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Bulls now need more from Deng, Boozer

5/2/2012

CHICAGO -- The question posed to Luol Deng was a simple one.

"With Derrick [Rose] gone, do you feel like you have to be the guy to get to the basket more?" a reporter asked the Chicago Bulls All-Star in a subdued Bulls locker room after Tuesday’s 109-92 Game 2 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Derrick is not here, so this is a different team," a frustrated Deng said.

Perhaps not getting the answer he was looking for, the reporter asked the question again.

"Derrick is not here," Deng responded. "This is a different team. We've been through it. We've played a lot of games. It's a lot of games that we won. You guys can go back and watch them, how we won them. It's not one guy that has to get out of character. We're a team and we're going to get it done together."

After watching the 76ers roll to victory, maybe Deng should go back and watch how his team played without Rose. Deng was one of many Bulls who struggled without their floor general and leader. Deng couldn't get most shots to fall and his poor performance was compounded by the fact that Carlos Boozer played poorly for the second game in a row. Boozer has been a nonfactor in this series, and that has to be very disconcerting for coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls' front office, especially given how poorly he played during last year's postseason. Over the first two games of this series, Boozer has just 18 points and 12 rebounds.

"I think we definitely got to try to put the ball in the paint a little bit more, try to get easy baskets," Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said. "Once we get easy baskets in the paint, it opens up the whole perimeter. It makes the guards’ jobs a lot easier when they're scoring down on the block and things like that."



Hamilton has a valid point.

The Bulls' offense looked broken in the second half. Most of the shots they took were contested and others looked rushed. Rose, who could always find a way to fix things and get his team back on track, was sitting up in the suite with his family with a torn ligament in his knee.

"You have to get stops to play with pace," Thibodeau said. "You've got to rebound. When you are not doing that, it is hard to get out and run. We could not count on our rebounding. Those are the two things we count on every night. We have to get back to that."

Thibodeau, who noted that Deng was fine physically, contended that his team's defense was at fault for lapses on Tuesday. But that shouldn't excuse the fact that the Bulls' offense compounded the problem. It had no rhythm without Rose on the floor and its lack of execution led to numerous fast-break opportunities for the Sixers.

"We got to play better defense," Deng reiterated. "Offense is not who we are. We've got to take pride in our defense and step it up. We got a lot of different guys who can score, but this is the playoffs. Defensively, we've got to be better; you've got to take the challenge, each individual."

Deng and Boozer need to take the offensive challenge, as well. Without Rose, Deng and Boozer become the primary scorers on the team. They are the guys who have to carry the load offensively. On Tuesday night, just like Boozer during the postgame press conference period, they didn't show up.