Deng helps slow down James

May, 15, 2011
5/15/11
11:12
PM CT
By Roman Modrowski
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls' postseason lore suggests it was a good idea for Luol Deng not to take too much credit for "stopping" LeBron James on Sunday, because some of Michael Jordan's biggest games came against individuals who had been labeled as "Jordan Stoppers."

No, Deng said, correctly, he didn't stop James in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. It was a team effort, and that effort limited James to 5-of-15 shooting for 15 points as the Bulls won 103-82.

"We're not playing the matchup game," Deng said. "We're playing a great team game, great team defense.

[+] EnlargeLuol Deng
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesLuol Deng had four steals Sunday and he helped limit LeBron James to 15 points.
"All of us as a team did a good job on those guys, on LeBron and [Dwyane Wade]. I just think it took a group effort and guys staying focused on the game plan the whole game. We all know LeBron is a great player. He really had some shots he normally makes that he didn't make, so we're not going to take all the credit."

James missed some shots he normally makes, but he also was harassed by one of the toughest defenses in the league, and by a coach in Tom Thibodeau who has been game planning against him for years. James' Cavaliers and the Celtics, with Thibodeau as an assistant, were familiar foes.

"It's just making every shot he takes tough," Deng said. "He's going to make some tough shots. He's going to make some unbelievable shots out there.

"You can't really get discouraged. It's always about the next play. And that's what we really did tonight."

Thibodeau has praised Deng throughout the season, calling him the glue of the team. While Deng praised the help he received in defending James, Thibodeau praised the help Deng provided.

"Luol, you can count on him every night," Thibodeau said. "Luol is going to make him work.

"But Luol, it's not only his individual defense, it's his team defense. And I think it's critical for us. So it's not only when he's guarding LeBron with the ball, but when he's away from the ball, he fulfills his help responsibility so well. He can help, recover, challenge his shot and get back in and rebound. He does so many different things for us."

James joined the chorus crediting the Bulls' team defense. But it wasn't just Deng's defense that fueled the argument that he outplayed James. Deng was 7-of-15 from the field for 21 points, to go with seven rebounds and four steals.

Deng was 4-of-6 from 3-point range while Miami was 3-of-8. But Deng said that was not by design.

"The way Derrick [Rose] was playing, they have to help [defensively]," Deng said. "A lot of times that was really the shot I had. I did a good job of just taking the shot I had."

He did a good job all-around, but he didn't "stop" James. He helped stop him.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5