Fresh ink: January 21, 2009

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K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “The Bulls have been in more stretch runs than a thoroughbred racehorse this season, blowing fourth-quarter opportunities more often than not. That trend continued Tuesday night at the United Center when the Bulls faltered in the fourth quarter of a 105-102 loss to the Hawks. Mike Bibby scored a season-high 31 points, including nine in the final five minutes, as the Bulls followed a familiar script. ‘That’s the story of our season,’ guard Ben Gordon said. ‘We’re not very good at closing games out.’”

Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: “‘The turnovers really hurt us,’ Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said after his team committed 17 which the Hawks turned into 22 points. ‘Mike Bibby had his way with us. The difference was really [Zaza] Pachulia — his 18 points really bothered us. He got easy baskets and got after us on the glass a bit.’ After a Derrick Rose layup with 5:21 left, the Bulls led 94-93. But the Hawks then went on a 12-4 run before Rose (13 points) nailed a three-pointer with 3.4 seconds to go. ‘At the end of the game we needed to get stops,’ Rose said after the second game in as many days the Bulls lost in the final minutes. ‘This is real tough, but some way we have to find a way out and finish games. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we have to come together as a team.’”

Sekou K Smith of the Atlanta Journal Constitution: “Bibby was trashing the Bulls everywhere else, though, outplaying heralded Bulls rookie point guard Derrick Rose along the way. Bibby had nine points on 4-for-5 shooting and two of those steals in the fourth quarter, when the Hawks had to break a 77-77 tie and did so by a mere three points, 28-25. Bibby made his only 3-pointer of the quarter and had a crucial steal with 40 seconds to play that set up his game-clinching jumper with 18.9 seconds on the game clock. ‘We used Bibby as our horse tonight,’ Josh Smith said. ‘He’s one of those players that once he gets it going he’s kind of hard to stop. And you saw him in clutch situations, he was hitting big shot after big shot. And when Joe [Johnson] doesn’t have it, we feel good knowing we have Bibby there, too.’”

Nick Hut of the Northwest Herald: “Rookie point guard Derrick Rose took 41 shots in the two games leading into Tuesday night’s game against Atlanta, yet had only two free-throw attempts. Gaining penetration into the lane with an eye toward successfully drawing contact and making more trips to the line is something Rose is trying to learn. ‘I definitely would have thought I’d get more [calls],’ Rose said. ‘I just have to do a better job of giving the refs a reason to give me the calls.’ Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, a former guard, is working with Rose on that issue. ‘I think he’s just got to continue to be aggressive, just continue to attack the basket, and the referees will eventually come around with that stuff,’ Del Negro said. ‘But he’s got to continually attack, get body contact, not try to jump over guys or around guys or whatever.’”

Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: “The Bulls might be close to trading veteran guard Larry Hughes to the New Jersey Nets for former DePaul forward Bobby Simmons. A league source confirmed a report in the Bergen (N.J.) Record that the teams have had serious trade talks. It’s up to the Nets to sign off, and the deal will get done. ‘That’s fine,’ Hughes said before the Bulls hosted the Atlanta Hawks at United Center. ‘I’m ready to play, whether it’s here or somewhere else.’”

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