Luol Deng scored a career-high 40 points in the Bulls’, 110-98, victory at home against the Portland Trailblazers.
Like he usually does against the Bulls, LaMarcus Aldridge shot well – scoring 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting. Taj Gibson picked up two quick fouls – much like he did in the first two games of the season. But the Bulls adjusted by putting Joakim Noah on Aldridge, and brought Omer Asik off of the bench to add size on defense and rebounding. And that is exactly what Omer provided for the Bulls. His presence was definitely felt on both ends of the floor.
Asik had 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in 26 minutes of action, and also had a couple of contested hoops under the basket. The good thing for Chicago is that the only the liability that, rookie, Asik adds while on the floor is free-throw shooting. He was a notoriously bad free-throw shooter while playing in Turkey, and was only 2-for-6 from the line on Monday night. Other than that, he seems like a solid player who is only bound to get stronger as his NBA career moves forward.
Derrick Rose provided the passing (13 assists) while Deng lifted Chicago with his scoring. Luol didn’t settle as he did in the first two games. He wasn’t dribbling into contested shots this time; instead, he was moving well off the ball and Rose found him numerous times for all of the open shots that he wanted. After 16 points in the opening quarter, Deng kept firing away. Nicolas Batum was toasted by Luol Deng for most of the first half until Nate McMillan decided to adjust by putting Wesley Matthews on him. That exchange was subsequently followed by 5 personal fouls picked up by Matthews (in a mere 18 minutes) while trying to contest the red-hot Deng.
Deng shot 14-of-19 from the field (and 9-of-11 free-throws) for a career-high of 40 points – beating Derrick Rose’s career high of 39 from last night. It is mouth-watering to imagine what “could be” if Luol Deng is a legitimate long-range threat for the rest of the 2010-11 season.
Portland’s major un-doing on Monday was their horrendous three-point shooting – going 0-for-14 from behind the arch. The Bulls were the aggressors and the result was a win against a very respectable, formerly 3-0, Blazer team. They held Brandon Roy in-check and looked much better, and quicker, with their defensive rotations defending Portland as a team than they did in their opening two games.
The Chicago Bulls now move to 2-1 with the Knicks in their cross-hairs on Thursday. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah both had double-doubles (Rose: 16 and 13 assists; Noah: 10 and 10 rebounds).