Thursday, March 18, 2010

Click-a-Bull (Deng/Kirk; Rose; Win Streak)

I am almost done with my "Bulls 2010 Free Agency Predictions" - so expect that post up later this week.

Deng suffers setback

On the eighth day of his absence, Luol Deng revealed he originally was told he could miss one to three weeks with his strained right calf.

Coach Vinny Del Negro then piled on by saying Deng suffered a setback Wednesday after trying to run on the injury both Tuesday and pregame Wednesday. Deng, limping noticeably in the Bulls' locker room, missed his fourth straight game.

"I'm still having trouble pushing off," Deng said.


Marked man: Not only did Kirk Hinrich miss Tuesday's loss to the Grizzlies because of his one-game league suspension, the broadcast was blacked out at the team hotel. So Hinrich went to watch at a local sports bar, where he was recognized and mocked by Memphis fans still stinging from when Hinrich's alma mater of Kansas beat the University of Memphis for the 2008 NCAA title.

Of course, that didn't stop two fans from asking for Hinrich's autograph. And, yes, Hinrich signed.

Rose rises to the occasion the Bulls

Derrick Rose said before Monday night's game that his sprained left wrist is "not quite 100 percent but is getting there."

One has to wonder about the kind of damage Rose might do to an opposing team's defense once he is back at full strength because he sure seems just fine while on the mend.

The Bulls guard poured in a game-high 27 points with a spirited effort to lead the way to a 98-88 victory over the Houston Rockets at the United Center.

They kept pace with Toronto, which hold the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors defeated Minnesota 106-100 to remain 21/2 games in front of the Bulls.

"We are a team just trying to find a way," said Rose, who also had 8 assists and 7 rebounds. "I think we have a shot at the playoffs."

The Bulls (33-37) showed a lot of heart. Vinny Del Negro was ejected in the third quarter for the first time in his coaching career for arguing an offensive foul to Kirk Hinrich with 40 seconds left in the game.

The second half may have been one of the Bulls' best from a defensive perspective as they held the Rockets to 24 percent shooting (11-for-46). Del Negro said defense was the key.

That's two in a row

Artistically, it wasn't quite ''The March of the Penguins.''

It only seemed like it took an Arctic winter or so for the Bulls to put away the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

With Vinny Del Negro assisting the bad guys with a double technical and the first ejection of his NBA head-coaching career, Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and reserve Flip Murray provided enough offensive pop at the end for the Bulls to teeter on home 98-88.

The victory was the second straight for the Bulls after a 10-game losing streak. Rose led the march with 27 points -- 11 in the fourth quarter -- and eight assists. Murray scored 18 in a tremendous 34-minute turn off the bench.

Hinrich added 17, including 4-for-4 three-point shooting in a game in which the Bulls shot 50 percent (7-for-14) behind the arc and limited the Rockets to 24 percent shooting (11-for-46) in the second half.

''We're going to win with defense, and we held them to a good number,'' said Del Negro, whose team kept an opponent below the dreaded 100-point plateau for the second consecutive game.

Taj Gibson (10 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks), Brad Miller (10 points, 12 rebounds) and the uber-energizing Joakim Noah -- limited to six minutes in each half as he hit Game 2 of his return from plantar fasciitis -- also were significant contributors.

Del Negro's ill-timed histrionics came late in the third quarter, just after the Bulls' lead had peaked at 72-59. After a bang-bang sequence of foul calls on Rose at the defensive end and Gibson on offense, Del Negro suddenly was racing with pronounced animation toward midcourt.

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