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2012-13 Bulls | 82 games of coverage | December

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Game 29 | Bulls say good riddance to 2012 with loss to Bobcats

Bobcats 91, Bulls 81 | 12.31.2012 | Chicago 16-13 on the season

Sam Smith: Perhaps it was appropriate the Bulls closed the 2012 calendar year with a 91-81 loss to arguably one of the worst teams in the history of the NBA, the Charlotte Bobcats, who set a record for poorest ever winning percentage last season and were working on an 18-game losing streak coming into Monday’s New Year’s Eve game.

“We just have to work our way out of it,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “I have to figure this out. I have to get us ready.”

That will have to be quickly in what has been the Bulls’ worst stretch since Thibodeau became coach in 2010. It was the team’s worst loss under Thibodeau given the quality of the opponent. The Bulls had bigger losses, like by 29 at home to Orlando in December 2010. But Orlando was a top team then with Dwight Howard.

Instead, this is a worrisome period for the team after losses to Atlanta and Houston by an average of 20 points and hanging on Saturday to defeat a Washington team that came in to the United Center 4-23.

“We’re not playing as well as we can,” understated Luol Deng, who led the Bulls Monday with 20 points and 12 rebounds. “We’re not going to make excuses. We’ve just got to find a way out of it.”

That’s looking problematic with the reserves who looked so good against Washington Saturday looking not so good Monday, shooting nine for 33 overall and zero for 12 in the fourth quarter after the Bulls had tied the game after three. Perhaps they do have a ways to go still.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room with Luol Deng | Discuss the game

Game 28 | Bulls triumph and once again Washington loses

Bulls 87, Wizards 77 | 12.29.2012 | Chicago 16-12 on the season

Sam Smith: Yes, that was a cute little group of players the Bulls had coming off the bench last season. Even gave themselves a whimsical nickname and sold some t-shirts.

But how about having a real, productive group of reserves, players who actually average double figures, which no Bulls reserve has done the past two years. How about 13 of the Bulls 17 fourth quarter points being scored by the reserves in Saturday’s 87-77 win over the Washington Wizards?

How about going down the stretch and shutting out the Wizards the last 4:47 with Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler leading the way?

“I feel good,” said Belinelli, who led the Bulls in scoring with 17 points, including eight in the fourth quarter with a pair of crucial threes. “When you play and feel confidence from the coach and the staff and your teammates, that makes you feel good. I’m happy because we won the game. I think we can play much better, but it was important for us to win this game.”

Much more so because it was the team with the poorest record in the NBA, the Wizards who fell to 4-24. It’s one thing to lose to streaking, tough teams like the Bulls did to the Hawks and Rockets before the Bulls got their snow day off against Indiana Wednesday. But you lose to Washington and then there’s panic. Instead, the Bulls remained tied for fourth in the East with Indiana and Milwaukee at 16-12.

So Saturday’s was a pressurized game given the opponent, who was in the second of a back to back while the Bulls were off three days. And the Wizards’ record is somewhat deceiving as the Wizards have been getting some players back from injury and do have a strong front line. Emeka Okafor had 11 points and 18 rebounds, Nene added 10 points and nine rebounds and Kevin Seraphin, whom the Wizards drafted with the pick from the Kirk Hinrich trade in 2010, banged inside for 12 points.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game
Inside the Locker Room: Marco Belinelli | Joakim Noah

Bulls at Pacers postponed due to weather

12.26.2012 | Chicago 15-12 on the season

Game 27 | Bulls with a most unmerry Christmas against Houston

Rockets 120, Bulls 97 | 12.25.2012 | Chicago 15-12 on the season

Sam Smith: Each time you watch the Bulls you can feel proud of them and their behavior. Just like Tuesday, Christmas Day, in the United Center. The Bulls players honored the holiday like most Americans by taking the day off.

Unfortunately, the NBA had the gall to schedule the Bulls to play a game. Well, the Bulls showed the NBA and the ESPN national TV audience that they weren’t going to work on the holiday no matter what anyone said.

“They scored the ball easily,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau observed about a Houston Rockets’ domination in a 120-97 thumping of the Bulls. “Transition, open shots. We did not control the ball. We did not get back. We did not make multiple efforts and had low energy on offense. We gave them everything. They got in transition, they got into the paint, they got open looks at threes. Give them credit. They played well right from the start. We created a lot of our own. They completely outplayed us.”

Thibodeau got no arguments in what is probably the low point during Thibodeau’s tenure coaching the Bulls. The Bulls fell to 15-12, the same record as the Rockets, but teams clearly going in opposite directions as the Rockets have won six of seven. For the Bulls, it was their second straight blowout loss with Saturday’s meltdown in Atlanta.

“We didn’t play with the right edge,” said Joakim Noah. “It’s a real disappointing loss. Our defense was not really good. Everything was bad. Terrible Christmas.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room with Taj Gibson | Discuss the game

Game 26 | Bulls get burned in Atlanta

Hawks 92, Bulls 75 | 12.22.2012 | Chicago 15-11 on the season

Sam Smith: The Bulls now can say they’ve only been uncompetitive twice this season. But when they are it really looks bad as the Atlanta Hawks Saturday overwhelmed a seemingly tired and surprisingly casual Bulls team 92-75.

It was the second fewest points the Bulls scored this season, and not exactly against one of the better defensive teams.

It was so bad that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t ever bother to play any starter in the fourth quarter after Atlanta went up by 25 with 4:33 left in the third quarter.

“The first quarter, we’re up 21-17, so I thought we did a good job,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “They’re shooting 36 percent. The start of the second quarter they got loose. We couldn’t stop them after that.

“We didn’t execute tonight,” added Thibodeau. “Our defense and our rebounding were both poor. We can’t use being tired as an excuse. They played last night, and they were on the road too. It’s a will game. We just have to play for 48 minutes. Some nights shots won’t fall. But you have to rely on your defense and take care of the ball. When you do that, you give yourself a chance to win. We gave up easy shots, and we didn’t challenge shots. When you don’t do that, when you allow frustration to set in because of a missed shot and you don’t sprint back and protect your basket, you don’t stop the ball and you don’t find your most dangerous guy, then you’re asking for trouble.

The Bulls found that trouble actually after a pretty good first quarter when they led 21-17.

But former teammate Kyle Korver had 13 points with a trio of threes and the Bulls had difficulty containing Al Horford and Josh Smith, who played a lot of effective two-man, high low passing. Horford finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds and Smith added 12. Every Hawks starter was in double figures. Lou Williams going into the starting lineup added 16 points, but perhaps more importantly led the onslaught in the second quarter when the Hawks outscored the Bulls by 20 and took control.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | Video recap | Discuss the game

Game 25 | Knicks and Bulls go at it again like it’s 1993

Bulls 110, Knicks 106 | 12.21.2012 | Chicago 15-10 on the season

Sam Smith: It felt like Bulls/Knicks Friday all over again when it really mattered. When Michael Jordan was in the face of Xavier McDaniel when he was bullying Scottie Pippen. When Pippen was dunking and stepping over a supine Patrick Ewing and then screaming invective at Spike Lee. John Starks dunking on Jordan and then Jordan, Pippen and Horace Grant stuffing Charles Smith. JoJo English and Derek Harper rolling into the stands throwing punches. Phil Jackson and Pat Riley baiting the officials.

It was similar, in a sense, as the Bulls again won, this time 110-106 in a game marred by a fracas between Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler, a game with nine technical fouls and four ejections.

“Things were definitely escalating, but I don’t think they’re used to being down that much, too,” teased Joakim Noah. “If they were up 20 points, I don’t think they would have been that frustrated.”

Yes, that was the difference. This time, unlike the 90’s when Michael Jordan and the Bulls ruined most of the decade for the Knicks, the Knicks were the hunted with the second best record in the Eastern Conference and talk about going to the Finals with two victories over the defending champion Miami Heat. Though Friday’s victory made it a second straight Bulls win over New York in the last two weeks.

“We got off to a good start offensively, set the tone,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who joined the fun with his technical foul. “I thought our defense and rebounding was good in the first half. In the third quarter (in going ahead by 25), I thought it was really good. You get a 25-point lead on the road against a team like this, you’re doing a lot of good things.”

The game disintegrated after that with Noah, Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Knicks coach Mike Woodson all ejected as the Knicks scored 45 points in the fourth quarter to just make the final score close.

“One of those nights, one of those games,” said Anthony, who led the Knicks with 29 points but was ejected after a cheap shot at Noah. “We have to move on.”

But, no, it wasn’t just another game.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | Video recap | Arena Link with Luol Deng | Discuss the game

Game 24 | Bulls have triple the fun in defeating Celtics

Bulls 100, Celtics 89 | 12.18.2012 | Chicago 14-10 on the season

Sam Smith: You don’t figure much that happens in the first three to five minutes of an NBA game is going to matter all that much or be worth repeating. It’s supposedly that last five minutes that matters.

And in defeating the Boston Celtics 100-89, the Bulls weren’t even leading in the first five minutes.

They basically blew open the game to start the fourth quarter with a 16-5 run that featured three Nate Robinson three pointers and Robinson then happily skipping back on defense after the third, which gave the Bulls a 20-point lead with about six minutes remaining.

“The last couple of games I hadn’t shot the ball well,” said Robinson, who had 18 points off the bench to support Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer with 21 each. “So I told myself, ‘I’ve got to get back to my whole Peter Pan theory: You cannot fly without happy thoughts.’”

I think that’s officially the first time in NBA history a player compared himself favorably to Peter Pan, the mischievous little boy who can fly and who never ages. To say nothing of seeking out happy thoughts. However, I intend to check the NBA Encyclopedia as there were some very happy guys playing in 1949, I’ve heard.

Still, those first few minutes stood out.

Boozer opened the scoring with a layup as Joakim Noah fired a baseball pass to Boozer diving to the basket. Then Deng sprung open at the baseline and Noah pitched over for Deng’s 15 footer. The Bulls were having their own issues, as most everybody does, controlling Rajon Rondo, who finished with 26 points and eight assists.

But back to the Bulls trailing 7-4. Noah faked a handoff to Marco Belinelli, and then threw over the top as Belinelli moved past and toward the basket, the pass from Noah settling in his hands for a layup. Noah then began to dribble himself into the lane. The Celtics came, and Deng went back door down the baseline where Noah found him for a layup.

I assume it’s happened before, and Wilt Chamberlain may have done it. But I can’t recall seeing a game open with the team’s center assisting on the first four baskets, and not only that but passing on the move, off ball fakes and screens.

“Noah’s terrific,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “He’s such a great passer. Without (Derrick) Rose, we consider him their point guard. He makes their decisions. He bails them out. I bet 10 times in the first half with a late clock he flashes to the ball and makes a play either by scoring or assisting. He’s just an extremely high IQ basketball player. I’ve said it for four years now, and it’s getting higher and higher.”

Noah is something of an iconoclast with a wardrobe that bounces between Paris fashion and resale shop rack items. But on the basketball floor he’s more an energetic whimsical savant with an unusual feel for the game.

Noah finished with the second triple-double of his career with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He added three blocks and got a warm ovation from the sellout United Center crowd when he left the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap
Inside the Locker Room: Luol Deng | Joakim Noah | Discuss the game

Game 23| Bulls sing the offensive blues in Memphis

Grizzlies 80, Bulls 71 | 12.17.2012 | Chicago 13-10 on the season

Box score | Discuss the game | Blogs.Bulls.com

Sam Smith: Sometimes it’s enough the way the Bulls play defense with ferocity, passion and zeal. But against the better teams, and especially ones who can match the Bulls’ effort, the absence of Derrick Rose is most noticeable.

It was Monday as the Bulls lost a rugged, relentless defensive game to the Memphis Grizzlies, 80-71, because the Bulls really don’t have an offensive player who can carry a team for at least one major stretch.

That’s been Rose’s role for four years. And perhaps he could have saved them and turned a blue Monday brighter. Perhaps he will on some future Monday. But for now the Bulls usually are going to lose these kinds of games, though not always like this with a four-year low in scoring. The Bulls have a nice ensemble cast. They make it difficult on opponents, and many of them crack. It’s no fun to play the Bulls, who are chasing and contesting and bumping. The Bulls did all of that well against the Grizzlies.

“I thought our defense was pretty good,” said Joakim Noah, who had 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Bulls and Grizzlies entered the game tied for second in fewest points allowed. The Bulls were tied for second in opponents’ shooting with the Grizzlies sixth.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 22 | Bulls complete sweep of Knicks and Nets

Bulls 83, Nets 82 | 12.15.2012 | Chicago 13-9 on the season

Sam Smith: Back in Brooklyn we used to call them “the M&M Boys.” They weren’t actually beloved by all, but we respected them. The Dodgers and Giants had left and the Mets hadn’t come yet. So it was M&M, Mantle and Maris, making the big plays when they were needed.

They’re not likely to be as celebrated, and certainly not in Brooklyn. But it was M&M to the rescue Saturday--Marco and Marquis--in the Bulls' 83-82 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

Marco Belinelli, the mercurial shooting guard scoring in double figures the last six games playing for the injured Richard Hamilton, led the Bulls with 19 points, including the improbable game winner with 22.1 seconds left. And Marquis Teague, the rookie point guard who’d only played 37 minutes all season before Wednesday and had scored a total of seven points all season, had eight points playing down the stretch and holding off Deron Williams with defensive pressure. The duo combined for 10 of the Bulls 16 fourth quarter points and the crucial plays that enabled the Bulls to move to 13-9 and fourth in the Eastern Conference.

“Obviously we struggled through most of the fourth quarter,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “I liked the mental toughness we had. We were down six, 77-71 (with 5:44 left) and we just found some ways to get stops and reciprocate on the other end. Marquis stayed ready to play, going out there knowing what your job is, and doing your job. He gave his team what they need, and played well defensively. I thought he did an excellent job for us. Marquis has made some significant strides defensively.”

And then it was Belinelli taking advantage of C.J. Watson and Brook Lopez colliding in an attempted double team and Belinelli racing down the lane for a floater with Gerald Wallace coming hard to block. The score gave the Bulls an 81-79 lead with 22.1 seconds left with Belinelli then leaping into the waiting and excited arms of fellow bench mates Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson.

Can we finally put to rest that myth of the Bench Mob?

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap
Inside the Locker Room: Marco Belinelli | Marquis Teague | Discuss the game

Game 21| Bulls and Noah turn Philly boos into boo hoos

Bulls 96, 76ers 89 | 12.12.2012 | Chicago 12-9 on the season

Sam Smith: It was the same old story for the Bulls in a 96-89 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Perhaps fatigue is setting in on the second of a back to back with a late home game to accommodate TV and then an early start in Philadelphia. The Bulls open the fourth quarter with seven misses and a turnover as the 76ers take the lead after trailing by three entering the final quarter.

So what does Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau do? The obvious, of course, which is go to his bench guys and rookie to make the big plays and close out the Eastern Conference rival who knocked them out of the playoffs last season. Go to his bench?

Yes, it was Taj Gibson spotting Marquis Teague for a 16-footer with 7:43 left to bring the Bulls within one, and then Gibson again setting up Jimmy Butler for a 17-footer with 5:56 left to put the Bulls ahead by one, 79-78. Then it was Butler again with a big pull up three to keep the Bulls ahead at 82-80 with 4:32 remaining. And then it was Teague with a driving reverse layup with 3:32 left for an 86-80 Bulls lead.

Can we get a hallelujah for the new bench brigade! Nah, no need to go there yet. Of course, Thibodeau wasn’t about to go down the stretch without Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, his two talismen. But after Nate Robinson delivered a crucial three midway through the third quarter when it looked like the 76ers were going to take the game in building up their biggest lead of the game at seven points, Thibodeau stayed with the heart of his bench to help deliver the victory.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 20| Clippers beat Bulls with a dunk you very much night

Clippers 94, Bulls 89 | 12.11.2012 | Chicago 11-9 on the season

Sam Smith: Considering the circumstances, the Bulls’ 94-89 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers wasn’t all that bad. Look, it was the likes of some of the greatest athletes in the NBA today, like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, helping the Clippers to 10 dunks while George Yardley, Togo Palazzi, Harry Gallatin, Max Zaslofsky and Bobby Wanzer just couldn’t keep up.

Or, at least it seemed like a team from the 1950’s was playing the Clippers, the Bulls generally hard working, passing cleverly and pressuring on defense when they weren’t ducking Clippers’ players jumping over them on the way to the basket.

“They got a lot of dunks and got the momentum going,” agreed Taj Gibson.

It was a night the Bulls sorely missed their great athlete, Derrick Rose. Heck, they probably could have used E-Rob.

“Don’t turn it over,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said about avoiding an evening of posing for new posters. “Stay disciplined. You have to get back on your shot. Protect your basket first. Stay disciplined.”

Thibodeau said “Stay disciplined” a lot as it rose to the top of the instructional video ahead of “Do your job.” It was a short post game interview session, so there was little time for discussion about letting go of the rope.

“We started dancing with the ball,” added Thibodeau, which means overdribbling. When you do that, it leads to turnovers, live ball transition baskets. We shot ourselves in the foot.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room with Taj Gibson | Discuss the game
Also: Clippers’ Paul has high praise for Bulls’ Belinelli

Game 19 | Bulls shut down Knicks for third straight win

Bulls 93, Knicks 85 | 12.08.2012 | Chicago 11-8 on the season

Sam Smith: Maybe Saturday’s Bulls 93-85 victory over the East leading New York Knicks wasn’t quite as good as it gets, but it was as good as it’s been this season for the Bulls.

Not only was it just the second victory over a team with a winning record. But it was the team coming off a blowout win in Miami and hottest in the East. And though Carmelo Anthony was out for New York as he was against Miami, it was the finish of four games in five nights for the Bulls with the Knicks in Chicago the last two days, the Bulls not only without injured Richard Hamilton, but Taj Gibson ejected in the second quarter with two technicals and Kirk Hinrich unable to play the second half because of an elbow injury.

So it was left to Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli to play the entire second half after they’d all played 40 minutes or more Thursday in Detroit.

And there was Deng, the only player in the NBA averaging more than 40 minutes per game, fighting off J.R. Smith with a 21 footer after Smith brought the Knicks to 83-80 with 2:42 remaining. And there was Belinelli, sharing high scoring honors with Deng at 22 each, making a crucial 22 footer after the Knicks got back within 85-82 with 1:56 remaining on two Tyson Chandler free throws. And then there was Noah, battling through fatigue after his historic 30/23/6 triple double Thursday, rolling down the lane after a screen and taking a pass from Belinelli to make it 89—82 with 56.1 seconds left and effectively end it for the Knicks.

“They were playing great, feeling great about themselves. They’d just beaten Miami pretty good,” acknowledged Deng about a game few believed the Bulls should win. “It was a tough one for us with Rip not playing, Taj ejected, then at halftime finding out Kirk was not going. Guys stepped up. Marco was great. I thought Jimmy (Butler, teaming with Nate Robinson for a sharp side pick and roll basket with 4:03 left) was great and Nate came in and did a great job.

“And four in five nights,” added Deng. “But last night we fought hard and are starting to get it done. It takes awhile for a team to understand how hard we have to play. I think we’re getting there. The Indiana game we lost, but I thought we played hard. We know we’re going to be in those kinds of games a lot. Guys are getting the idea of how to compete and win those games. Even though we’ve lost those games (to winning teams like the Clippers and Thunder), that first year (with coach Tom Thibodeau) I think we were 9-6 (actually 9-8 before going on to 62 wins). It takes awhile for a team to get together. I’m not saying we’ve figured it out and got it down, but we were a lot better tonight that we were at the beginning of the season. As long as we stay and continue to do what we are doing, we’re going to get better as the season goes on.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 18 | Noah with historic night in win over Pistons

Bulls 108, Pistons 104 | 12.07.2012 | Chicago 10-8 on the season

Sam Smith: The basketball world little notes nor long remembers an early December Bulls 108-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons, the Bulls 16th consecutive over Detroit.

The Bulls moved their record to a pedestrian 10-8 with a Saturday matchup in the United Center against the East leading New York Knicks.

But Friday’s win was more a moment in time to savor, a bit of Bulls basketball history as Joakim Noah carried the Bulls to victory with one of the best individual performances in franchise history, 30 points, 23 rebounds and six assists, an effort so relentless and consistent that Noah had double/doubles in each half.

History is said to repeat itself, though only occasionally as Noah’s spectacular game is unique in Bulls franchise history. No Bulls player—and they claim five in the Basketball Hall of Fame—can claim a triple double with at least 30 points and 20 rebounds. In the last quarter century in the NBA, only Charles Barkley, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett have produced games with similar totals.

“It is crazy to have numbers like that,” said Noah, who battled more than 43 minutes, coming within six of outrebounding the entire Pistons team and doubling the Pistons in offensive rebounds with 10. “I am happy we won and we just have to move on. I was just going after the boards. I rebounded the ball well, got a lot of tips. I did not do anything I don’t normally do. The ball just went my way.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 17 | Bulls have some fun in Cleveland once again

Bulls 95, Cavaliers 85 | 12.05.2012 | Chicago 9-8 on the season

Sam Smith: Joakim Noah offered one of the classic bits in NBA history with his riff in the 2010 playoffs on the lack of people choosing to vacation in Cleveland.

Perhaps it wasn’t completely a day at the beach for the Bulls in Cleveland Wednesday. But the Bulls' relatively one sided 95-85 victory in which they trailed for only 42 seconds was a welcome respite from the harsh winter that likely looms ahead.

“I thought the first quarter was huge in getting off to a quick start,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls taking a double digit lead about eight minutes into the game and carrying it almost throughout. “I thought Marco (Belinelli) was terrific, Kirk (Hinrich) running the team was outstanding. And we had a number of people step up. Jo (Noah) all around, Carlos (Boozer) had a very solid game.”

It added up to a welcome relief after a tough loss at home to Indiana Tuesday and a difficult schedule looming after Friday’s game in Detroit.

So it was perhaps vital that with Richard Hamilton out for probably a few weeks with a torn plantar fascia, Belinelli had his breakout Bulls game with 23 points, including 10 in that first quarter. Noah battled Anderson Varejao to a virtual standstill with 13 points and 15 rebounds while Boozer had his eighth double/double in the last 10 games with 10 points and 12 rebounds. And Hinrich had one of his best games of the season with 11 points, just his fourth double digit scoring game of the season, and eight assists along with two big jumpers to end the third quarter when the Cavaliers had made the only serious run on the Bulls all game.

The Bulls moved back above .500 to 9-8 while the Cavs fell to 4-15 and routed twice by the Bulls.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 16 | Bulls can’t keep pace with Indiana

Pacers 80, Bulls 76 | 12.04.2012 | Chicago 8-8 on the season

Sam Smith: This isn’t looking very good for the Bulls, who Tuesday fell to 8-8 after an 80-76 loss to the Indiana Pacers that, nevertheless, left them in a three-way tie for the Central Division lead.

That would be somewhat the equivalent of being the star of The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas movie. Nice to get top billing, though no one wants to see you.

It was that sort of looking away as well Tuesday as the Bulls shot better, if you can call it that, 38.4 percent and lost.

The game ended badly—if the Bulls also felt somewhat unfairly—with Luol Deng failing to draw a foul call while driving to the basket after colliding with Pacers’ center Roy Hibbert with 5.9 seconds remaining and the Bulls trailing by two.

The Bulls then fouled and the Pacers made both for the final margin, though it was Paul George in a heck of a LeBron James impersonation with 34 points, nine rebounds, three steals, two blocks and virtually unguardable even to the Bulls best defender, Deng.

“In my eyes, he got wiped out,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said afterward about the non foul fall, clearly not very cool after the so called cooling off period. “In my eyes, wiped out. He had a lay up. It was a train wreck, train wreck. I am not going to put it on the officials. A tough call went against us. We still have to get it done.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room: Jimmy Butler | Discuss the game

Game 15 | Bulls spirited in win over the 76ers

Bulls 93, 76ers 88 | 12.01.2012 | Chicago 8-7 on the season

Sam Smith: Early in the Bulls’ 93-88 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Joakim Noah bit the head off a live rooster. Later in the first half, Noah drew a technical foul for explaining to 76ers forward Evan Turner how one man launches another to the moon. And before the evening was over, Noah operated on himself without anesthetic.

Well, he did draw a technical foul even if it seemed like the other parts were possible the way Noah agitated his way to 12 points, 13 rebounds in seven assists to support Luol Deng’s 25 points, including a crucial eight down the stretch, as the Bulls hung on after an eight-point fourth quarter lead shrunk to two with under three minutes left.

Were you more emotional tonight? Noah was asked.

“Yeah,” he said gathering himself long after the game.

He wasn’t growling, but it looked like he might.

“Did it have anything to do with last year’s playoff elimination by the 76ers?” Noah also was asked.

“One of the reasons, yeah,” said the usually voluble Noah.

Whatever it was, and 76ers coach Doug Collins seemed upset as well at some of the aggressive screens Noah was setting, the Bulls returned to the grind-it-out formula win we more expect this season, in part thanks to Noah’s emotional effort.

The Bulls moved to 8-7 with their second consecutive win AM. Yes, After Milwaukee.

There’s no forgetting that one, and the Bulls hung on as Carlos Boozer also had a double/double with 12 points and 12 rebounds and Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler began to emerge as the Gibson/Omer Asik defensive pair of last season. Gibson had 11 points and eight rebounds in coming out of his early season malaise, and Butler was typically aggressive on the boards, did a nice job harassing Jason Richardson into three of 12 shooting and hit a big three in the fourth quarter with the Bulls ahead 71-68 with 8:28 left.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room: Luol Deng | Taj Gibson | Discuss the game

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