Bulls give a Jordan like beating to Michael’s ‘Cats


Feb 11

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The Bulls are 23-6 after Friday’s again dominating win over the Charlotte Bobcats, this time 95-64, the Bulls’ league record fourth consecutive road victory by at least 20 points.

They have the best record in the NBA, and the toughest part, at least in the regular season, may be behind them now.

“We’re coming out with a better mindset, focused, locked in,” said Luol Deng, whose 10 first quarter points kick started the Bulls to 30-16 lead that quickly swelled beyond 20 for the rest of the game and as much as 32. “No one is relaxed. The schedule has a lot to do with it. The start of the season there were a lot of back to backs. Lately, it’s been every other day, so I feel rested and a lot of guys feel the same.”

Joakim NoahJoakim Noah, who was terrific with team highs of 17 points and 14 rebounds, agreed.

“That day in between, as an energy player it really helps me a lot,” said Noah. “I feel great. I feel comfortable. It’s good to be playing basketball. I love the critics. I think it’s great. It really motivates me. It feels good to be playing well and winning. We do not want to have any letdowns. We want to handle our business. Next one in Boston. Big game. Let’s get it popppin’.”

The Bulls now have one game left on their nine-game 16-day road trip. They’ve got only eight back to backs left and only 13 of their last 36 games after Sunday are on the road. They had their three in three nights, and after a 19-game January they have a relatively normal 16 games in March and 13 in April. The rest of February they have 10 of 17 days off (All-Star break included) with four straight weeks of just three games each week from mid March into mid April. It’s like they’ve gotten through midterms and now are cruising to graduation. They can almost smell the playoffs. The slog is about over.

“I remember last year at the end of year,” said Deng. “It’s like the season was starting over and that’s how it feels again.”

This Bulls team is flying, and, true it’s been against weak competition lately with Milwaukee, New Jersey, New Orleans and Friday 3-23 Charlotte.

Those Bobcats are a mess, and it perhaps was instructive that owner Michael Jordan sat in his usual seat at the end of the team bench with his fiancée, but didn’t come out after halftime with the Bulls ahead 56-34. Jordan turns 49 next week, and you wouldn’t have been surprised if he came out in uniform after halftime as you know he had to be thinking he could have done better.

Former Bull Tyrus Thomas didn’t come out either, benched for Corey Maggette after halftime as it wasn’t until 90 seconds was left that a Bobcat entered double figures scoring. It was the second straight game the Bulls flirted with holding an opponent to a regular season franchise low, which is 62 points.

And this time without Derrick Rose, who stayed in the locker room with his sore back. The Bulls now are 5-1 with Rose out. Hurts the MVP case. Rose, though, is expected to play against Boston Sunday in the national TV game.

Russian defense minister, errr, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said it’s “still the same” with Rose.

“Day to day,” said Thibodeau. “More precautionary. Just wanted to give him another day of rest. We’ll see where he is tomorrow. We’ll take it day by day.”

Thibodeau plays this little game with reporters, who two or there times a day at practice and games ask him about Rose. Thibodeau always says day to day or game time decision, though C.J. Watson, who started for Rose, revealed after the game that Thibodeau had told the team Thursday that Rose wasn’t playing Friday. Thibodeau has this NFL mentality belief that you cannot give out information to your opponent. I’m told he’s not happy the NBA has announced the Bulls schedule to opponents.

Carlos BoozerBut he sure can coach, and it’s been evident once again in these games as teams with limited talent stand little chance. Thibodeau likes to say anyone can beat you in the NBA, and he’s right.

Not to impugn coaches, but the Bulls have such an efficient defensive system of play that teams without great talent are overwhelmed. The Bulls big men are so versatile they switch with regularity. There’s help constantly and accountability. You watch other games and see players come in untouched for layups. Not against the Bulls. Help comes to trap in the corners constantly using the end line and side lines advantageously. It’s charted out intricately and these Bulls players, without what you’d consider classic athletic defenders like Scottie Pippen types, carry it out almost flawlessly. And when they don’t, well…

When Omer Asik, who had 12 rebounds in 16 minutes, missed D.J. White on an offensive rebound and putback in the second quarter with the Bulls ahead 41-24, Thibodeau called timeout and yanked Asik for Noah.

Thibodeau can be harder on Asik than others, but the coach doesn’t suffer imprecision well. Thibodeau is now one win or Miami loss through next Wednesday’s games of being named coach of the Eastern Conference All Stars, which include Rose and Deng. Scott Brooks of the Thunder will coach the West. Bulls assistant Ron Adams formerly was Brooks’ top assistant before returning to the Bulls with Thibodeau.

Noah, meanwhile, then got a score rolling in on a pass from Taj Gibson and after another quick shot Bobcat miss, Noah tipped in a Gibson miss after Gibson’s own tip miss on the same possession miss on an errant Kyle Korver shot. Beleaguered Charlotete coach Paul Silas then substituted four players and the rout officially was on.

“I’m trying to make them understand they’re blessed to be where they are,” said Silas. “You have to find something positive in everything.”

Though it’s not as entertaining when you lose like that.

Noah’s tip put the Bulls ahead 45-24, and on the Bulls next possession they got two more offensive rebounds as they went on to a 56-34 halftime lead. Overall, they would outrebound Charlotte 53-44 with 18 offensive rebounds, accumulate 22 assists, 10 steals and a 54-30 edge in inside scoring.

“I thought defensively the first quarter we were very good,” said Thibodeau, who doesn’t often say that when the opponent scores (Charlotte shot 32.9 percent for the game). “Our big guys played with a lot of energy. C.J. did a great job running the team, making us play with pace. We had a number of guys contribute. Jo was great in every aspect, running the floor, defense, energy, rebounding, multiple effort, anchoring the defense, passing the ball. Carlos (Boozer with 16 points) got us going. He started off the game well and in the third quarter was active. Taj (Gibson) was solid throughout. C.J. was great creating havoc. He had four steals. And Lu was Lu.”

And eggs are eggs and you also could say fish is fish, which I think covers it.

There were several good signs with Noah grabbing everything above Charlotte defenders and Boozer with some aggressive moves and even a running baseline dunk and a bit of a hang afterward.

We play off Booz a lot,” said Noah. “He demands a lot of attention out there. He either scores or kicks it out and it cerates easy opportunities for everyone else.”

Michael JordanWatson got the start and continued his confident play, though the low key—at least with reporters—Watson joked when asked about his little campaign to get into the three point shooting contest that he’s backing off a bit, even if he’d love to participate.

“Since them I haven’t hit a three,” joked Watson, who was one of three and now 46 percent on the season. “So, no more tweeting, no more mention of it. Just shoot the ball.”

Thibodeau admitted he was mistaken in not playing Watson more last season, and Deng added that Watson would be a starter for most teams.

“He gives us multiple pick and rolls and also adds to our shooting, which I thought was a big concern,” said Tibodeau. “He gives us another three point shooter on the floor. He’s done a great job with the second unit and shown he can play with the first unit. And when he plays with Derrick that’s a different weapon we can take advantage of.”

Perhaps Sunday as it’s a bit of a trip back to reality, though Boston suddenly is slumping again with back to back losses. But they are in the quality team variety after the Bulls recent losses to the 76ers, Heat and Pacers, the last three teams they’ve played with winning records. It’s nice to run up these big win totals and use everyone against these weak teams. You have to beat the teams you have to beat, and all that. But the Bulls are 6-5 against teams currently with winning records. They began the season 5-0 against those teams, so perhaps the schedule did catch up with them. Maybe we’ll see starting Sunday if that second wind is a breath of fresh air or just an ill wind.

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