The NBA: Huffin’ & Puffin’

Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose should be the two guys
who'll lead the Bulls as the season enters the deep waters.
 *All images are from the Associated Press.

“This team is a championship-caliber team. I'll take a back seat and watch Lu, watch Ronnie, because they know the ropes and they're good players. I can learn a lot from them and I am learning a lot, so I have no problem sitting back and watching." – Rookie Jimmy Butler on playing behind Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer

For all the success they’ve had this season, the Bulls still haven’t really done one thing – to play long term with a complete and healthy lineup. Against the Jazz a couple of days ago, they missed the services of starting center Joakim Noah, designated shooter Rip Hamilton, back-up PG CJ Watson, and All-Star Luol Deng.

Being a deep team led by last season’s MVP, the Bulls still managed to beat the Jazz by a comfortable margin, 111-97. Enigmatic PF Carlos Boozer unloaded 27 big ones on his former club and Derrick Rose added 24. The big story, though, was Kyle Korver, also a former Jazzman, hitting a boatload of threes to finish with 26.

After the game, Boozer said, "We've got a group of guys who believe in each other. No matter who's out there, we can win. We know how hard you've got to play just to win when you're healthy and you have to play that much harder when you're shorthanded."

It seems Boozer and Korver both reaped the unheralded benefits of being shorthanded. Boozer took 17 shots, making all but 4 on his way to a great offensive night. Korver, meanwhile, hit 6 of his 11 trey attempts.

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau is high on both guys, especially Boozer, "Once he gets in rhythm, (Boozer) is a great shooter from 17 feet. You have to close on him and he has the ability to put it on the floor. Could he do it (play 41 minutes) every night? Probably not, but I think for a shooter, sometimes I think it is good. A guy can get in rhythm like that and he did."

On Korver, Thib had this to say, "Hey look, Kyle is a pro. He'll never stop shooting. Nor do we ever want him to. That's his strength. When he has an open 3, we want him to take it all day every day."

With their win against Utah, Chicago hasn’t lost back-to-back since early February of 2011.

Have they improved far enough to continue challenging for the Eastern crown or even more than that?

Jury’s still out on that, but, as they’re one of my fave teams right now, I certainly hope they can eclipse the shortcomings of last season.

One key for Chicago is versatility and depth. The Bulls can use different player-combos like they did with Utah and STILL shoot 55.8 percent from the field to go along with 31 assists. Even rookie Jimmy Butler did well, as he logged 8 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes of extended play.

Once Chicago gets EVERYONE healthy, Butler might not see much burn on the floor, but he shouldn’t necessarily mind if they keep on winning. Ronnie Brewer surely wouldn’t mind.

"I look forward to when everybody's healthy and we have good chemistry for how good we can be," he said.

How good can Chicago be? Despite huffin’ and puffin’ with a bunch of health issues, they can still be plenty good. When they’re complete and primec for the playoffs?

Oh, man. Just run as far as you can.
After the JUMP, March 11, 2012 stat-stuffers:

PHI over NYK, 106-94
Lou Williams' 28 points were the most scored by a Sixer this season as Philadelphia used a dominant third quarter to roll past the Knicks. Evan Turner scored 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and added 15 rebounds while Andre Iguodala contributed 19 points for the 76ers, who have won three in a row. The Knicks dropped their fifth straight.

LAL over BOS, 97-94
Kobe Bryant scored 26 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 41.7 seconds remaining as the Los Angeles Lakers downed the Boston Celtics. Bryant tallied 10 points in the final frame for Los Angeles, which has won nine straight games at Staples Center. Rajon Rondo had 24 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who had won six of seven coming in.

CLE over HOU, 118-107
Kyrie Irving scored 16 of his 21 points in the final 4:14 of the contest as the Cleveland Cavaliers downed the Houston Rockets. Antawn Jamison added 28 points and 5 rebounds for Cleveland, which has won three straight games for the first time all season. The Rockets have lost six of their last seven contests.

ORl over IND, 107-94
Dwight Howard posted another double-double with 30 points and 13 rebounds, as the Magic took care of the Pacers. JJ Redick, making his 10th start of the season, added 18 points and a career-high 9 assists, while Ryan Anderson finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds in Orlando's fourth win in five games. Indiana suffered its fourth straight loss.

MIL over TOR, 105-99
Ersan Ilyasova had 31 points and 12 rebounds Sunday and the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks rallied past the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks, already without Andrew Bogut because of a fractured ankle and Stephen Jackson because of a hamstring injury, were also missing Luc Mbah a Moute (right knee sprain) and Shaun Livingston (left ankle sprain).Still, they hung on to beat the Raptors for the sixth straight time. Drew Gooden added 21 points and Mike Dunleavy scored 19 off the bench for Milwaukee. The Raptors have lost three of four and are headed out on a five-game road trip that starts Tuesday in Cleveland.

MEM over DEN, 94-91
OJ Mayo scored 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting and made a key three-pointer down the stretch to help the Grizzlies upend the Nuggets. Mike Conley added 13 points and 7 assists and Dante Cunningham scored 12 points off the bench for Memphis, which had a five-game winning streak snapped in Phoenix on Saturday. Nene, Al Harrington and Corey Brewer each scored 15 points for the Nuggets, who fell to 2-2 on their current nine-game homestand.

ATL over SAC, 106-99
Josh Smith continued his recent scoring binge with a 28-point effort, carrying the Hawks over the Kings. Joe Johnson joined Smith in double figures, finishing with 21 points and 6 assists as the club improved to 2-2 on its current six-game road trip. DeMarcus Cousins paced the Kings with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Sacramento failed to secure a third straight win.

GSW over LAC, 97-93
Monta Ellis scored 8 of his 21 points in a shaky fourth quarter for the Golden State Warriors, who held on to beat the Los Angeles Clippers after giving up a 21-point lead. The Clippers rallied from 21 down in the third quarter and from 14 behind in the fourth, tying the game on Blake Griffin's dunk with around 4 1/2 minutes remaining. Dorell Wright added 20 points for the Warriors, who have won three of four, while Griffin scored 27 with 12 rebounds for LA.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
Ersan Ilyasova (MIL) – 31
Dwight Howard (ORL) & Luis Scola (HOU) – 30

Ersan Ilyasova has become the main attraction in Milwaukee.
Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Evan Turner (PHI) – 15
Andrew Bynum (LAL) – 14
Dwight Howard (ORL), Zaza Pachulia (ATL), & Pau Gasol (LAL) – 13

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Monta Ellis (GSW) – 11
Rajon Rondo (BOS) – 10
JJ Redick (ORL) & Paul Pierce (BOS) – 9

Monta Ellis is rumored to be going elsewhere by March 15.
Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
A LOT with 4!!!

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
Samuel Dalembert (HOU) – 5
Larry Sanders (MIL) – 4
A LOT with 3!!!

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
Goran Dragic (HOU), Antawn Jamison (CLE), & Dorrell Wright (GSW) – 4

March 11, 2012 First Five
C – Dwight Howard (ORL) – 30pts, 13rebs, 5asts, 4stls, 1blk
F – DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) – 28pts, 12rebs, 3stls, 2asts, 1blk
F – Ersan Ilyasova (MIL) – 31pts, 12rebs, 3 treys, 2stls, 1ast
G – Evan Turner (PHI) – 24pts, 15rebs, 2asts, 1stl
G – Monta Ellis (GSW) – 21pts, 11asts, 6rebs, 3stls, 1blk

DeMarcus Cousins continued his strong play
against the Hawks.

Honorable Mention:
Josh Smith (ATL) – 28pts, 6rebs, 3asts, 3stls, 3blks
Andre Iguodala (PHI) – 19pts, 8asts, 7rebs, 4stls, 1blk
Luis Scola (HOU) – 30pts, 8rebs, 1ast, 1stl

Daily Zap:


*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Sports Network.
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