Deng scores season-high 23 points in 99-93 Bulls’ win over Orlando
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org November 6, 2012 9:45PM
Chicago Bulls' Taj Gibson (22) and Nazr Mohammed (48) put defensive pressure on Orlando Magic's Gustavo Avon during an NBA basketball game in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.(AP Photo/Charles Cherney)
Updated: November 7, 2012 12:24AM
From the start of training camp in early October, it’s been about saying the right thing when the subject of Derrick Rose is brought up.
There has been a lot of, “Derrick is doing his rehab and we have to do our thing,’’ coming from the mouths of Bulls players.
Frequent lip service insisting, “We have to find ways to win games with the guys we have here.’’
Maybe, just maybe, they found a way. Or at least found some one.
About time Luol Deng tossed his name in the hat.
The forward had his best game of the early season, scoring a team-high 23 points in the 99-93 win over Orlando, with eight of those coming in the final quarter. The final 12 minutes in which Rose so frequently took over.
With the All-Star point guard rehabbing his torn left anterior cruciate ligament until at least February, the Bulls (3-1) needed someone in crunch time.
It didn’t happen in the loss to New Orleans, but Deng put on his red cape Tuesday.
“It’s not surprising,’’ head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Deng’s heroics. “That’s the thing about Luol, he provides whatever you need. If it’s rebounding he’ll provide more of that, you need scoring he’ll do that, you need his play-making he’ll do that. The guy’s a winner. He’s a complete player. You can count on him. He played a very smart game.’’
And he will have to continue to do so.
“Derrick is doing what he’s got to do to come back, and when he gets back we’re going to be a lot better,’’ Deng explained. “It’s just totally a different team and we’ve got to find our own ways in winning those games. And there are a lot of ways. You can say it’s a learning process, it’s a getting to know your team. Different nights it’s going to be different guys on the floor.’’
It was Deng against the previously unbeaten Magic, as he also chipped in with eight rebounds and four assists.
The Bulls found out right away that the Magic (2-1) weren’t going to be a team that would just go away. In other words, they weren’t in Cleveland anymore.
After Chicago built a 14-7 lead midway through the first quarter, Orlando shot their way back to take a 24-23 lead going into the second.
It wasn’t until the fourth in which the Bulls once again seemed to grab control, when Nate Robinson hit back-to-back jumpers, but Orlando was up to the task of trading blows, as Glen Davis kept them in it.
“That’s how we have to play, that’s our team,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of his team’s ability to answer standing 8-counts. “That’s the only way we have a chance every night of putting a W into the column. We have to play together and play extremely hard.’’
Deng then continued his solid shooting night, hitting back-to-back 16-footers to put the Bulls up five with just under seven minutes.
“I’m at that point in my career where if one things isn’t working, just find a way to do something else to help the team,’’ Deng said. “I don’t have to be out there just dropping my head if I’m not scoring. I realize that I can do other things, whether it’s rebounding, hustle plays, or just playing defense if that’s my role that night.’’
His role was helping to finish off the Magic, and he filled it to perfection.
The Bulls also got seven points from Robinson and Joakim Noah in that final quarter, but Deng carried the night.
“He’s been around a long time,’’ Thibodeau added of Deng. “I think he’s shown that each year he’s gotten better and better.’’