Bulls handle Raptors without Noah and Korver


Oct 21

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Playing point guard for the Bulls, Derrick Rose. Playing shooting guard for the Bulls, Derrick Rose. Playing center for the Bulls, Derrick Rose.

We know Rose can do pretty much everything on the basketball court, but how long can he continue to do so?

That seems to be one of the major questions for the Bulls coming into the 2010-11 season following the Bulls 110-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors Wednesday to go to 3-4 on the preseason.

The final preseason game is Friday in the United Center against Indiana.

Rose had 20 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and two blocks as the Bulls starters, at least, controlled the beginning of the first and part of the third quarter, the starters minus Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer running up an early lead and then snatching away a Raptors’ margin.

Which is why this didn’t mean all that much, anyway.

Boozer, of course, remains out through the end of November with a broken hand and Noah experienced what is always described as flu like symptoms and didn’t play. For one thing, how come we ordinary mortals get the flu and pros only have flu like symptoms? And Toronto happens to be known as a great NBA city for flu like symptoms, though Noah really was sick. Really.

Anyway, without Noah and Boozer it’s difficult to assess where this Bulls team is or who it is, and to no surprise Bulls coach Tim Thibodeau was upset with the team’s defense for a change.

“Transition, pick-and-roll defense, challenging shots, not protecting the paint, from A to Z, it just wasn’t there,” Thibodeau told reporters after the game. “We’ve got to do a lot better job, and we’re capable. If we’re just going to rely on our offense, we’re going to be in trouble.”

I can agree with that with Boozer out, and, yes, the pick and roll defense isn’t great and the help defense, Thibodeau’s specialty, hasn’t been great, either. But it’s unfair to grade it without Noah, the team’s best help defender, and the Bulls again were good contesting shots on the perimeter and held the Raptors to two of 14 on threes after Dallas last week was one of 16 on threes against the Bulls.

Thibodeau is a defensive specialist and, not unlike Scott Skiles, sometimes seems to believe you can keep a team from ever scoring.

Looking at the Raptors with maybe three legitimate NBA starters on the roster, perhaps that’s possible. But this Bulls team does seem to be trying.

It’s a lot to ask Keith Bogans to be a defensive stopper on big time two guards since he wasn’t exactly brought in for that role, but he has been forced into it with Ronnie Brewer’s injury plagued start and generally quiet contribution.

Omer Asik actually is pretty good fundamentally and had nine rebounds in about 20 minutes, but a lot of foul trouble again as he started for the ill Noah. It’s difficult to expect him to be on the court much longer. Kurt Thomas shot the ball well and rebounded in a decent stint, though the Bulls gave the lead away in the first half when the starters came out.

It actually was a group of reserves in the fourth quarter with James Johnson getting 13 of his 14 points, mostly going to the basket, who helped put the game out of reach for the Bulls. C.J. Watson added eight in the quarter, though his shot has been awful and he was three of 13 from the field, but six of eight from the line.

“I thought our bench played terrific in the fourth quarter,” said Thobodeau. “Defensively, the second and fourth quarters I didn’t like our defense, but I liked our offense. I thought our starters did a really good job defensively to start the game and in the third quarter also. Now I’m concerned about our rebounding, the rebounding is not good.”

The Bulls were again outrebounded, this time 45-36 by a small team. And, yes, Noah and Boozer were out, which should usually be good for about 20 rebounds. But the Bulls have to be concerned with Taj Gibson, who was in early foul trouble, but who played almost 17 minutes without a rebound. Gibson, coming off a pair of missed games with plantar fasciitis symptoms, has regressed badly so far this preseason and has given the team little. It’s not clear if he’s hurt or just in some sophomore funk/slump, but the Bulls can ill afford a lesser effort from him with Boozer sidelined the first month, at least.

If Gibson doesn’t improve, the Bulls will be in trouble on the front line as Asik obviously isn’t getting the benefit of the doubt on fouls and you don’t want to be playing Thomas big minutes this early in the season.

The Bulls also were missing Kyle Korver with an ankle problem, though his omission was said to be precautionary at this point.

The Bulls looked a lot sharper—a stick of butter would—coming off that Orlando embarrassment, especially Luol Deng, who led the Bulls with 22 points, including 10 in the first quarter with five of seven free throws as the Bulls took a 10-point lead and led 27-22 after one.

“I thought our starting five last game against Orlando came out flat for whatever reason,” noticed Deng. “Today we wanted to make sure that we came out with a lot of energy. I thought we did a good job of that. We allowed them back into the game but we started the game the right way.”

A word about Deng.

Everytime ESPN makes up another Carmelo Anthony trade story, everyone wants to trade Deng. Yes, Anthony is better. But Deng will average 15 to 17 points and is a far better defender. And, remember, until Chaucey Billups showed up Anthony was just a chucker who never got out of the first round of the playoffs. And he’s not averaging 28 points playing with Rose. If you have to give up Deng and Gibson and Asik and a No. 1 pick, are you better off? And that’s assuming you are not giving up Noah, which the Bulls certainly won’t.

Anyway, Toronto got a 54-50 lead going into halftime with the reserves playing most of the second quarter. The starters, with Asik for Noah, mostly got it back to 78-75 Bulls going into the fourth with Brewer for Bogans and Scalabrine for Gibson providing a nice addition for two guys not doing much.

Then the Bulls pulled away to open the fourth with the help of a Linas Kleiza flagrant foul on Watson and a Scalabrine three as Scalabrine had 14 points on six of seven shooting and based on the way Thibodeau is using his rotation now may be his top sub. Of course, if that’s the case as Scalabrine was 15th man for Boston, the Bulls might not be as deep as we think.

Actually, it’s also why preseason records don’t mean much with starters often leaving games to be decided by guys who will not be deciding games in the regular season.

But with the injuries, a big hole at shooting guard and lack of inside offense without Boozer, Rose is going to be asked to do a lot.

“Derrick Rose kind of got it going and his teammates fed off his presence,” noticed Reggie Evans.

That’s what the stars do, and Rose better keep doing it or the Bulls will be having some big problems.

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