Thursday, January 5, 2012
Howard stands in way of sixth straight win
By Nick Friedell
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Tom Thibodeau sounded exasperated as soon as Dwight Howard's name was mentioned.
Dwight Howard leads the NBA with 16 rebounds a game to go along with 19.1 points.
The Chicago Bulls coach knows how hard it is to contain the Orlando Magic center, and he knows his team has a lot of work to do before it faces off against Howard on Friday in Orlando in search of their sixth straight victory.
But it's not just Howard the Bulls need to be worried about.
"[With] those guys, it requires your whole team to commit to helping," Thibodeau said. "You have to go into those games knowing it's a lot more than just Howard. You have [Jameer] Nelson, who's terrific in the pick and roll. They have a range shooting four in [Ryan] Anderson. Glen Davis is a high energy guy off the bench. [Hedo] Turkoglu has got a great skill set ... they're deep, they're tough. They're a well-balanced team. They're well coached. So we got to be ready."
Howard may want a trade out of Orlando, but he is still producing. He is averaging 19.1 points and an NBA-best 16 rebounds a game. He has been complemented by a surprisingly effective Anderson, who leads the Magic with 19.7 points a game and is connecting on 45 percent of his three-pointers.
But Thibodeau's players know they have to be ready for Howard because everything starts with him.
"Dwight's a manchild down there," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "I think the biggest thing with Dwight is making him shoot the ball. Don't let him get dunks and layups because his field-goal percentage when he's 5 feet and in is ridiculous. But if you can get him 7, 8 feet away from the bucket his field-goal percentage goes down a little bit."
Boozer hopes the Bulls can push Howard out of the lane and wear him down. That's obviously easier said than done.
"So we got to try and do a good job of digging the ball out of there, double-teaming a little bit," he said. "Letting [Noah] play him a little bit, see if he can body him. And then if we need to come and dig it out, we'll dig it out. But making him shoot it from a little further out will help us a lot."
Having faced Howard numerous times in his short career, Noah knows what he would like to accomplish against the big man.
"Just make everything he has, everything hard on him," Noah said. "It's a lot easier said than done, so there's a reason why he is who he is. He's a great player, and we'll just try to make it as tough as possible on him."
While Thibodeau might be concerned, he is confident that his team has enough to slow Howard down. Last season, Bulls backup center Omer Asik played very well against Howard, and Thibodeau believes he can do it again. But last season the Bulls also had veteran Kurt Thomas, but he is playing for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Thibodeau trusts the Bulls will be OK either way.
"I feel good about our roster," he said when asked specifically about Thomas being gone. "I think we have more than enough."