Bulls are now 6-0 against elite level teams (LAL, OKC,BOS,MIA,DAL.ORL), and the best team to beat them has been New York on Christmas

  • He'll "gut" through it, all pun intended, but it will take a little while for him to heal & be at 100% now.

  • If they play them in the playoffs, Thibs needs to pull a Phil Jackson & plant a seed in the refs mind about how much Howard gets away with.

  • I think although it worked yesterday...the Magic were on a back-to-back game and lost Nelson. It was a great win but the concept of giving Howard a free pass will not work if the Bulls offense is not good or they are on the road when the offense will slow down a little bit.
    You have to double team Howard with the help coming from a good defender/good athlete like Brewer. They can run back to their guy if Howard is passing. Help defender cannot be someone like Boozer or Deng. They are not fast enough to get back to their guy. Also, Howard fouls out a lot and I have the feeling that Asik is the best guy to get him in foul trouble because of his strength while going for offensive rebounds..

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Magic were not back 2 back, played Wed

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    but I think you are kind of right, next time Orladon will be ready for the new Bulls game plan, so you have to throw in new wrinkles

  • HAHA lol nice one Doug...thanks man

    But yea, Bulls needed to change something up, because the last couple times the Magic have smacked us around. We played really well yesterday...Booz was terrible on Howard lol I was really stunned that he did that bad on him. Kurt an Asik good job. When Noah gets back, thats just another big body we can throw at Howard. I feel the Magic arent as good as they use to be. Gilbert is a ball hog an Turk isnt the same anymore. Limiting their 3's kept it close...and D Howard isnt going to be nailing all those FT's like he did last night. Next time we play the Magic....id say do the same thing. Ill take misses, split FT's from Howard over wide open 3's. Lets go get them tonight Bullies!

  • In reply to Csharp:

    Their D is their achilles. Also if you shut down their 3's as we saw the become incredibly 1 dimensional

  • Agree...He has something up his sleeve and now he is using Jerry West to energize the Lakers. I don't think Thibs will do that but the guy who can do that is Noah. I think Noah is a very smart player and if the Bulls go through atleast one round of playoffs this year(which I think they will)...he will be more confident and will be talking or doing things similar to Phil...I do think Noah will be a great coach after he retires..

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Thibs won't he is not that kind of coach, but he will let the refs know during the game

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    I think Noah could, those Cleveland comments last year were done in a similar manner, acting as a lightning rod in that case

  • Is there a fan group building here for Bogans?

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    I can't imagine being a Bogans fan, but if he hits 40% of his threes, and he shoots when open then I'm good with him playing 18 minutes a night which is what has happened recently.

  • Ya schaumburgfan made a great point...if your going to double team howard...you have to try to keep Brewer as the guy helping out. Maybe even try a little 2-3 zone on them if thats the case and just have Brewer follow the side Howard is on. I think a lot of different looks will really make Howard struggle. Throw some 2-3 zones at him, double down sometimes, play him straight up, front him, double team him on his 1st dribble, make him pick the ball up...Hack him...send him to the line...doubt he will be making all those FT's like he did last night.

    Its really hard to play in Orlando so we deff. needed this one.

  • In reply to Csharp:

    Agreed. He was 12 -16 from FT last night I think. I would be he shoots under that next time. Also, I like the Bulls being phisical with Howard. Bogans shot great but I liked his "pestering" of Howard just as much. Am i the only one who thinks Howard is such a baby for being such a physical specimen? I think if we rattle him some expect even more of his flying elbows next match. He will surely be called for more fouls and I wouldnt be surprised to see him get a Tech.

  • Dwight having the ball so much probably made the rest of his team go into a funk and be out of rythm. Gilbert ball hogging didnt help either lol haha

  • In reply to Csharp:

    That how Russell always used to beat Wilt's team. Let the ego-maniac go off and get his stats, meanwhile the rest of the team suffers & become disinterested. Then selfishness becomes contagious if the rest of the team is not focused & willing to sacrifice

  • It's nice to see the Bulls get some love. Especially from those that have been a bit hyper-critical, in my opinion.

    The things that I like about this team and makes me optimistic as they move towards the playoffs are this:

    1. Chemistry. This aspect of a team can't be overstated. Sam Smith wrote an article lately about how well these players like and respect one another. I've advocated for keeping this team together as constructed and seeing how far they can go. I believe strongly that trading away major pieces this year would disrupt this widely overlooked component.

    2. Teamwork. Closely related to the chemistry, this is what is translated onto the court. These players trust and complement each other well, are truly UNSELFISH (note, ahem, Melo), and it shows in their play. Not one player is perfect--even Rose--but as a team, damn, I think they're pretty special. Yes, they're missing a piece, that well-rounded, scoring type SG, but it's really only one deficit and problem that I think most teams would gladly take.

    3. Confidence. This team believes they can beat anyone...and I think they can, too. Why not? They've proven they can. Rose just said this last week that his confidence is high, and you can also feel the confidence building within everyone on this team. They believe, so perhaps some fans should too.

  • In reply to zentastic:

    I couldn't agree more or say it any better

  • +2 good points

    If we can somehow get a SG that can spread the floor and can get us about 10-14ppg then i think we will be looking really really good. This team has a bunch of winners on it and they all are hungry. We will see if anything happens at the deadline.

  • In reply to Csharp:

    Agreed. If they do make that move for a SG, with both short-term and long-term considerations in mind, they could be set-up to make quite a run.

  • In reply to zentastic:

    I would make a decent offer for C. Lee. He is perfect. Great attitude, unselfish, great 3 pt shooter, good defender, athletic, good size for a 2.

    I really couldn't think of anyone better at this point, and you can move forward with him as I think he is about 25, yet with veteran experience in big games.

    I think giving up Taj &/or the Charlotte pick is too much though.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Yeah, good scouting report. I think he'd be a good fit too, but you also point out the rub: don't give up too much to get him.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I like Lee too, very nice guy. Right age, attitude, and skills for what we need.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    he's perfect, but I hear Houston wants too much

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    if they go after Melo, maybe Bulls can get him at reasonable price

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Yesss, I like that scenario. Houston, rent-a-Melo is good, you know you want it.

  • In reply to zentastic:

    I would. New York could look good next year though

  • In reply to zentastic:

    I completely disagree with anyone saying that playing Howard straight up can't work every time. This is exactly what I've been hoping the Bulls would do, it worked, and I hope they stick to it. The reason it works is Howard scoring doesn't help the Magic win.

    In Howard's time with the Magic they've won 58% of their games. When he scores 25 or more, they still only win 58% of the time. When he scores 30 or more, it helps a bit, they win 63% of the time.

    It's pretty clear that you can risk Howard going off for a lot of points because even if it happens the Magic's chances of winning don't go up that much. Meanwhile if you shut down their other players you're in with a good chance. I think the Bulls have the defense to shut down the other players if they play Howard straight up, so they should play him that way.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    BY the way those numbers are probably biased because they include the early Magic seasons. Since becoming an elite team in 08-09, the Magic have won 68% of all their games, 65% when Howard scores 25 or more, and 67% when he scores 30 or more.

    In other words the Magic of late are actually slightly better when Howard scores less.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    I didnt say it cant work, I said I would be careful to do entirely. There is no reason the Bulls cant put a little added pressure on him from time to time. I say play him straight up 75+% of the time but run a little help to confuse him. He was way too comfortable down there last night. I guesss I really shouldnt complain though, we did win!!! Go Bulls!!!

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    I would say that little study shows very little causality. What are the caliber of opponents in it? What were the circumstances of him scoring a ton of points or not scoring a ton of points?

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I agree it's a crude measure but I'm not going to spend a week researching a blog comment. :)

    I'm just saying the stats at the very least say there's not a lot of evidence that Dwight Howard is someone you should fear beating you by himself. Magic fans from what I've read of their comments on this and other games pretty much feel that shutting down the other players is the key to beating their team too.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    Actually that's unfair, you should fear Howard beating you, just at the other end of the court. Don't want to imply he's not an elite player, he's far and away the biggest defensive game changer in the league. I just think teams get beaten more by the threat of him than by what he actually does offensively.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    There are too many factors to decide this. When they are playing Toronto which usually is a bad defensive team...obviously 3-pt shooting is easy. And you need to have some big tough guys like Perkins, Thomas to play defense and not somebody like Bargnani or Brook Lopez.
    Ideally, it would be a mix of both depending on road/home game, other match-ups etc..

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Funny because two of Howard's 30+ point losses in recent years have come against Toronto.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Is it strange that Orlando went to the finals when they had Lee(not a main option and doesn't need touches but played defense) while they have struggled with more talented star-like players such as Vince Carter, Arenas, Richardson although this year has yet to be played out....That kind of shows a team is more important than a collection of star names..

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Not really, the only made it to the finals because everyone not LeBron on the Cavs played terribly that series.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    If only Deng could play that way every game !! Great game from bulls ! good idea of Thibs of not double-teaming Howard !

  • In reply to deewaves:

    I liked it too, but I would be careful to use it entirely again in their next face-off. Van Gundy will surely adapt as any good coach should. I think we play him straight up most of the time but throw a double team at him every 3rd or 4th time to keep him on his feet. He plays with his back to the rim so much that I would bring the double team from the weak side where he wont see it coming. And with how improved the teams help defense has been since meeting them the first time we can cover the open shooter if somehow Howard manages to find him. (which IMO is not super likely because we would come from the backside, and typically Howard is going to shoot once he put the ball on the floor and starts to make his move.

  • In reply to bcz1980:


  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Many times when Kobe goes off and gets his stats...the Lakers often lose too.

  • right, and you can't play Booze, Noah, & a center together

    but bottom line all 3 centers need to play

  • They are my favorite team to beat

  • Well it certainly doesn't look like JJ will be learning much about defense in his trip to D league.

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