Bulls enjoy a laugher over Warriors


Nov 12

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It’s generally a curiosity when the team from the San Francisco Bay Area comes in as life is somewhat different there. I’ve had some head scratching discussions out there, like when they were considering whether if someone with multiple personalities commits a homicide it is a hostage situation. Or whether vegetarians can eat animal crackers and just how it’s possible to have a civil war. I can’t remember. Marijuana use is legal out there, right?

Anyway, I wandered over to listen to Golden State Warriors coach Keith Smart Thursday night after the Bulls absolutely destroyed the Warriors, 120-90, in a game the Bulls never led by fewer than 20 points after early in the second quarter.

Yes, it was the Warriors’ fourth game in five nights on the road. Imagine, some of the world’s greatest athletes having to play basketball four times in five days. I know. We shouldn’t say anything until we walk a mile in their shoes.

Of course, that’s also a good time to condemn them as you are now a mile away and have their shoes.

Anyway, I digress.

So Smart, who didn’t look so Thursday, began to explain what happened to his actually improved, Nellie-less Warriors.

“We talked about playing on the road how you’re going to run into the wolf, the bear, and the lion,” said Smart.  “We escaped the wolf last night, but the bear got us tonight.”

The Knicks are the wolf?

I was tempted to ask Smart if he ever hunted bear. I assumed he’d say really only in his shorts.

Yes, it was a big time laugher at the United Center as Luol Deng had 26 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two of the Bulls’ 10 blocks (quick, trade him!), Derrick Rose had 22 points and 13 assists, the Bulls established a franchise record with just seven personal fouls as the Warriors apparently believed the lane was made of quick sand and the Bulls had 37 fast break points, 22 in the first half when they ran up a 66-38 lead. So I was thinking given the Warriors players weren’t sweating much, especially on defense, that you should both never sweat the petty things and never pet the sweaty things.

Speaking of Joakim Noah, who had his season long double-double streak snapped as he had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

“You don’t realize until you play in game like that, ‘Man, we haven’t played in a situation like this (without falling behind quickly and fighting back) in a long time,’” noticed Noah. “Hopefully, we can do it more often. We want to play fast. It works to our advantage. We were playing the passing lanes and got  a lot of steals, especially in the beginning of the game. We can be a dangerous team when we play uptempo like that. It’s a good fit for us.”

It was impressive to watch as the Warriors, without injured forward David Lee (big deal; Carlos Boozer still is out), gave it about a half a quarter of effort and pretty much packed it in as they appeared to have plenty of excuses available with the road trip, Lee out and going to 6-3 after the loss, one of their best starts in years.

You could see, though, the Bulls half expected this, that sometimes you can get a team like that which wasn’t expected to do much to quit early on you if you apply some pressure. The Bulls haven’t been great this season jumping on teams, but they blitzed the Warriors high scoring guards right away, neither of whom really is a point guard, and Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis combined for nine turnovers, five in the first quarter of the team’s staggering nine which led to 16 Bulls points.

There were a pair of classics as Keith Bogans, who had easily his best game as a Bull with 14 points and six steals, took the ball from center Andris Biedrins and combined with Rose for a fast break in which they passed the ball back and forth four times after midcourt without it hitting the ground and Rose finished with a two handed slam. Less than 30 seconds later, Rose finished off another fast break started with a Bogans steal with still another two handed tomahawk jam as the Bulls moved ahead 30-14 and began to disappear.

“Keith did a good job guarding Monte, making him take tough shots he didn’t want to take,” said Rose of Ellis, who came into the game second in the league to Kevin Durant in scoring. Ellis led Golden State with 24 while Curry had 17.

“Monta is one of the best scorers in the league,” said Bogans. “At practice they were killing me, saying he might have 50 tonight. I wanted to make everything tough for him. My job is to play defense, bring energy, hit an open shot.”

“Bruce Bowen?” I said.

“I’m Keith Bogans,” shot back Keith Bogans.

“Keith was knocking down shots, stealing the ball, passing well on the break,” said Rose. “It starts with defense for us, deflections, guys rebounding and pushing the ball. That’s where we’re dangerous, when we push because we’ve got three point shooters (the Bulls were seven of 19). And it was the first game we didn’t get into the penalty early.”

Yes, that was one of the team adjustments, though this stuff is difficult to figure against a team that couldn’t deal with the  bear while apparently wondering how you get the deer to cross the road at those yellow signs.

The Bulls had been getting into foul trouble quickly, which generally is attributed to poor defensive position, reaching, not moving your feet, having guys from Turkey jump in front of Kevin Garnett. But despite having Rose and Noah, the Bulls aren’t a particularly athletic team, so staying out of foul trouble requires more fundamental work.

“We’re a team at first that was gambling on plays,” said Rose. “A lot of us were not used to playing one on one defense like that. So we’re having to work every day in practice playing one on one against eachother. If you make a cheap foul or bail out you have to start over. So you learn to play defense or you’re going to be there all day.”

Also, the Bulls had been turning the ball over a lot, but Golden State didn’t exactly seem attuned to a defensive plan.

While teams now generally blitz Rose with a double or triple team off the pick and roll, Golden State generally watched or offered a soft double, which Rose quickly split and was inside the defense and passing off. The Bull shot 54.8 percent with Kyle Korver adding 10 points and Taj Gibson another solid effort with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Get this, the Bulls shot 23 free throws to seven for the Warriors.

It takes awhile to get De-Nellieized and while the Warriors are better, they can fall victim to old habits. C.J. Watson began to come out of it for the Bulls, though, with seven points, four rebounds and two assists and his shots much better within the flow of the offense.

Although Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said it was more due to matchups than any change in his rotation, I thought a big key was him leaving Rose and Deng in to begin the second quarter.

The Bulls have been having difficulties opening the second and fourth quarters generally with a group of all reserves with Noah often in with them. But it’s been such a non scoring group that the Bulls have fallen behind and regularly had to fight back.

But Thursday with Rose and Deng in to open the second, the Bulls spread a 34-20 lead to 52-28 before Rose went out for Korver five minutes into the quarter. I didn’t think it was any coincidence Rose scored the first two baskets of the second quarter and Deng added a pair of threes, both off Rose passes.

“We started off aggressive,” said Thibodeau.  “We were shrinking the floor and moving our feet.  I thought we did a better job of making them play in a crowd. When we’re rebounding, which we’ve done well, and when we’re not fouling we’re in the open floor more and the bigs can run. Our bigs were terrific. Lu was terrific, and he played quite a bit of four and that made us quicker.  We’re pulling our hands back, we’re paying better body position, our help is better and we’re giving the appropriate help.

“I want them to play with their feet and use their hands to aid on defense,” said Thibodeau as he patiently continued to explain Defense 101.  “You can create a lot of deflections like that.  As you read plays and understand coverages and where the ball is going to go, I think our athleticism does play into that.  I like the contested two, the rebound and the outlet.  I’ve said it all year, when Derrick rebounds or gets the outlet, that’s almost impossible to stop.”

There’s also been nice signs on defense for Rose, who hasn’t been known as an all defensive guy.

But he made a nice pick on the backside from Biedrins, which he turned into a fast break score.

Thibodeau said Rose recognized the opposite side block occupied, so he didn’t have to finish his cut through and could help and trap.

“He’s reading plays well right now,” said Thibodeau. “His activity is very good, and I think he can get better.”

It’s impressive progress and a move back above .500 to 4-3 for the Bulls, who now lead the Central Division and have the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference, percentage points ahead of Miami.

Yeah! Take that! Drink up!

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

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