Bulls' defense gets in a rhythm
The Bulls have been all about defense ever since Tom Thibodeau arrived as head coach in 2010, but they probably haven't done anything this impressive.
After falling behind Brooklyn 17-5 at the start of Thursday night's Game 3 at the United Center, the Bulls tightened the screws, plugged the gaps and applied some super glue to make sure everything held.
The Nets missed 25 of their next 26 shots from the field while the Bulls turned the tide with a 28-4 run. Red hot one minute, liquid nitrogen cold the next. The defensive domination lasted about 15 minutes.
"That's when our defense is at its best," Luol Deng said in the locker room. "Just like in offense, you get a rhythm and you start rolling, you're making shots.
"I think we feel that on defense, we get a couple stops and everybody's intensity is up. Everybody's just locked in and making the right plays."
Taj Gibson provided his own description of the Bulls' defense.
"It's all will, because that team is talented," Gibson said. "It's all about -- like Thibs says -- it's him vs. you. Just go out there and grind. Everybody go out there and dominate their matchup. Everybody just put forth effort. Don't worry about getting fouls If you're going to foul, foul hard."
Nazr Mohammed executed the hard foul part well. Early in the second quarter, he prevented an open lay-in by Brooklyn's Andray Blatche with a sold smack across the arms.
It wasn't a dirty play by any means, nor a particularly hard foul. But Blatche circled back around and tried to throw a subtle shoulder into Mohammed. The problem was, hard-nosed referee Joe Crawford was standing nearby and hit Blatche with a technical foul.
After Blatche split his free throws and Nate Robinson knocked down the technical, the exchange ended in a 1-1 tie on the scoreboard.
"That's just good defense," Gibson added. "That's Thibs laying into us after we started off slow. We said, 'We can't give that team any confidence.' We have to take way some of their strong attributes."
The Bulls gave up 106 points during a Game 1 blowout loss in Brooklyn. Since then, the Nets have scored 82 and 76 points, while shooting 35.4 and 34.6 percent from the field.
"When we get the ball swung to the weak side and we get some movement, we're fine," Nets guard Deron Williams said. "But when we just let them keep us on one side, we're struggling. We're struggling to shoot the ball, score the ball, and we're playing right into what they want to do."
Added Joakim Noah, "Overall, our defense is all about trusting the next man. Today, I feel like everybody did their job, stayed focused on what they needed to do. I felt it was a great defensive effort."
Of course, every good defensive effort will be in vain without some scoring. Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 22 points and Deng's 12-point flurry at the start of the third quarter helped boost the lead to 16 points.
"It was pretty much the same play we kept running," said Deng, who scored just 2 more points the rest of the game. "I had a few good minutes. I felt like I could have shot the ball a lot better. I don't know how many (good) minutes, seven or so. They could have sent me home after that."
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