Deng gets hot late to power Bulls

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
11:27
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Luol Deng may not have started the game the way he would have liked, but he had no problem closing it at the end. After starting just 3-for-11 from the field, Deng responded by knocking down several big shots down the stretch. He finished the game with 23 points, seven rebounds and a career high 11 assists. As usual, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau praised Deng for his play.

[+] EnlargeLuol Deng
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith Derrick Rose sitting, Luol Deng was the Bulls' go-to guy in Tuesday's win.

"Tonight his playmaking was huge for us," Thibodeau said. "We can count on his defense every night. Some nights he is going to score more than others. Whatever your team needs, he provides. If we need more scoring, he gives you that. If we need more playmaking, he gives you that. His defense is a constant and his rebounding is always good and his leadership is terrific."

For his part, Deng didn't think he was doing anything out of the ordinary.

"I played my regular game," he said. "For some reason, my passes, they were knocking them down. I must have had a good rotation on the pass. But it was a tough game, just being on the road for so long and coming back. I'm just glad we pulled it out."

That was an assessment Carlos Boozer agreed with.

"Great rotation on the ball," Boozer said of Deng's passes. "Put it right in the shooter's pocket. He played a great game tonight, especially after a long road trip."

Defensive struggles: While the Bulls were happy with the win, they were not happy with the fact they gave up 115 points on the night.

"I just think with their pick and roll we didn't do a good job of just coming in and the guards helping out," Deng said. "We were too spread out. Normally when we play we kind of pack in in the paint. The last two games, we're not really happy with our defense. We've got to get back to that."

Bulls' center Joakim Noah felt the same way.

"Our defense has been mediocre at best the last two games," Noah said. "So there's a lot of things we've got to clean up. We got a big game on Thursday against Boston. A team that we need to come ready to play because they're a very good team. And they'll be ready for this game on Thursday and we will too."

The last word: "[He's] just playing like a man-child. Getting rebounds, finishing strong in the paint. Playing great defense. That's who Joakim is. Great energy every game. He's playing unbelievable," - Boozer on Noah.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 3.3 1.5 40.0
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.4
AssistsD. Rose 4.9
StealsJ. Butler 1.5
BlocksP. Gasol 2.0