Bulls get balanced attack, control wire-to-wire to beat Bucks 83-75

Tom Thibodeau wasn't pleased coming into the huddle after the Milwaukee Bucks scored 25 points in the first quarter on 58% shooting.

The Chicago Bulls turned up the defense in the final three quarters, and for the second consecutive game, they allowed just 36 points in the second half.

Offensively, the Bulls were led by Luol Deng and Derrick Rose. Deng had 19 points and 5 rebounds, playing his normal cutting/slashing game.

What more can Bulls fans say about Deng? Sure, his contract might be a pain when you look at it, but when he's the third-option, that's when he excels. That's the role he fits in best.

With Rose and Carlos Boozer, he can do just that. And he's thriving as the third-option, whereas in the past the Bulls forced him to be their first option. Not anymore, Deng, with Rose on board.

Rose had another inefficient shooting night, going 7-for-19, but he made the shots when the Bulls needed it, scoring 4 consecutive points when he entered the game in the fourth and the Bulls up 74-67.

He had 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists tonight; if you weren't watching the game, those numbers might look a little underwhelming, but Rose could have taken over this game if he wanted to.

But why force things? The Bulls controlled the game wire-to-wire, part of their dominance was Rose controlling the pace and flow of the game.

Playing in his third game since returning from a thumb injury, Joakim Noah had a monster night on the glass, grabbing a game-high 17 rebounds (9 offensive). Noah had 4 rebounds in the second half, but that was mainly due to some foul trouble and playing just under 10 minutes in the second half.

Although he scored just 8 points, Noah played with energy once again. That's what the Bulls missed with him: his motor, drive, and countless sparks throughout the game.

Carlos Boozer didn't have a big night offensively, and was abused by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute early, but stepped up his game in the second half, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the second half.

Let's take a closer look at tonight's win against the Bucks:

What led to the Bulls win:
The Bulls held the Bucks to just 75 points tonight, the lowest they've held an opponent on the road this season.

The Bucks came out tonight hitting their jumpers, shooting 58% from the field in the first quarter, as the Bulls failed to rotate well at all.

Keith Bogans played 14:33 tonight, but during his time in he was a pest on the Bucks' second-leading scorer, John Salmons, who's been playing well of late.

Salmons scored 14 points but it was on an inefficient 5-for-16 from the field. Bogans set the tone on Salmons all night and Salmons never regained his touch.

The leading scorer on the Bucks is Brandon Jennings, but he was invisible all night. He had just 4 points and had more turnovers than made field-goals (3:2).

The Bucks rallied in the fourth quarter, led by Earl Boykins' 10-point final frame. He scored the Bucks' first 10 points and assisted on a Salmons three-pointer late in the game.

During that stretch, the Bulls' defense started to get lazy and vulnerable. Give Boykins credit, he seemed like the only one who wanted to make an effort of getting into the paint.

As the saying goes, you either live or die by the jumper. Last season, the Bucks won 46 games. It's been a completely different story this season.

The regression this team has faced is similar to the one the Bulls faced from the 2006-07 season to 2007-08. Many analysts expected both Scott Skiles-coached teams to improve in year-two of their development, but both times the teams faltered.

The 2007-08 Bulls were mentally weak, letting the Kobe Bryant trade talks of the offseason get to their head. That propelled into the season and the team as a whole never recovered from it.

The Bucks just haven't been the same since their surprise season last year. It could be that they've maxed out on their talent level, or it could be the normal regression Skiles coached teams face.

The Bucks came into tonight last in the league in points (91.7) and field-goal percentage (42.4%). Tonight they were held below each: 75 and 38.2%.

Credit the Bulls defense. After a rough first quarter, the Bulls defended the Bucks for the drive, letting the Bucks kill themselves with the jumpers.

The Bucks were an abysmal offense coming in, and it didn't change tonight. Not at all.

In fact, it got worst.

What does it signify: The Bulls' leading scorers, Rose and Boozer, were a combined 15 points below their season average, yet the Bulls won handily, controlling the game wire-to-wire.

Both players had matchup advantages in every aspect tonight, and each had their dominant stretch in the game, but neither forced things to break the flow of the team.

The Bulls improved to 40-17, 23 games over .500, after tonight's win. They've surprised many folks and have the leading MVP candidate in Rose, but the sole reason this team is in this position is their chemistry, camaraderie, and focus.

When two players are involved in a missed rotation or turnover, they come to together. Not griping, arguing with each other like several teams do. Instead, they talk things out, high-five, and walk down on the other end.

The Bulls might have four very good players to lead them to the NBA Finals, but it's a team. There isn't one individual who thinks he's the largest entity on the team.

Yes, Rose is the best player on this team and the players all know that, but he isn't the rowdy, egotistical guy like many superstars around the NBA.

Even with an "off" night for the Bulls' two leading scorers Rose and Boozer, the Bulls still find a way to win. Credit not only the defense, but also chemistry that the players have with each other.

Key performance: Kyle Korver got an earful from coach Tom Thibodeau after missing a defensive rotation, as John Salmons hit a three-pointer to cut the Bulls' lead to 78-72 with 3:56 to play in the fourth quarter.

Boy, did Korver respond. He scored the Bulls' next 5 points and that seemed like the momentum changer for the Bulls.

Usually when a sequence like that happens -- where a player gets yelled at by a coach heading into a timeout -- it means the team making a comeback is the one with the momentum. Not the case tonight, as the Bulls zoned in after that play and finished off what they started.

Korver led the bench with 11 points and shot 5-for-11 from the field in just over 18 minutes.

He's been up-and-down all season, but when he's stroking the ball as well as he did tonight, his game looks awfully pretty.

Final thoughts:  With the win, the Bulls move 12-0 against their Central Division; 4 more wins from making NBA history, as they would be the only team to ever sweep their own division.

After beating the Miami Heat on national TV, it was good to see that the Bulls didn't come out with a mental hangover from the big win.

This is just game number one of the five-game road-trip. Defense like this might get them a 5-0 record on the trip.

What's next: February 28th: Bulls (40-17) @ Washington Wizards (15-43). 6:00PM C.S.T. CSN/ESPN 1000

The Bulls are 2-0 against the Wizards this season, beating them 103-96 at home and 87-80 in Washington.

Just like the Bucks, the Wizards are a team that has also disappointed. Still, with rookie John Wall, it will be a good matchup between two point guards coached by John Calipari.

The Wizards are on a five-game losing streak after losing to the Dallas Mavericks 105-99 tonight.

They're a dangerous team when they want to play, so taking them lightly would be foolish. If the Bulls play with the same defensive intensity as tonight, it should be another dominating win.

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