Tag: Richard Hamilton


Deron Williams dunks, Nets throttle limping Bulls


Deron Williams made a pair of free throws as the Barclays Center fans chanted “M-V-P!” On the Bulls’ next possession, Williams stole the ball, sprinted down the court and – the same player who didn’t dunk until April – delivered a reverse slam.

More than we’ve realized, this is a different Deron Williams. Frankly, and perhaps more importantly at the moment, these are a different Chicago Bulls.

Williams is full of health of vigor. The Bulls – and, as a result, this series – are not.

Williams had 22 points and seven assists to lead the Nets to a resounding 106-89 Game 1 win over Chicago that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.  Brooklyn led by more than 15 for the game’s final 28 minutes and by as many as 28 points.

In the last 15 years, teams that win Game 1 by at least 17 points have won 41 of 44 series. As long as Williams keeps playing like this, it’s difficult to envision the Bulls turning this series into the fourth exception.

Including tonight (and excluding the season finale, when he sat out the fourth quarter), Williams is averaging 24.1 points and 8.4 assists per game since March 8. For perspective, only twice has a player averaged those marks for a full season since 1990-91 (LeBron James in 2009-10 and Gary Payton in 1999-00).

Early, Williams’ production was matched by Brook Lopez, who scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half. Over and over again, Williams and Noah got favorable position inside against a team that has a reputation for defending the paint much tougher than it did. But that reputation was built by two players who were limited tonight.

Joakim Noah, played just 13 minutes, and that seemed like 13 minutes too many. Taj Gibson got in foul trouble and had to sit.

Chicago was outscored by 13 points in the 12 minutes neither Noah, who’s losing his battle with plantar fasciitis, nor Gibson played, and that was the difference. When Noah is healthy, the Bulls don’t have to endure so much time without either of their top defenders.

The entire Bulls team didn’t pass Williams and Lopez alone in scoring until midway through the second quarter, as Chicago’s offensive troubles became the predominant story of the game.

For a long time, Carlos Boozer, who finished 25 points, was the Bulls’ only reliable scoring source.

Luol Deng made the Bulls first field goal, and then he didn’t make another shot until the third quarter was mostly over, finishing 3-for-11. Kirk Hinrich, who limped off late in the third quarter and didn’t return, and Richard Hamilton combined to shoot 0-for-5. Marco Belinelli shot 3-for-8, though he at least got to the line.

There’s no doubt Chicago, which scored just 35 first-half points, had offensive problems. But those issues were overstated.

The Bulls still had a higher offensive rating (102.7) than all four teams that played earlier in the day: Knicks (95.9), Nuggets (95.7), Warriors (91.7) and Celtics (95.9).

Nate Robinson scored 17 points on 12 shots, and Jimmy Butler went 5-for-8.

However, Robinson – likely because Tom Thibodeau didn’t trust the point guard’s defense – played just eight minutes before the fourth quarter, and Butler disappeared for nearly the entire first half. Butler’s issues are perhaps correctable, but it’s getting too late for Robinson to endear himself to Thibodeau, even though riding Robinson’s high-variance game might be the Bulls’ best chance as underdogs.

The Nets, on the other hand, never had problems getting going. In addition to Williams and Lopez, Joe Johnson (16 points), Gerald Wallace (14 points), C.J. Watson (14) and Andray Blatche (12 points) all had their moments in supporting roles.

As big as the gap looked between these teams tonight, the series isn’t over, and several Bulls (and two former Bulls who now play for the Nets, C.J. Watson and Keith Bogans) should know that. The last team to win Game 1 by at least 17 points and then lose the series was the Bulls, who beat the Miami Heat by 21 before losing the next four games.

Noah might not be able to give the Bulls much in this series, but they can look to his words after that big win over the Heat two years ago.

“It’s only one game,” Noah said. “There’s a lot of basketball to be played.”

Gibson sprains knee, Bulls lose to Wizards. Not a good night for Chicago.

Taj Gibson

If the Bulls had designs on moving out of the six seed — and you know Tom Thibodeau wants to win every game with a white hot passion — this was not a good night.

First, the Bulls fell to the Wizards 90-86 in a game where Chicago had no answer for John Wall (27 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, nobody has slowed him lately).

But the bigger concern may be Taj Gibson, who sprained his knee in the first half, didn’t play the second and will have an MRI on Wednesday just to see how bad things are. Gibson recently missed 10 games due to a sprained MCL and this is the same knee.

Chicago is going to need to expand its training room with Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton and of course Derrick Rose already taking up tables in there pretty much full time.

This was a game where the Bulls looked shorthanded — they got 19 points and 12 rebounds from Carlos Boozer, 17 from Nate Robinson and 13 from Luol Deng, but the Bulls seemed to wear down as the game went on. Their early leads evaporated. In the fourth quarter the havoc Wall was wreaking started to give the Bulls defense some issues — A.J. Price was getting open looks and knocking them down.

The Wizards never pulled away, but they were able to do enough to get the win. Which is what we have seen from them a lot in recent weeks — they have something to build around next year.

The Bulls have to find a way to get guys healthy for the playoffs, with or without Rose. They are a team that has been grinding all season and you wonder if they can get right or will be ground down when the games really matter in a couple weeks.

Dwyane Wade will suit up, play against Bulls Wednesday

Dwyane Wade

Well, one superstar will be back on the court Wednesday.

After missing a couple games resting a sore knee, Dwyane Wade will be back Wednesday night in Chicago when the Heat go for win 28 in a row against the Bulls.

The Heat will be facing a shorthanded Bulls team. Derrick Rose is out but that was to be expected. Also out is Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton will not play. Joakim Noah is a game-time decision.

If the Heat think this will make it easy on them they are mistaken — the Bulls are as good a system team as there is in the league. They scrap and grind, just like their coach Tom Thibodeau. But the injuries have taken their toll and the Bulls are 4-6 in their last 10 with a defense that is 23rd in the NBA in that time.

With Wade back this should be a Heat win. But it’s not going to come easy.