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2012-13 Bulls | 82 games of coverage | Oct. & Nov.

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Game 14 | Bulls hang onto late lead and beat Mavs by 23

Bulls 101, Mavericks 78 | 11.28.2012 | Chicago 7-7 on the season

Sam Smith: The great Bulls’ reserves melodrama, if likely not over, was benched for a night as the Bulls Wednesday failed to blow a 21-point third quarter lead and beat the Dallas Mavericks 101-78.

Luol Deng led the Bulls with 22 points. But after surrendering a 27-point lead to the Bucks Monday and losing, and then suffering 48 hours of angst and demands that several members of the Bulls bench actually deserve first ballot consideration for the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Bulls reserves outscored Dallas’ 50-34 on the way to the runaway win.

“They (bench) were great,” said embattled coach Tom Thibodeau, whose contract expires in 2017. “The starters got us off to a good start. We need everybody. I thought the defense was good, the rebounding good. Overall, I thought we played a lot tougher with the lead. Jimmy (Butler) has been playing well all along, Taj (Gibson) the last few games has been playing well. Nate (Robinson) has had some very good games and some not so good games. Nazr (Mohammed) is a pro. He stays ready. Because they went big, I thought the matchups were good for him. Marco (Belinelli) came in and knocked down some shots early. Overall I thought the bench played very well.

“It’s not about any individual, it’s about the team. What gives us the best chance to win,” said Thibodeau, burnishing his coach of the year credentials as the Bulls moved to 7-7. “It’s about the groups who are out there and how they are performing. If they go in and are building a lead, obviously they are going to play longer. We know it is going to take some time. My decisions have to be made on what’s best for the team. I’ve always been that way and I’m not going to change. The scoreboard tells you if the group out there is maintaining the lead. If they are, they play longer. If the lead is not going in the right direction, you have to make adjustments. Everything is based on performance. It’s the only way you can do it whether it’s a starter or bench player. That’s the way it has to be.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 13 | Bulls lose 27-point lead and game to Bucks

Bucks 93, Bulls 92 | 11.26.2012 | Chicago 6-7 on the season

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

Sam Smith: Defeat isn’t a tragedy, though no one among the Bulls’ players was feeling particularly sanguine Monday about a 27-point third quarter lead at home that turned into an inexplicable 93-92 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

“I’m stunned by simple fact that we have a 25 point lead (even he didn’t know it was worse) and the way we defend we never expect a team to make a run like that,” said Richard Hamilton, who had 30 points, his most as a Bull, and sat afterward for almost a half hour in front of his locker in his game uniform in an unusually funereal scene. “And (to) especially play harder than us in the fourth quarter.”

But a Bucks group of all reserves coach Scott Skiles rode for all of the last 15 minutes and most of a 31-4 turnaround run from midway through the third quarter to early in the fourth stuffed and stymied a stunned group of basically all Bulls starters who played virtually the entire second half.

“We were very loose with the lead at the end of the third quarter,” acknowledged Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of the 10-2 close in the last 2:29 of the third that pivoted the game. “That game changed in four to five minutes of the third and the first two of the fourth and we couldn’t stop it.

“We couldn’t get stops, couldn’t get to the free throw line,” noted Thibodeau. “We had 15 free throws in the first half, four in the second half. They had 12 blocked shots. It can happen fast. You can lose 10 points in an NBA game in a minute. Everyone says that doesn’t happen, but you see it all the time. If you don’t play tough with a lead this is what happens.”

And if you don’t respond quickly to this kind of thing you can begin losing a season.

This is one that can leave a mark.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room with Kirk Hinrich | Discuss the game


Game 12 | Bulls buck losing ways and beat Milwaukee

Bulls 93, Bucks 86 | 11.24.2012 | Chicago 6-6 on the season

Sam Smith: Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton may need new nicknames the way they led the Bulls Saturday with 22 points each in a 93-86 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. How about “the Boozinator,” and “Ripcord.”

Because Boozer also with 19 rebounds and his fourth double-double in the last five games effectively terminated the Bucks hopes with a powerful followup slam dunk of a Joakim Noah miss to give the Bulls an 89-85 lead with 29.8 seconds left. And Hamilton helped save the Bulls with the clinching free throws to close a season high scoring night and 10 of 10 free throws to lead a shocking–for the generally poor free throw shooting Bulls–25 of 26 free throws.

“I thought Carlos was terrific,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “He played hard, made great effort on the boards. Rebounding was a huge. I thought Rip got in the post and ran the floor hard. He made great effort in defensive transition. He did a really good job.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 11 | Bulls have another problem in Houston

Rockets 93, Bulls 89 | 11.21.2012 | Chicago 5-6 on the season

Sam Smith: How’s that coaching bromide go? You’ve got to know when to hold em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to take Nate out… Or something like that.

Not to blame Nate Robinson for the Bulls 93-89 loss to the Houston Rockets Wednesday. Actually, if not for Robinson’s second half boost and one of the most amazing layups you’ll ever see on the way to a team high 21 points, the Bulls might not have even been in another one down the stretch.

But Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who has been talking so much in this three game losing streak about searching for a missing combination he may as well be wearing an Indiana Jones hat, just stayed at the table too long. Thibs was like the guy drawing aces and kings at the blackjack table and thinking it would last forever. He was the guy sticking with his stock after it went up 100 points.

Thibs bought ice cream and it looked so wonderful. And then after a few minutes it had melted away, just like the Bulls' 84-79 lead with under five minutes left.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Video: Nate Robinson's 360 layup | Discuss the game


Game 10 | Bulls face some thorny problems in Portland

Trail Blazers 102, Bulls 94 | 11.18.2012 | Chicago 5-5 on the season

Sam Smith: There was a lot of “expert” speculation the Bulls were a .500 team without Derrick Rose. They are now at 5-5 after a 102-94 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Though the way the Bulls are playing, a fourth consecutive game giving up more than 100 points for the first time under coach Tom Thibodeau, a rare back to back loss — and not exactly to the defending champions — allowing 49 percent shooting for the second straight game and with a reserve rotation that obviously has Thibodeau thinking of changes, well, playing .500 ball could be a goal before too long.

“The defense right now, the intensity, we’ve got to get that part right,” said Thibodeau. “The rebounding is not good, the defense, rebounding and turnovers, all three are a problem now. We’ve got to correct that. Those three things put you in position to win. Then inside/out, sharing the ball.

“Concentration,” Thibodeau continued, “preparation and effort is what gives you intensity.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 9 | Bulls get Clipped in Los Angeles

Clippers 101, Bulls 80 | 11.17.2012 | Chicago 5-4 on the season

Sam Smith: You know how sometimes you get down to the park and you’re ready to go. But you take a look at the other team, and even though you’re still ready to go, you see their size and speed and depth and you get to thinking, “Uh, oh, what have we gotten ourselves into.”

It seemed like that Saturday the way the Bulls suffered one of the worst losses of Tom Thibodeau’s coaching era, a 101-80 shellacking by the Los Angeles Clippers.

“We were outscrapped tonight,” admitted Joakim Noah, who had just four points and seven rebounds and missed all six of his shots. “We got outcompeted. I think we took a couple of steps back today. We did not finish well around the rim. We know we’re capable of playing a lot better basketball. We turned the ball over too much. You can’t turn the ball over against a team like this. They are too athletic and get out on the break. That’s their strength. They are probably the best in the NBA getting out on the break. We did not play good basketball.”

Though the Clippers were led by Blake Griffin with 26 points and 10 rebounds, most of his points came late and well after the result was assured. Former Bull Jamal Crawford was the bigger problem with 22 points, including 17 in the second quarter (along with 11 from Matt Barnes in the quarter) when the Clippers’ reserves blew the game open to take an 18-point lead.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 8 | Boozer leads Bulls to overtime win in Phoenix

Bulls 112, Suns 106 (OT) | 11.14.2012 | Chicago 5-3 on the season

Sam Smith: It was Joakim Noah who made the “arrive home safely shot” for the Bulls, the clinching 18-footer with 29.5 seconds left that sent the home fans to the exits in a Bulls’ 112-106 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Yes, Noah of the counter-clockwise spinning “tornado” jump shot, of the hook shot launched sometimes from his waist, the guy who isn’t being asked to many clinics on offense.

And the guy with 21 points, 12 rebounds and five assists who made the two closing baskets to assure the win after the Bulls had blown an 18-point third quarter lead.

“Hey, (stuff) happens,” Noah shrugged as he slowly dressed in an upbeat, if not celebratory Bulls locker room. “That’s the way I’d put it. It’s getting to the point where there hasn’t been much I haven’t seen as an NBA player. I’ve been up 35 points in a game in the NBA and lost. So when you are on the road and a team makes a run at you, it’s how you handle it. They played hard in the fourth quarter and got a lot of offensive rebounds, so there are things we can correct. You’d rather correct them after getting the win.”

And so the Bulls did with one of their better offensive games of the season, with Carlos Boozer excellent with 28 points and 14 rebounds and Luol Deng with 21 points, his third game of at least 21 in the last four and now averaging 19.1 on the season.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 7 | Bulls feeling a little green after losing to Celtics

Celtics 101, Bulls 95 | 11.12.2012 | Chicago 4-3 on the season

Sam Smith: We knew the Bulls would miss Derrick Rose’s scoring and ability to make big plays. And it was obvious again in Monday’s 101-95 loss to the Boston Celtics when the Bulls came back from a 13-point fourth quarter deficit to within three and then missed five shots and committed three turnovers.

“We had our chances,” agreed Joakim Noah, who had another big game with 17 points and 11 rebounds playing almost 42 minutes. “It was a frustrating loss. We were kind of desperate at the end. We came close. We’re going to get better. We’ve just got to keep fighting and not point fingers, stay together as a group.”

Sure, but who knew Rose was such a great defender? Because it was the Bulls’ shaky defense which was the ultimate culprit in the loss, the Celtics shooting 50.6 percent and becoming the first team in 16 games, since last April, to score more than 100 points against the Bulls.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 6 | Bulls have plenty in reserve against Timberwolves

Bulls 87, Timberwolves 80 | 11.10.2012 | Chicago 4-2 on the season

Sam Smith: The lately questioned, if also maligned, Bulls bench had some answers Saturday. And to the biggest one of “Where’s Marco?” it came with three consecutive three pointers early in the fourth quarter to give the Bulls enough space to hang on for an 87-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.v

“I thought our bench was terrific,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “I thought Marco gave us a big lift. I thought Nate (Robinson with a team high 18 points) was very good. Taj (Gibson) was really good. Nazr (Mohammed) was good. I thought when Marquis (Teague, scoring his first NBA basket) came in he was ready, did a terrific job. That was very, very encouraging. We need everybody. A bunch of guys came in and gave us a big lift. We expect that every night it will be somebody different.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game
Arena Link: Nate Robinson


Game 5 | Bulls missing late lightning against Thunder

Thunder 97, Bulls 91 | 11.08.2012 | Chicago 3-2 on the season

Sam Smith: If this was an assessment for the Bulls against the Western champion Oklahoma City Thunder, the Bulls may be better than anticipated but not as good as they hope they can be.

“We were right there in the game,” said Luol Deng, who carried the offense with 27 points, including two fourth quarter three point plays. “We’ve (just) got to have a better fourth quarter. That’s what we’ve got to get back to. There’s going to be a lot of those (close) games. We’ve just got to be tough minded to win those games in the end. We’re going to be in a lot of those games. We were right there, getting stops, making plays. We were a stop away.”

And then the Bulls got beat by Kevin Durant, who scored 10 of his team high 24 points in the fourth quarter including the decisive shots — with a high degree of difficulty — over good Deng defense.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 4 | Bulls outlast Magic, improve to 3-1

Bulls 99, Magic 93 | 11.06.2012 | Chicago 3-1 on the season

Sam Smith: There are great nicknames and slogans over the years for NBA teams. There was Showtime, the Bad Boys, Run TMC and who knows how many Big Three. For this 2012-13 Bulls team it’s beginning to look like, “Just finding a way.”

On Tuesday in the United Center it was overcoming a seven-point third quarter deficit for a 99-93 Bulls victory over the Orlando Magic to go to 3-1 on the young season.

It was another eclectic fourth quarter lineup: A pair of iron men, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, a hard hat, Taj Gibson, a Butler who usually seems invisible named Jimmy and a chatterbox of a little man named Nate Robinson putting together one of the Bulls best quarters of the season, including eight successful jump shots in 12 possessions to turn a slight fourth quarter deficit into a 10-point lead and have just enough margin to finish.

“Just found a way,” said Joakim Noah, who played more than 40 minutes for a second consecutive game and had 20 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and four assists, including three jumpers and three blocks in the crucial fourth quarter run. “Just finding a way. We fought hard at the end. Jimmy gave us a great spark. Nate hit some big shots. It wasn’t pretty, but we just found a way.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 3 | Bulls go cold in loss to Hornets

Hornets 89, Bulls 82 | 11.03.2012 | Chicago 2-1 on the season

Sam Smith: In many respects, it was a wonderful game for the Bulls, though they lost 89-82 to the New Orleans Hornets. Yes, losing is not so wonderful, even if they still are 2-1.

But I thought they competed hard, getting 15 offensive rebounds to nine for the Hornets. The Bulls led with 11 steals, had fewer turnovers with a season low 12, scored more points in the paint, second chance points and fast break points. Though coach Tom Thibodeau and I differed on this somewhat, I thought it was a very competitive effort.

The Bulls did a lot of good things. Other than put the ball in the basket very often, which I will admit is very important in basketball.

After shooting 63.8 percent in routing Cleveland the night before, the Bulls against the Hornets made just a third of their shots and just 26 percent after halftime to lose at home to the team with the poorest record in the Western Conference last season and missing its two top players, rookie No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis and big money free agent Eric Gordon.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 2 | Bulls rock the Cavs, improve to 2-0 on the season

Box score | Discuss the game

Bulls 115, Cavaliers 86 | 11.02.2012 | Chicago 2-0 on the season

Sam Smith: We know the Lakers are not going to win 70 games. But what about the Bulls?

It’s 2-0 now with a dominating 115-86 victory in Cleveland. And it’s now five consecutive home games ahead with the Hornets Saturday, without rookie sensation Anthony Davis after he suffered a mild concussion Friday, rebuilding Orlando Tuesday and then a national TNT game against the Thunder before hosting the Timberwolves without Kevin Love and the winless Celtics.

“Just having fun,” said Nate Robinson with 16 points and 12 assists to lead the bench ballers. “We are playing together and that is what basketball is all about. Everybody is getting a piece of the pie. This is my happy place.”

Cleveland has been a happy place for the Bulls—if not Joakim Noah—with the team’s ninth straight win over the Cavs and a near perfect performance.

Richard Hamilton and Carlos Boozer led with 19 points each with the Bulls blowing out to a 28-point first half lead and not leading by fewer than 20 points the rest of the game. It was such a rout that Luol Deng only played 30 minutes, though coach Tom Thibodeau put Deng in during the fourth quarter, apparently out of habit.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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


Game 1 | Bulls open 2012-13 with win over Sacramento

Bulls 93, Kings 87 | 10.31.2012 | Chicago 1-0 on the season

Sam Smith: Yes, it was Halloween night. Joakim Noah was wearing his stocking cap pulled down low over his ears as he sat in the sweltering Bulls locker room after the team’s gritty (we’ll hear that a lot this season) 93-87 opening night victory over the Sacramento Kings. Noah’s colorful pants hung baggy and loose, though it all was no costume. Just a Jo look.

Like the hustle, effort, relentless and opportunistic play that enabled Noah to finish with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five steals, a combination not reached by a Bull since Michael Jordan, and then close the game converting all four free throws in the last 24.5 seconds to assure victory.

“It’s Halloween and he had a monster night,” said Carlos Boozer, who was clutch in the fourth quarter when the Kings cut a 14-point deficit to three with a team high seven fourth quarter points. “A monster night. Big game scoring, got to the free throw line and he got us in the bonus almost all by himself. At the end, huge free throws for him. A lot of blocks, a lot of rebounds, a lot of steals. He was all over the place tonight. He was playing like Joakim Noah.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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

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