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Kelly Dwyer

Behind the Box Score, where Thibodeau has the Bulls moving

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Chicago 110, Portland 98

From the outset, it was clear that Chicago's spacing had Portland out of sorts. I still don't understand why a team as long and as athletic as the Trail Blazers couldn't keep up with Chicago away from the ball, and why every pointed pass (especially to Luol Deng(notes)) seemed to result in a lone dribble and high percentage shot, but maybe the Blazers had a case of the Mondays. On the first Monday of the NBA's regular season. Uh oh.

Credit Chicago, though. That team was setting screens all night and running that baseline ragged. And every time the Blazers whittled away and got the lead down to an overcome-o-ble nine points or so, the Bulls responded with a basket. Usually from Luol Deng.

40 points, for our man Lu. A remarkable achievement for Chicago, all-around, even if Portland (in spite of what Bulls color man Stacey King may have told you last night; the guy still doesn't have it all together when it comes to pace-adjustment) is a pretty awful defensive team. 60.6 percent shooting for the Bulls, who just cut and screened and screened and cut all night.

And though Chicago had its issues with LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) (33 points, 20 in the first half), it managed to keep the Blazers in check defensively, and it had Brandon Roy(notes) (despite his 11 free throw attempts) sniping at the refs all night.

Also, this is why you don't pay Fabricio Oberto(notes) to play in the NBA: 10 minutes, 20 seconds, one offensive rebound, zero points, one turnover, three fouls. The guy is smart, tall, and has good touch passing from the high post; but the same applies to one of your uncles. It doesn't mean you put him in the rotation.

***

Sacramento 111, Toronto 108

Not a great game. It's the sort of game that would make the coach in you pretty angry, but as someone who was trying to write and bounce between two games while watching this? Fun as hell. Every time I rewound to see just how someone scored, sure, there was a lot to criticize. But the game was crisp and exciting. Sacramento just seemed to do everything it could down the stretch to force that Arco Arena crowd to lose its mind, and it was great to watch.

Beyond the fair weather parts, yeah, not something you show the junior high ballers. Neither team bothered to talk while defending in transition, cutters were allowed to go wherever they wanted to in the half court, and close out D on the perimeter was pretty dodgy.

A fun three hours, though. Reggie Evans(notes) and his crazy beard dominated the glass (19 boards, 10 offensive), Andrea Bargnani(notes) had his elbow under the ball (even if he didn't have his head under the glass, two rebounds in nearly 36 minutes) as he worked up 28 points, and DeMar DeRozan(notes) overcame a still-iffy jumper to earn 14 free throw attempts and 24 points.

Sacramento came on late, though. DeMarcus Cousins(notes) managed 16 points in 17 foul-plagued minutes, Tyreke Evans(notes) overcame a stomach bug to get to the rim and toss in 23 points, Sam Dalembert was active off the bench, and Omri Casspi(notes) hit three three-pointers as the Kings outscored Toronto by 14 in the second half to come back and emerge victorious.

I just wrote "emerge victorious." I have to get better at writing.

***

San Antonio 97, Los Angeles Clippers 88

The Clippers don't defend very well, but they also have issues scoring. San Antonio worked its tail off to try and stop the Clippers, in Los Angeles, but Los Angeles just don't have a consistent theme offensively; and it's not like Vinny Del Negro has a long history of working those sorts of kinks out. This team's lack of depth and inability to procure consistent high percentage looks will keep it out of the playoffs.

Baron Davis(notes) was out, which hurt in theory, but he's averaging 10 points per game and making fewer than a third of his shots in 2010-11. Eric Bledsoe(notes), a rookie who can't shoot, basically matched him on Monday night. Eric Gordon(notes) (23 points, 11 assists, including the dunk of the year that we'll post on BDL in a little while) was fantastic, but the Spurs just had answers, everywhere. Scored more consistently, stopped more consistently,

Gary Neal(notes) hit four three-pointers for the Spurs, finishing with 16 points, and I'm pretty sure he was born last month. The Spurs look good, and deep.

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