Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls suffered their first loss of the season on the second night of a back-to-back in their season opening trip through the West Coast. The Bulls came out completely flat in the first half against the Golden State Warriors, going into the break down 16. The team would be staring 0-2 in the face had it not been for the last-second heroics of the Bulls freshly extended point guard and Luol Deng in a Christmas day victory over the L.A. Lakers at Staples Center.
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When asked what his coach said about the loss, Center Joakim Noah was short and to the point.
"He just said it was [bull]," said the Bulls seven-footer. "And he's right."
The blame for the Bulls' unexpected slip-up falls partially on the broad shoulders of PF Carlos Boozer. After a solid performance on opening night, Boozer looked completely out of sync and a step slow against a smaller Warriors frontline.
Warriors PF David Lee made Boozer, who was ineffective and inefficient on both ends, look silly on several plays. Boozer was often late to close on Lee's jump shots, allowing the former New York Knick to drain shots. When he did close, the Bulls starting 4 often left his feet, allowing Lee a free pass to the rim. The box score only further cemented the mismatch as Lee's line of 22 points, 7 rebounds dwarfed Boozer's paltry 6 points, and 3 rebounds. A minority of Bulls fans actually preferred Lee to Boozer when Bulls GM Gar Forman seemingly had his choice of the two when both were free agents in the of summer 2010.
After a season riddled with inconsistency and poor defense, particularly in the playoffs, Boozer is running out of excuses. The Duke Blue Devil showed up for training camp in great shape this season, 20 pounds lighter. Bulls fans have high expectations for a bounce back season.
The former Utah Jazz signed a five-year $80 million deal before last season, and to this point has drastically underperformed. Boozer will need to muscle up on the interior if the Bulls will pass the Miami Heat this season to reach the NBA Finals. His elbow jumper is a nice complimentary move, and perfect for running Jerry Sloan's old pick-and-roll offense with Deron Williams, but Chicago needs his low-post scoring ability to come to the forefront.
D-Rose stayed in character, showing accountability after the loss, and plans on being more assertive for the rest of the season starting when the Bulls travel to Sacramento to take on the Kings.
"I don't want another one of these nights anytime soon," the reigning MVP told ESPN.com's Michael Wilbon. "I know it's just the second game, but there aren't enough easy baskets. In the first quarter, I might need to establish myself earlier. I think I've got to push the ball, get to the rim, be more aggressive."
When asked about his impression of the first two games Rose added, "Defense, defense, defense."
A frustrated Tom Thibodeau echoed that sentiment following the game.
"We can't play like that," said last season's Coach of the Year. "We have to rebound, we have to play defense, we have to take care of the ball."
Thibs on the condensed schedule:
"You have to establish your defense first and know who you are."
The unexpected loss occurred for several reasons. The Golden State Warriors, under new coach Mark Jackson, deserve credit for playing fast from the opening tip. Monta Ellis and Steph Curry looked very comfortable after getting in rhythm early. The Bulls were also slow on their defensive rotations and stagnant offensively, unnaturally forcing it to Rip Hamilton in the first half.
The Chicago Bulls will continue the team's California tour when they travel to Sacramento to take on the Kings Thursday, December 29th at 9:00 PM CST.
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