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Bulls do some partying in New Orleans
by Sam Smith
Posted on Feb 9
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The New Orleans Hornets Wednesday had actor/comedian Will Ferrell, in the city filming a movie, read the starting lineup introductions with his own little twists.
“At forward, No. 5,” Ferrell began for the Bulls, “he still lives with his mother, Carlos Boozer.
“At forward, No. 9, he collects rare birds and has a pet dolphin named Chachi, Luol Deng.
“At center, No. 13, he’s a Scorpio and a horrible dancer, Joakim Noah.
“At guard, No. 11, he once ate 20 hot dogs in an hour, Ronnie Brewer.
At guard, No. 1, his favorite movie is ‘The Notebook,’ Derrick Rose.”
And then for the Hornets to the music of, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, Ferrell introduced the home team:
“At forward, 6-10 from Mexico. He doesn’t speak a lick of English. But we still love him, Gustavo Ayon.
“At forward, 6-8 from UCLA. He still loves to listen to Bell Biv DeVoe, Trevor Ariza.
“At center, 6-10 from Connecticut, where he majored in econ but he minored in love, Emeka Okafor.
“At guard, 6-5 from Italy. Ironically, he hates Italian food, Marco Bellinelli.
“At guard, 6-3 from Georgia Tech. After basketball his dream is to become a rodeo clown, Jarrett Jack.”
I actually thought it was a particularly prescient moment. After all, how appropriate for a laugher.
And that’s what the Bulls’ 90-67 domination was as the Bulls scored the first nine points, led 15-4 and then pretty much were ahead by double figures the rest of the game. Only some weak defensive moments at the end of the fourth quarter enabled the Hornets to not only avoid their lowest scoring game ever (65 points), but also the fewest points ever scored by a Bulls opponent, which was 62. The Hornets had 58 points with just over 90 seconds remaining.
“We’re playing really well right now,” said Luol Deng, who had just nine points while Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 18. “We’re coming out early, defending, running the floor, and getting a lead and playing well with it. We’re learning how to play with a lead. There’s times when teams go on a run, but we’re better at it than we were last year.”
Derrick Rose, who started amidst concerns about his back spasms, played a quiet 22 minutes with six points, six assists and five rebounds.
“It was kind of tight,” a cautious Rose said of his back. “They did a great job of managing my minutes, and finally saw we had the game put away (and didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Of course, Deng was the only starter who did).”
“He (Rose) says he feels pretty good,” added Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “Each day he’s got to do his rehab, get rest, get his massage and he’ll go from there.”
It was a domination on all levels as the Bulls had 29 assists on 39 baskets and held the undermanned Hornets to 37.3 percent shooting. And that’s with making their last six shots. Ferrell sat courtside with actors Dylan McDermott, Zach Galifianakis and Jesse Eisenberg. I wasn’t watching closely at the end, but I think they finished that last two minutes when the Hornets closed within 23.
The Bulls led by 28 in the third quarter, had a 16-6 edge on second chance points and 12-1 on fast breaks (one of two free throws after being fouled). Though the statisticians may have given the Hornets half a basket the way they never quite ran out very much.
Yes, that is an odd number, and in this era of esoteric records, the Bulls added another with the first ever NBA road team to win three consecutive games by at least 20 points with no home games in between.
They also were the first ever NBA team to get baskets from Joakim Noah to open games against the Nets and Hornets in the second week of February in a leap year. Go ahead, ask Elias.
“You cannot take any credit away from the way that they approach the game,” said Hornets coach Monty Williams. “I believe that is the way you play if you want to win a championship. Everyone one on that team knows their role, they have an identity and they live it out every night. We had a tough time with their pressure. I thought they did a good job of fighting through our screens tonight. They have defensive players, a great system and a great coach so that is a combination for success.”
And a smart coach, too. This was the job that Thibodeau was offered for more money than the Bulls were paying that he turned down to continue interviewing for the Bulls job. Though I think part of the compensation was in Mardi Gras beads.
And now it looks like Thibodeau will be the Eastern Conference All-Star coach. With the Heat, Pacers and 76ers losing Wednesday, the Bulls need to win two of their next three against Charlotte, Boston and Sacramento to clinch the coaching spot for Thibodeau and his staff. Better start looking for those new suits, guys.
This could be sweet as there’s no way Thibs takes out LeBron.
On Thursday, the NBA will announce the reserves for the All-Star team. Derrick Rose was named a starter last week and Deng is considered a good possibility to be added as a reserve.
In the meantime, the Bulls keep rolling along, now 22-6 and 5-2 on the nine-game 16-day road trip that concludes Sunday in Boston. The Bulls then play five straight at home without a back to back before heading into the All-Star break. And then just three games the week after the break as their schedule begins to ease.
“I was pleased with the overall performance,” said Thibodeau. “I thought all four bigs were really good in all aspects: Defense, rebounding, post play, to making the extra pass. I thought they played complete games and I thought that set the tone for us.”
That was Noah, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds, at the start. After opening the game taking up a Boozer miss, Noah finished a beautiful pick and roll pass from Rose for a score and after Boozer ran out for a fast break score — he’s running the court much more lately — Noah overplayed for a steal and his own fast break for a 21-8 start that left the Hornets gasping. You’d have been hard pressed to name their starters without that comic introduction that the players said had even Thibodeau with a rare pregame smile. He then fined himself.
There also was much discussion about whether Brian Scalabrine looked like Ferrell, who played fictional ABA basketball player Jackie Moon (the NBA is celebrating the ABA this month, as it happens) in the movie Semi-Pro. The movie, which was pretty lame, ends with Moon being named NBA marketing director, which may be Ferrell’s own commentary on what goes on in the NBA at times these days.
Chris Kaman, with 10 first quarter points and 17 and 9 overall, was the best player for the 4-22 Hornets missing injured Eric Gordon. Though Omer Asik with his size did a good job finally slowing Kaman. Kaman recently returned to the team after it curiously sent him home because it wanted to trade him. It would seem him playing and doing well would do more for his value, though this is a fairly dysfunctional Hornets team that is owned by the other 29 owners and run by the NBA. There was that controversial preseason Chris Paul deal to acquire Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola that was rejected for Gordon and draft picks. Which might be better in the long run for the Hornets and any sale as they likely weren’t making the playoffs with those guys, anyway. But until the team is sold it’s a black eye for the league with the ongoing losing record.
It was a bad night in many ways as the TV feed from New Orleans was constantly interrupted much of the game for the viewers in Chicago and around the country on League Pass. There’s apparently no truth to the rumor the NBA selectively blacks out Hornets possessions to enhance the sale possibilities.
The Bulls led 23-14 after the first quarter, and though Taj Gibson had 14 off the bench and Kyle Korver 12, the starters did the majority of the damage. When the reserves were in they pretty much matched baskets with the Hornets. C.J. Watson had a brutal one of 10 shooting night while Ronnie Brewer, still starting for the recovering and absent for personal reasons Richard Hamilton, was two of nine. Though Brewer does keep hustling when he misses, like on a point blank dunk, and had four steals.
The Bulls led 44-31 at halftime as the Hornets starters combined for 18 points. Looked like too many pregame beignets for a change. The Bulls’ starters then played most of the third quarter and held the Hornets to 25 percent shooting while pushing out to a 70-46 lead after three. Boozer and Deng scored six points each in the third and Noah added five points and five rebounds as the Hornets pretty much settled for jumpers as they were unable to penetrate the Bulls active defenses.
“They play really, really good team defense,” marveled Trevor Ariza, who was the defensive specialist for the 2009 champion Lakers. “They do everything that they need to do to win. They all played hard as hell. They play great together. They are a really good team.”