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No ‘must win’ games for Del Negro’s Bulls
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jan 9
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By Adam Fluck
With the 8-29 Minnesota Timberwolves in town on Saturday and the 11-23 Detroit Pistons on the home docket for Monday, one might think that the 14-20 Bulls have a couple ‘must win’ games before the schedule again takes an ugly turn for the worse in the second half of January.
But Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro dispelled that notion prior to Saturday’s game, saying there were no ‘must win’ games.
“We can’t afford to look at anybody’s record, what they’ve done or what they haven’t done,” said Del Negro. “We’ve got to play well and find a way to win this game no matter what it takes. You have to go into every game with that mentality.”
Derrick Rose’s recent surge has given the Bulls a boost, as the team won six of eight games before dropping the last three in row. Over his last 10 games, the second-year point guard is averaging 24.4 ppg (team high), 6.8 apg (team high) and 4.5 rpg in 39.1 mpg. Rose is also shooting .478 from the field and .811 from the line over his last 10.
In addition, Tyrus Thomas’s return has at times paid dividends as well. But Del Negro acknowledged that the team lack’s a clear-cut go-to player, especially when it matters most.
“We haven’t made [many] big shots yet this year,” he said. “We’ve made some, but overall, especially in the fourth quarter when games are tight, different guys have to step up at different times. Depending on how they are guarding Derrick [Rose] or any of our players, guys have to read that and make shots and make plays. It puts a lot of pressure on our defense. We have to get stops at key times, but also get in the open court where we are probably most effective.”
The Bulls should get those opportunities against the Timberwolves, who are 3-14 on the road this season and have yielded at least 117 points in three of their last four away from home.
Recent history, however, is not on the Bulls’ side. Chicago has lost 16 of its last 20 versus Minnesota and is 4-6 against the Timberwolves over its last 10 games. Chicago is 12-7 in the series at the United Center.
Last season, Luol Deng posted 22 points and eight rebounds against the Timberwolves (one game), while Derrick Rose averaged 20.0 ppg, 6.0 apg and 3.5 rpg against Minnesota.
Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on ‘must win’ games, facing the Minnesota Timberwolves and team rebounding (01.09.10):