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Bulls look majestic against Kings
by Sam Smith
Posted on Dec 30
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Now what was so difficult about that? All the Bulls had to do was to listen to all of us screaming for them to push the ball and attack, play like they wanted to win the game instead of observing it.
“I told you from the beginning I was going to be more aggressive and attack the hole,” said Derrick Rose, who had 19 points and eight assists as the Bulls never trailed after the first three minutes and Thursday defeated the Sacramento Kings 108-98. “We were running and playing in a groove. When we are aggressive, we’re great. We are going to ball.”
Finally, for in opening the season 1-1, the Bulls were worse than disappointing even with the unlikely Christmas Day comeback and Rose’s game winning runner. They were boring and mostly indifferent. After talking about promise and possibilities coming into the season, the Bulls basically spent the first two games walking into offense and about as interesting as a cow tipping contest.
But that all changed in Phil Jackson’s favorite cow town as the Bulls showed how they can be who they think they are, with fast breaking aggressive offense leading to easy scores and open shots, bothersome defense and impressive depth.
The Bulls put five players in double figures with Joakim Noah with nine. All 10 players scored as the Bulls shot 53.8 percent, had an early season high 25 assists and a staggering 33-14 edge in fast break points that was the difference in the game and their play.
Yes, defense is vital and it is a Bulls specialty, unless you asked the Golden State Warriors Monday.
“Our first priority is to get our defense going, and that makes the game easier,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau about Thursday’s win to bring the Bulls to 2-1 and closing this trip Friday against the Clippers.
Although the Kings got within one with a chance to take the lead in the third quarter, the Bulls had an early 15-0 run when the Kings were one for 13 and led 19-5 less than seven minutes into the game.
But the way the Bulls are constructed it’s not enough to just talk defense. Plus, early in the season the Bulls still are sorting that out and might have issues without much practice time. Noah had just four rebounds Thursday fighting off foul trouble along with Rose. But without a second high level offensive option to support Rose, the Bulls desperately need to speed up the game to produce easy points and open the court.
They did that from the start Thursday with Luol Deng with a pair of fast break layups early and Noah taking a rebound and going full court for his own basket, an inexplicable and inexcusable lapse by a Kings team that has some possibilities. Hey, can anyone stop ball? Didn’t someone see Noah do that in the playoffs against the Celtics a few years back?
Rookie Jimmer Fredette showed a nice feel for the game and as much as the Bulls tried to beat him up, he stepped through for 14 points with a great shot. I liked him, though he dribbled into traffic a bit too much.
Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans combined for 39 points, but were a pathetic five of 14 from the free throw line and perhaps only the Kings poor free throw shooting (20-34) saved the Bulls from a close one late. DeMarcus Cousins had 15 points and 12 rebounds and clearly is a million dollar post talent. With, yes, perhaps a less valuable basketball IQ. He was four of 16 missing a bunch of close in stuff. But most revealing was the way he began running over Noah and Omer Asik as the Kings pulled within 72-71 with five minutes left in the third. Ball game!
Cousins had driven to the basket for dunks and kept getting fouled, so with Noah resting with foul trouble and Cousins outweighing Asik by maybe 300 pounds, all of a sudden Cousins started shooting 16 footers.
The game turned there as C.J. Watson with eight points, nine assists and zero turnovers hit a momentum killing three on a transition pull up. Richard Hamilton, in his most minutes and shots yet with the Bulls and 16 points, leaked out for an easy layup after Carlos Boozer won a jump after he blocked shot. Jump, Carlos jump. See Carlos sky.
Then Boozer, who had an excellent game with 16 points and 15 rebounds, hit a jumper, and Boozer closed a 9-1 run to end the third quarter with a tough postup move and a pull up jumper for an 85-75 Bulls lead after three. The Kings never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
“I like the way we ran the floor and we have to continue to do that,” said Thibodeau, who got a rare technical for complaining about fouls (34-21 Kings free throw edge). “I thought our bench was terrific. C.J. ran the team well when Derrick had to go to the bench because of foul trouble. Ronnie (Brewer) and Kyle (Korver) both gave us some nice production from the bench as well.
“I thought our starters played with a lot more intensity, and when our defense gets going we can do some things,” added Thibodeau. “I think if we do that, we can be a pretty good team.”
Wow, he never says stuff like that. I call it giddy Thibby.
“I thought the way Carlos rebounded the ball led to a lot of our fast breaks,” said Thibodeau. “The difference between this game and our last game is we started out cold before, and tonight we made sure that we tried to keep pressure on them.”
The Bulls did that with the Kings help early with their woeful shooting. But the Bulls came out with a measure of determination this time. Noah blocked a Cousins shot early, Rose was getting to the free throw line, which in the previous two games he apparently didn’t know was permitted, and Boozer was chasing down loose balls.
Brewer played just 12 minutes in relief of Hamilton, hitting all five of his shots and both threes, a rarity for him. But I was glad to see that, less against Brewer than that Thibodeau has to work in Hamilton more as his offense has to become a point of emphasis for opponents. Thibodeau also got Korver in early after he hadn’t played much meaningful time the first two games and Korver hit back to back threes in the second quarter to stretch the Bulls out by 15.
“The guys are really shooting the ball,” said Rose. “My assists are going to be very high this year, I think. We just have to keep winning and that’s the biggest thing right now.”
And Rose was back to his highlights as with the Bulls ahead 26-15 late in the first he drove through the entire Kings defense with twisting, curling grace for the kind of layup that leaves opposing fans all smiles. That’s the stuff you come to see!
Rose led with eight points in the first quarter as the Bulls led 30-24 after giving up the last nine points of the quarter. They would continue to allow the Kings some hope with a similar 9-1 Kings run to end the second quarter as Sacramento got within 60-53 at halftime.
I’m not saying the Bulls need to score 60 points every half, but I still get the sense you’re going to have to score more, at least in the early part of the season, until, and if, defensive tactics take hold.
Brewer had a pair of slam dunks before those Korver threes in the second quarter on runouts, the second after a made basket on a nice Watson delivery. The Bulls moved it out to 59-44 late in the second quarter when Rose ran out after another made basket and assisted a Noah layup. But the offense broke down some afterward enabling the Kings to get within 60-53.
The third quarter can be a trap as teams can come out slowly at times without the same amount of warmup as in pregame, and the Kings struck quickly to get within 62-60 with a thunderous Cousins baseline spin for a slam.
But similar to the rest of the way, every time the Kings closed the Bulls responded. This time it was Rose and Rip in the kind of offense the Bulls will need to protect Rose. First Rose drove for a score, but then Hamilton added a layup on his own fast break and with yet another pull up for a short jumper and suddenly a 68-60 Bulls lead.
Rose later had one of those treasure map drives through the defense for a score, though he then drew his fourth foul as the Bulls were fighting a close whistle all game and were into the penalty two minutes into the second half.
But not only did Watson stand in well, he extended the margin as that transition three at 72-71 was a run stopper for the Kings and seemed to deflate them. It led to that Boozer surge and the 10-point bulge going into the fourth.
Brewer then added a second three pointer for a 90-79 lead with 10:05 left in the game and then ran baseline, where Rose found him for a score as Rose broke down the Kings defense again with his penetration. Rose then followed that with a short pull up off his dribble for a 94-80 lead.
Rose would soon draw his fifth foul and go out again while Watson and Boozer held off the Kings along with a beautiful block by Deng on what seemed like a sure layup with the Kings trying to get within eight midway through the fourth. It then was Rose returning and committing a pair of turnovers on Kings traps that enabled them to get within seven, though the Kings were too far behind to make the Bulls sweat very much.
“I’m getting better every game,” said Hamilton. “I’m still a long ways away. It’s still early in the season. I just try to get better each and every day.”
Just like the Bulls for now.