Bulls defense stifles Nets and Chicago inches ahead of Boston again

The Chicago Bulls won their 8th straight game with stifling defense and pulled a half game ahead of Boston.   Did you think at the beginning of the season that Chicago would be sitting here with 15 games left to play and have the second highest winning percentage in the NBA?   I know I didn't, but that's the type of amazing year the Bulls are having.

I don't want to hear anyone talk about how Derrick Rose can't defend anymore

Ask Deron Williams, one of the elite PGs in the NBA, a guy most teams can't stop, whether Derrick Rose can play defense.   Williams shot 1/12 on the night with four turnovers and was stuffed twice by Rose on the night.   

Deron must be developing similar nightmares going up against Rose that Hedu Turkoglu has going up against Deng this year.  He may have had his two worst games of the season with Rose defending him, and it wasn't Deron just missing open shots.

Offensively, Rose had a night somewhat typical of what he's done lately which involved shooting way too many threes at a low percentage, but he's defending at a high level, still breaking down the defense and creating the offense for the Bulls.

Since February (last 20 games), Rose has shot 25.4% from the three point line while launching 5.7 shots a game.   I don't mind the kick outs and the open ones, but he's shooting too many off the dribble threes early in the shot clock.   I wonder if the season is starting to wear on him some, and he's trying to pace his energy level.

The Bulls demand so much energy from Rose on offense to fight through three players at a time, that he does need to pick his spots at times, and if he can get reasonable efficiency launching a three without much work it's easy to understand why he does it.

Instead though, I'd rather see the Bulls work the ball in the post and just improve ball movement and lower Rose's shot attempts and take some of the offense away from him.  Let him get his breather that way, take away 3 attempts from the three point line per game and leave him only with the open kick outs and desperation threes.

Stacey King may have replaced the Jet as the official nickname guy

Asik and Destroy?   That's gold.  I'm might need to get some Asik and Destroy T-Shirts printed up.   Asik had one of his best games of the season going 5/7 for 11 points and hauling down 16 rebounds in just 24 minutes.  

Granted, his points came on dunks/layups/tips, he still can't generate any of his own offense, but if Asik can simply catch and finish, get tips, and quick opportunity baskets
then he becomes very dangerous.  His confidence in going up fast and strong seems to ebb and flow, but he had it against New Jersey.

Defensively, Asik has the it factor for sure.   I was listening to John Paxson on the radio, and he was describing what rare defensive instincts this kid had.  I didn't think they'd translate from Europe to the NBA, but they certainly have.   Asik always makes the right rotation, never backs down, gets out on shooters hard when needed and does an excellent job of protecting the paint. 

I'm glad the Bulls kept him on, because big man depth is so crucial in this league.

Luol Deng has become very consistent

Deng has found his niche as a third scorer in the NBA.  He's back to playing the game he did on 06/07 for Chicago.  Hidden in his lower FG% is the fact that he's launching a high volume of threes for the first time in his career.   Deng's actually shooting over 50% from inside the arc, and if he were to limit his three point shooting like in 06/07 would have a much higher FG%.

However, by shooting the threes he's helped space the floor, expanded his game, and become just as deadly.  He has his second highest TS% and eFG% of his career, but his game fits even better into the team concept with the extra floor spacing he's helping to provide.

Deng's also made tremendous strides in the clutch over the season scoring more in the fourth quarter and hitting a lot of big baskets at the end of games, something he was criticized for not doing in the past.

Joakim Noah isn't scoring like he was but still makes an impact

After coming back from the injury, we all waited to see if Joakim Noah could start scoring 13-14 points a night again, and so far it hasn't happened.  Yet, he's still making his impact on offense as the Bulls are running a lot more plays through the center position.

Noah had six dishes on the night, a couple coming in transition where he was out in the open floor with the ball and making the right pass.   Not many big men in the league can add his combination of ball handling and passing, especially with the defense and rebounding he can bring too.   

If Noah had a solid jumper and a post game, he'd probably be a top 10 player in the NBA with his other skills. 

Korver shot well, Gibson played defense

Status quote for those two, but they both did a nice job of doing what they do.    Gibson really gave the team a shot in the arm when he first checked in IMO giving the Bulls a couple quick jumpers while they were losing, and the team really never looked back.

Final thoughts

I don't think there are any trap games when you're coach by Tom Thibodeau.   The guy is too detail oriented to ever overlook anyone.   However, as noted in my pregame, New Jersey has had a bizarre stranglehold on the Bulls at times, especially when they play in New Jersey.   Even though all the players have changed on both sides, I still have this weird fear of them validated by our earlier loss there.

The Bulls went in, got the win, and continued their high level of play though.  You have to feel great about this team defense, and while the offense hasn't been amazing, it's doing enough to get the job done.

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  • Got a chance to go to the game last night for my first Bulls game of the season thanks to my girlfriend. In the future I plan on getting more Knicks and Nets tickets when the Bulls are in town. A LOT of Bulls fans were in the house which was awesome. The MVP chants on the road is unreal. When the Nets came back in the fourth quarter I almost had a heart attack. Especially with the way the Bulls lost the last game in NJ. Luckily, we clamped down hit out shots and managed to keep them under 75 pts. This season has been simply amazing and surprisingly I expected it. But actually living it (especially away from home) is a gift.

  • Every team is susceptible to let downs during an 82 game season, regardless of the coach. Thibs has down a great job, as has the entire team, but don't forget the letdown against Toronto right after the ASG break. There were a few others earlier in the season than that, but overall the Bulls have had fewer than probably any team except possibly the Spurs.

  • Didn't get a chance to see the game but saw highlights, good win by the Bulls, some call it having energy but I will always say that the team stayed focused for 48 minutes. They lost their double digit lead only to surge ahead down the stretch behind Rose and Korver and big energy efforts from Asik and Noah with him having the flu. The Bulls winning games like this one shows they are Focused and ready for the battles to come in the playoffs.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Oh... and try to hold on to that number 1 seed by beating down the Pacers tonight cause that game won't be easy either with them trying to get that last playoff spot. Tyler Hansbrough has been putting up some big numbers in scoring and rebounding lately so the bigs need to be ready against this guy along with Hibbert and Granger.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    While the Bulls should absolutely try to nail down the number 1 seed, I fear that while the Bulls expend all their energy slugging it out with Boston, the teams locked into their seeds (Miami and Orlando), could eventually rest their players. This has the potential to work against the Bulls.

  • In reply to RichG:

    You'll make up for the lack of rest earning the seed by a much easier 1st round opponent which is likely to earn you plenty of rest between round 1 and 2.

    Plus Boston isn't resting while they can earn the #1 seed.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Other than the Magic game in November(Boozer's first game) at home where they got blown out, I think the Bulls are always in a game. That's amazing coaching from Thibs. The one important thing I have seen is how they can take the defense up a notch in the 4th quarter.

    I think we shouldn't worry about Rose's 3 pointers as long as we are winning. He is learning a new part for his offense and that will make him more dangerous.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Asik and Destroy

    Stacey King is a better broadcaster than he was an NBA player. And he has an NBA ring (or three).

    Before I do my usual Asik cheering let's just say that Derrick Rose is something very special. He held Deron to what, 1 of 11 shooting and blocked two of his shots. Deron will be seeing Rose in his nightmares.

    Now to Asik. Sadly, I missed all of his play (I was at Weight Watchers, lost .4 pounds). The radio announcers raved about his game.

    Do the Bulls have the best 2nd string in the NBA? Isn't Asik the defensive backbone to that unit? And our 1st string isn't too shabby at all.

    I did see the 4th quarter when the Bulls hounded the Nets with great defense when it mattered. Wow. I saw Rose block Deron once. More importantly, I saw Rose close on an outside shooter (taller than him), sky to block the shot, missed, the the shooter missed the basket badly.

    Defense is back. The Chicago Bulls are back. What a fun season.

  • In reply to rkraneis:

    Doug better trademark that Asik and Destroy today or Pat Riley will beat him to it.

  • In reply to rkraneis:

    Since I don't live in Chicago anymore and have to watch on NBA pass I watcheed the game with the NJ announcers, which happened to be Mike Fratello I believe. Anyway they talked about how the BULLS SECOND UNIT had the best defense per hundred shots in the NBA and that stat included 1st units. Pretty impressive group a guys coming off the bench. They may not always score but they usually dont give up much.

  • In reply to rkraneis:

    This NJ win was HUGE and I

  • In reply to rkraneis:

    Wheres the Hot Sauce!?!?! Print me out a Asik an Destroy T shirt baby!!!! lol this team is the real deal imo.

    Omer is a beast and i cant way to see him grow in the next year or 2. What a find by the Bulls.

    D Rose is.......amazing.

    Big game tonight...Pacers are decent at home...an Hansbrough has been dominating. Hopefully our bigs shut him down...if we do that i like our chances.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    That wasn't a nice recap by Doug it was an excellent recap. Every jobs has its downside. When you write for any media/consumer publication you have to balance the line between homerism and skepticism. You have to embrace the the good, but always remind of the remaining challenges/bad as well. It's the drama, the nagging unproven largely that sells. But in a unique situation like this where you have a team on the come it's different. You can just begin to embrace it. And Doug knows this team, and all the nuances that were question marks, but are turning into exclamation points. That is quite a luxury to have a guy like that who has the talent to chronicle/expound on this phenomenon. Eastern Conference leaders. Your Chicago Bulls. Awesome.

    No. This isn't a team on 'the rise.' This is a team that's coming for you right now. This year. This instant. I'm all in on the Bulls. All f-ing in. Derrick's scintillating Jordanesque performance against the Heat where he thwarted the Wade/James escort with hangtime magic ala Mike. And left BronBron throwing a fit on the bench like a kindergartener who had his ball taken away.

    Despite the 0-5 jacked threes, Derrick is the sh*t. The Bulls are the sh*t. His hang time, his ability to hit amazing shots, more and more he's just sprining by double teams in a superhuman manner ala Mike. Asik, Taj, Kyle(love Kyle's D, yes Kyle!), C.J. Ronnie, even Bogie have all joined the call. And all without Jo's game being there or Booz at his high level for a good spell recently. And Jo's offense as Doug stated which makes him a force/all-star player is starting to rear it's head. Derrick was just incredible in the house of horrors known as New Jersey(whatever that f-ing arena is called). And the death stare D-Rose gets when he's dominating. Against Miami. Against troublesome team thorn New Jersey. Brook Lopez just embraced Derrick and his greatness after the game. That game was incredible 40% or none. I'm all in.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Sounds like some in NBA circles are starting to buy Bulls stock as well.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AkzITMMFHYfqDVoA5XBMxMu8vLYF?slug=aw-wojnarowski-rose_thibodeau_perfect_match_for_title_contending_bulls_031811

  • In reply to MarkNorman:

    Hollinger now has the Bulls as his top ranked team and is giving them slightly over a 25% of winning the title. This is getting crazy.

    It's at the point now where you can't just say you'll be happy with a second round win anymore. As much as we would have gladly taken a trip to the ECF earlier this season and called that a successful year, I'll have to admit I'll be highly disappointed if the Bulls lose in the playoffs now. This quick rise to elite status and shift in expectations are just mind-boggling. I'd hoped for this. But there is no way I thought we'd be this good this soon. And this isn't just a one and done. The Bulls are poised to be an elite team over the next 3-5 years with room to improve.

  • In reply to walrus:

    JA, agreed. The Bulls aka Thib's G-(Gauntlett) Defense, and Derrick's indominable will to win make anything less then really a Finals appearance at this point a dissapointment. And as I have incessantly pointed to all this without Jo's all-star presence/offensive game. If Booz gets back to a quality big's/somewhat low post game, Noah's game likewise to score inside, and Taj joins the (low) block party, then this team has... 'a rendevous with destiny.'

  • In reply to walrus:

    Sorry for yet another link, but this game/8th win in a row over a streaking Jersey team which had been something of a Bulls nemesis has everybody turning their heads it seems.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/video/nba/2011/03/15/031511.mannix_bulls.SportsIllustrated/

  • In reply to MarkNorman:

    Great link... I feel CNNSI is so much more balanced in their opinions. He does say they might have a little difficult time with the Lakers but give them an edge over the other teams rather than just making blanket statements(they are great or keep the pre-season opinion of a middle-tier team).

    If Bogans can just shoot wide-open shots at 50%, we can be great. Noah is probably going to be at his peak offensive strength by the playoffs...that's going to be a plus. And, I think Rose will be more careful with his 3 pointers in the playoffs

  • In reply to MarkNorman:

    Yeah, great recap! I was pretty frustrated reading Hollinger's chat this week dogging on Rose's defense. Well, there you go. He's definitely a "positive" on defense, in addition to his many other contributions.

  • In reply to MarkNorman:

    Derrick Rose is the Real Deal

    This team was incredibly lucky to pull #1 for Rose.

    Age age 22 or so he is leading this team by example.

    1) Tremendous work ethic.
    2) Will do whatever is needed to win.
    3) Humbly defers credit to his team, and means it.
    4) Highly coachable.

    The list could go on...

    He is a credit to his strong family and to a Chicago Bulls' tradition that he has helped return to prominence. It's a pleasure watching Bulls basketball again.

  • In reply to MarkNorman:

    I would buy an Asik and Destroy shirt from ya haha

  • In reply to MarkNorman:

    Predicting the Bulls have an outright lead in the East by Wednesday if not before then. Bulls play Indiana, Sacramento, & Atlanta in that stretch. Boston has Houston, New Orleans, New York, and Memphis.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    With regard to Hansbrough and Hibbert, Noah has owned both of them since their college days. He'll make sure they're non factors with tight, aggressive defense, the way Thibs likes it!

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Doug,

    I don't know that people are giving NJ enough credit for being one of the better teams in the east now. With Dwill, Lopez, Humphries (who has really stepped up his game) and Morrow (who is now just coming on)...they can play with anyone. They were on a 5 game winning streak, including Boston. This was a quality win for us.

  • In reply to scogo1:

    Can we just trade Boozer for Humphries.

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