Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Attitude, veteran leaders help to even series
By Nick Friedell
NEW YORK -- Carlos Boozer stood proudly in front of his locker late Monday night after the Chicago Bulls' Game 2 victory and offered up an easy explanation as to why his team could bounce back so well after such an embarrassing performance in Game 1.
"We're pros," Boozer said. "We're pros. We make adjustments just like any other team. We have a team full of veteran guys that have been in the playoffs before."
Understandably, much of the talk after the 90-82 win centered around the fact that the Bulls' defense tightened up and forced the Brooklyn Nets into a more rigid game. What shouldn't go understated is the fact that the Bulls never panicked even after critics wrote them off on Saturday night. They always believed they could win this series and they proved they could respond in a major way on Monday.
"We played the game that we wanted to play," Boozer said. "A grind-out defensive-minded game and that's how we got to be. We got to hang our hat on defense like we have in previous years and tonight we did that."
After playing poorly in Game 1, veterans Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng took the physical mentality to heart on both ends of the floor. The longtime teammates chipped in offensively, but it was their defense that set things apart for the Bulls. Specifically, it was Hinrich's effort against star point guard Deron Williams that seemed to permeate through everything the Bulls did. Everywhere Williams went, Hinrich followed. He made sure that the All-Star point guard couldn't get the rest of his teammates involved in the Nets' offense.
"He's about as good as there is in this league as a point guard as far as scoring in many, many different ways," Hinrich said. "Even when he's not scoring, he's still solid; he did a great job of setting their guys up. It's just a team effort. The bigs did a great job tonight."
The Bulls' big men might have helped back up things, but they all praised the way Hinrich played. He was embarrassed by how he had played Saturday and was determined to do something about it.
"You got to give Kirk and Nate [Robinson] a lot of credit," Boozer said. "They did a great job of having great ball pressure, making them feel us early, make C.J. [Watson] and D-Will feel us early ... [Williams is] such a good player, man, a great player, does a good job of getting everybody involved. In Game 1 that's what happened. He got seven assists but he scored a lot, too, running all over the court. I thought we did a great job of having great awareness of where he was at and trying to help, trying to make other guys make plays."
The Bulls know they must keep that intensity up as they head into Game 3. Deng made it a point to say he felt his teammates fed off the aggression he played with and that seemed to be a buzzword throughout the night. The Bulls love playing with the extra edge that Tom Thibodeau always talks about, and after Game 2's performance it appears that they have found it again.
"I feel like we were the aggressor from the beginning of the game," Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler said. "We made everything hard for them, took up their space, and we rebounded extremely well."