Bulls dominate Wizards for easy win


Mar 1

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I don’t get many questions anymore about John Wall vs. Derrick Rose, and there’ll likely be even fewer after Monday’s Bulls 105-77 win over the Washington Wizards with Rose dominating a mostly invisible Wall.

Did you even know he was in the game?

This is supposed to be the era of the point guard, but the latest youngsters have stumbled with Wall nowhere near what he was sold to be and Tyreke Evans regressing and injured this season.

Deron Williams was disgraced and shipped to New Jersey and Chris Paul still has his ups and downs after surgery last summer with his statistics below his career averages in every major category.

Ray Felton was traded; Devin Harris was traded and we’re still not sure Rajon Rondo can make a shot.

“Derrick was terrific, 21 and nine, complete control of the game,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau agreed. “He’s got great vision, he’s so unselfish. He got us great shots all night long.

“To me, his leadership is outstanding, the way he is running the team. I think he inspires his teammates because of the way he plays,” said Thibodeau. ”He plays so hard, so unselfishly. If two guys are on him without hesitation he finds the open man. He has a good feel for what’s going on in the game, who’s going well, where the good matchup is, who may need a shot. He does a great job of bringing guys into the game, also. If a guy is struggling a little bit, he’ll find a way to get him a layup and get him going. And he’s setting the tone defensively.”

Thibodeau would never put it this way, but that’s what I’m here for.

He just made the case why Rose should be MVP over LeBron James, whom the Bulls will see at the end of this four-game trip in Miami Sunday.

Rose performs the rare double in both managing the game and being able to take over the game. James can take over a game. He cannot manage the game. There’s this canard that has been floated around about James because he passes the ball that he is and unselfish team player. But there’s a big difference between a player who can find a teammate when he is double teamed and a player who manages the game and involves his teammates.

You can see James has little trust in his teammates, like in that total of two points the bench scored against the Bulls last Thursday.

Thibodeau explained it beautifully after the rout over the Wizards in which Rose orchestrated an easy win as the new X-factor, Luol Deng, had another strong game with 21 points (20.2 the last five) and Joakim Noah had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

The win moved the Bulls one game behind Miami for second in the East at 41-17 heading into Atlanta Wednesday, where they’ll see former captain Kirk Hinrich. Maybe. Hinrich sat out the Monday loss in Denver with a calf injury.

The Hawks will be coming off a seven-game, 15-day road trip, and that first game home is always a difficult one, especially with it being a third game in four nights. Plus, Josh Smith hurt his knee against the Nuggets and is likely questionable for the Bulls.

Though as we know with Thibodeau there never has been an NBA team who isn’t terrific and tough to play with terrific players, like, say, the Wizards, whose combined basketball IQ rarely reaches their point total.

Thibodeau after the game was explaining how basically all teams would win the championship if not for injuries. So he began to mention the Wizards players, the guys, of course, who have a 1-28 road record. Hinrich was traded to the Hawks five days ago and already has more road wins there than he had with the Wizards had all season.

“Wall is terrific,” Thibodeau waxed enthusiastically. “(Nick) Young is terrific, “(Andray) Blatche is, er, certainly an established player.”

That’s right. Even Thibodeau couldn’t get himself to sell Blatche.

The Wizards play a truly mindless game. Wall runs down like a sprinter shot out of the blocks and tries to throw lob passes when he could get an easy layup. Blatche is a seven footer with athletic advantages who spends most of his time taking difficult, baseline fallaways. The Bulls had a 48-22 edge in points in the paint, which told you where the teams were scoring from. Young never met a shot he wouldn’t take.

JaVale McGee jumps at everything, and does get to a few balls, but all you have to do is roll to the basket and it’s layup after dunk.

That’s what Noah did early as he followed misses, some of which McGee caused, though there never was anyone to back cover for him. The Bulls had a 22-4 lead in second chance points. Nice efforts there from Washington.

McGee also mostly likes to block shots. So Noah took off after misses and beat him down court by five steps after a Young miss and got a lob dunk from Rose to make it 10-4 in a game which the Wizards led for a total of… never.

The next aggressive defensive contest you see from a Washington player may be the first.

So how bad is it?

Mike Bibby, who came in the Hinrich deal, apparently gave up almost his entire $6.4 million salary for next season to get out of his contract and presumably join the Miami Heat in an unprecedented move for an aging player. The Bulls are in the running to add the Clippers’ Rasual Butler in a buyout, though it seems they are steering away from former Timberwolves player Corey Brewer, released by the Knicks.

The Bulls had a stunning 18-7 rebounding edge in the first quarter with Noah and Carlos Boozer getting five each and Noah with 10 points without shooting from beyond two inches.

“I thought our mindset was right from the beginning,” said Thibodeau. “The rebounding was outstanding to start the game and that gave us an advantage. I thought we were ready to play. The bench was terrific (29 points, led by 11 from Kyle Korver). Their defense was great and their rebounding was great.

“Jo, he’s almost back to the point he was before the injury,” said Thibodeau. “His activity is off the charts. His defense is terrific. His rebounding is very good and you can see he’s getting a lot more comfortable offensively.”

Actually, I didn’t see that as Noah seems to still be uncertain about shooting and taking that left handed driving scoop he’d become pretty good at before his surgery. He’s not shooting that open left elbow jumper which had become surprisingly reliable as well. Though he has been back just four games after missing some 10 weeks.

Rose also had three steals, and some of his best highlights Monday were in passing the ball instead of driving, shooting and scoring.

He was playing off a very unaggressive Wall when Wall doesn’t have the ball, and Rose picked off a crosscourt pass from Jordan Crawford with just over a minute left in the first quarter and the Bulls ahead 23-15.

Rose blew out against Wall, who was losing ground chasing Rose. Rose got ahead of Wall and as Rose got near the rim passed the ball between his own legs behind to a trailing Noah who dunked the ball.

What was even more impressive about that play, and indicative of what kind of game it would be, was there were four Bulls downcourt before any other Wizards had joined Wall.

Check, please!

This was no contest against Wall, not that Rose looks at these matchups like that much. Wall, frankly, was a disappointment to watch. He plays wild, way out of control as if he’s on some AAU tryout to play for John Calipari. His defense is ridiculously poor and you can watch for a quarter and forget he played. His assist numbers are high, but they aren’t assists that make it easier for players. The Wizards play a lot of one-on-one isolation with jump shots and the NBA has become very generous in assist scoring. The league finally did take one from Rondo’s hugely inflated numbers when someone sent in tape of a pass he made to a teammate who then passed to another for the basket and Rondo got the assist. Wall just hands the ball to guys and if they happen to make a shot, and Young will make his share, he gets assists. Wall had nine points on three of 14 shooting and 10 assists.

I suppose he’ll be good because everyone says so, but I haven’t seen it yet.

The Bulls second unit continued the onslaught on the boards in the second quarter as the Bulls would move to a 50-37 halftime lead.

Taj Gibson, with seven rebounds in 20 minutes, and Omer Asik, with seven rebounds in 15 minutes, helped hold Washington to one basket in the first seven minutes of the second as the Bulls went back up by 10, and Boozer even tried a rare slam dunk and was fouled.

Boozer never has been a big dunker, relying more on clever moves around the basket. Most of his dunks tend to be in transition, but he hasn’t always joined the fast break this season. The Bulls would like to see him finish stronger, and getting an inside pass he tried to dunk over McGee, of all guys. Boozer was fouled, making two for a 39-31 lead, but it was encouraging to see that aggressiveness.

The Bulls closed the first half with a pair of Deng baskets, the second basket one of his posed threes from the left corner where he hit the big shot against Miami. He was so cool this time Deng actually started walking off the court to the locker room without expression before the ball was through the net.

Cool hand, Lu.

You know the Bulls don’t have a failure to communicate.

Deng also added a pair of steals and his increasingly stronger moves to the basket as his growth this season has been terrific in truly becoming, often times, a second offensive option after Rose.

But you know Thibodeau doesn’t rest on anyone.

And for all Noah was doing, he got an ear filled from Thibodeau on a fairly innocuous defensive rotation error just over a minute into the second half with the Bulls ahead 51-42 after a Josh Howard jumper.

Young had circled around a screen from Blatche toward the middle, where Noah hedged, but then retreated to Blatche in the right corner about 18 feet out. When Noah stepped back, Deng stepped up to cut off Young, who passed to Howard for the jumper.

Thibodeau’s defense has strong so called “no middle” rules. Noah was supposed to deny middle and not step back to a seven footer shooting a jump shot. The Bulls still were up 11. Thibodeau exploded into a timeout and went right at Noah, whose energy and enthusiasm does sometimes cloud his analysis.

Thibodeau remains an equal opportunity reminder. Boozer gave Noah an encouraging pat on the head, and Thibodeau merely did some reiterating.

Let’s say just a gentle reminder. But it’s also why the Bulls held the Wizards to 35.6 percent shooting and remain among the top three in virtually every defensive category.

The Bulls began to pull away in the third with Rose breaking a three point shooting slump with a pair of threes as Wall continued to play well off and Rose again after another steal beat Wall down court after a turnover for a layup.

The Bulls closed the third quarter ahead 78-57. The reserves couldn’t completely put it away as the lead stayed in the high teens. So Rose, Deng and Noah returned midway through the fourth quarter and blew it open.

Deng posed after another three and Rose absolutely treated Wall like a park statue the pigeons were eying, hitting Deng on a two on one for a slam and threading a nice wraparound pass to Noah for a slam on the following possession to take a 97-73 and provide enough time for Thibodeau to get Brian Scalabrine in to score with a not-so-money-in-the bank shot.

“We have to make sure we don’t look ahead,” said Thibodeau.

Too bad. We are.

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