I feel sorry for any Bulls fans that thought a 2-0 lead coming back to the United Center meant anything. For the fourth time in as many games this series, the road team has come away with a victory. Tonight’s final score: Boston 104, Chicago 95. With the shocking loss of Isaiah Thomas’ younger sister Chyna prior to Game 1, the Celtics were dealt a difficult blow, and the Bulls were gifted a head start in the series race, as the Boston squad struggled to figure out how to cope with their team’s leader suffering mentally and emotionally. But the two days off heading to Chicago did wonders for the Celtics, and now, the discrepancy between these two teams both in talent and cohesion is starting to show: the Celtics won two convincing games in Chicago to even up the series and regain home court advantage.
- Jimmy Butler is trying to do it all on his own — God knows he’s not getting any help. Check it out: 45 minutes (out of 48!), 33 points, 19-23 from the charity stripe, five rebounds, nine assists, and a steal. He couldn’t find his shot from three point range tonight, missing all three of his attempts, and the Bulls could’ve used it. Butler kept the Bulls in the game, but the Celtics were just too much.
- I never thought I’d say this, but the Bulls miss Rajon Rondo. He’s been super sub-par, bordering on terrible the entire year, but in the first two games of the series he was a rockstar. It’s like a switch flipped in his head and he decided he wasn’t allowed or supposed to be awful anymore. But Rondo has been sidelined for two games (inj, hand), and the Bulls are suffering for it. They’ve been playing their best (worst?) version of YMCA hero-ball trying to figure out who’s going to take the 1-on-1 matchup this time down the court.
- Speaking of Wade (^^ duh), he was worse than a non-factor tonight; he was a hindrance. He had a whopping 37 minutes of court time, but only had 11 points off 12 shots, and six rebounds to show for it. Honestly, sometimes I forget he’s out there. There was a time when a Wade breakaway was not only a bucket-certainty, but just a matter of how high up the SC Top 10 it was going to climb. Tonight, no such luck. One noteworthy fast break resulted in a Wade missed layup and Boston coming back the other way with numbers.
- Nikola Mirotic and Isaiah Canaan each put up 13 points. Canaan hit three shots from beyond the arc and finished with +11 in 34 minutes, getting more usage with Rondo out. Worth noting: Rondo was fined by the NBA for attempting to trip Jae Crowder in Game 3 (smh).
- For the second time in two games, the Bulls dug an early 20 point deficit, erased it by storming back to get into the game, only to fall by double digits in the end. It was sparked when the Celtics led 41-21 early in the second quarter: Canaan stole the ball from Marcus Smart and took it down for a layup. In a weird series of events, Smart faked throwing the ball at Butler, the two got up close and personal, resulting in technical fouls for both players, and the Bulls started to catch fire. Sometimes it takes something strange to change the momentum. It’s unsurprising, though: the NBA is a game of runs, and when you get down a bunch, it’s expected that the team with the deficit will make it interesting. The Bulls did just that, but could never get over the hump and take any meaningful lead. Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics found ways to close the door on any hope pretty quickly.
- A note about Isaiah Thomas: he’s back doing what he does best: attacking, driving, dishing, leading, and playmaking. In Game 4, he dominated the stats sheet: in 35 minutes, Thomas drained 10 buckets off 21 shots, added 12 free throws for 33 points, seven assists, and a steal to boot. He had a massive +17 during his time on the floor, by far the best mark of anyone on either team. He says he’s not really in the game, so if that’s true, his teammates are helping him do a phenomenal job playing pretend. He and Celtics share the ball beautifully and get great looks. The Bulls should take note.
- Up Next: Game 5 in Boston on Wednesday. The team that wins Game 5 when the series is knotted at 2-2 goes on to win the series over 80% of the time. Game on.
With the final two playoff spots up for grabs in the East, the Bulls are trying to scrape up enough wins to squeak in ahead of the Heat or the Pacers. The victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers could be chalked up to match-ups and #TNTBulls, but the Atlanta Hawks are a team the Bulls have failed to beat all season. Erasing a nine-point fourth quarter deficit with under five minutes to play, the Bulls stormed back and shocked the Hawks with a 106-104 victory, making it the Bulls’ third straight win and fourth out of their last five, as they move to 37-39 on the season.
- Jimmy Butler came up big in this game, hitting a huge three late in the game, and draining the winning free throws with 2.1 seconds left after getting fouled on the arm late in the shot clock. He scored the Bulls’ last nine points and had 33 for the game, along with eight assists.
- Denzel Valentine had two very big fourth quarter threes and added 13 points on 45.5% from the field. Interestingly, Nikola Mirotic led the team by a long shot in +/- with a +17, but his line wouldn’t suggest it: eight points with just two field goals, nine rebounds and five assists. Talk about being on the court at the right time(s).
- Rajon Rondo had a very solid game with 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 35 minutes. In an unusual shooting performance, he had 18 attempts, knocking down 11, including three of six from behind the arc. Although he had seven turnovers, he also included three steals to help pad the stat line. He and Robin Lopez combined for a +13, and while Lopez was relatively quiet on the boards (four), he played 36 minutes and was a strong presence down low.
- After taking a six point lead into the locker room at the half, the Bulls were able to surmount a 56-46 lead early in the third quarter, but Tim Hardaway and the Hawks’ offensive boards had other plans. Hardaway took the Bulls for 11 straight points including two threes, one after a flurry of offensive rebounds. After a 13-4 run, the Hawks regained the lead, eventually taking a five point lead at the end of the third quarter. The Hawks built that lead up to ten, and even held that aforementioned nine point lead with under five minutes to go in the game before Butler and Valentine helped the Bulls claw back and steal it in the final seconds.
- Meanwhile, Bobby Portis is still struggling to find his way. He was pretty close to dead weight: in 17 minutes, he was scoreless on 0/4, all of them from three point range, and led the team with a -15 (oops).
- Paul Millsap was out for Atlanta, which most certainly contributed to their late-game struggles on both ends. The Hawks are vying with the Bucks for the 5th seed, and a strong game for Dennis Schroder at 29 points and seven rebounds demonstrated that the will was there, but they couldn’t get it done.
- Next Up: The Bulls travel to New Orleans to take on Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and the Pelicans. The Hawks play in Brooklyn against the Nets.
The Bulls won 10 straight against the Toronto Raptors coming into tonight. Having lost three straight, including blowout losses to the Suns and Timberwolves to send them three games under 0.500, they desperately needed to make this their 11th straight win against the Raps, especially since this was their first home game after a six-game road stint. Given the Bulls’ habit of losing to sub-0.500 teams and showing up to play against stronger competition, maybe we could have predicted this. Other than a sustained second half run made by the Raptors, the Bulls led this one by 15 to 20 points for most of the game and avoided losing their fourth straight, topping the Raps 105-94 and moving to 27-29 on the season.
- With Dwyane Wade out (sprained wrist), the Bulls reserves had to step up. They helped them take a 24-18 lead to the end the first period, including some good defense by Cristiano Felicio, and a corner three from Bobby Portis (What’s that? Some first quarter action for BP?). His time was short-lived, however, as he only ended with 10 minutes. That said, in his short time, he had six points and three rebounds with a +7 to show for his time on the court. Felicio had himself a nice game as well, and was crucial in the win. He was in the right place at the right time on defense (a testament to his own work ethic), and was a presence on the offensive side. He got 26 minutes and a +12, including 10 points on 4-6 shooting and six rebounds with two steals.
- Jimmy Butler was finally a presence on defense. Seems like he’s been absent of late, but maybe that’s just perception. He was all over the hardwood tonight, disrupting the Raptor’s game plan by closing passing lanes and securing four steals. He did have four turnovers himself, but he more than made up for it on the other end with 12 assists. That’s an unusually high number for Jimmy, but it seemed his shot wasn’t working and he made the necessary adjustments. He didn’t make many baskets, but he didn’t shoot too many, either. JB was 2-10 from the field tonight, but managed to get to the line 19 times and connected on 15 of them, good for 19 total points in an expanded 37 minute role due to the injuries.
- Rajon Rondo had a small stretch were he played like a real leader and came alive in the second quarter with 10 points. He was working with the younger guys, and was decisive on offense, and even hit a couple threes. He cleaned it up a little for a while, not making any egregiously bad passes or decisions, but then had five turnovers when it was all said and done, and only four assists to offset them. He ended with 24 minutes, and those 10 points would be his only offense for the game.
- Doug McDermott was also big off the bench for the Bulls and came back from the dead with 20 points in 32 minutes on 61.5% shooting for a +13.
- I don’t know who these Bulls are, but they were running tonight. They had 20 fast break points, including a nice sequence of defense-turned-offense in the first half to extend their first half lead to 19. With their bench contributions totaling 54 points, the Bulls were able to expand the lead to 23 at its peak.
- The Raptors’ struggles continue against the Bulls. Their shooting woes from beyond the arc were part of the reason for their downfall tonight – just 5-20 from deep; they couldn’t hit their first three until the third quarter. It also didn’t help that they couldn’t get to the line as much as the Bulls. Just 24 attempts compared to the Bulls’ 35, resulting in a disparity from the charity stripe of 28-19. Coming off the bench, DeMar DeRozan seriously struggled. He connected on just five of his 19 shots – a big reason for many of the Raptors’ empty possessions.
- Up Next: It doesn’t get any easier for these Bulls, hosting the second place Boston Celtics on Thursday. The Raptors head home to play the Charlotte Hornets.
The Bulls have been teetering on the edge of a downward spiral in their last seven games, somehow squeaking out a record of 3-4 by holding on to victory against the Kings after Sacramento mounted a tremendous comeback, and besting the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s going to be a tall task from here on out for the Bulls to maintain their composure and try to sneak into the playoffs, especially with their difficult upcoming schedule.
Tonight, the Bulls had a minor respite against a struggling Suns team, who had lost eight of their last nine games, and came in with a pitiful record of 16-37, the worst in the West. But all did not go according to plan, as the Bulls made things harder on themselves, losing 115-97 in Jimmy Butler’s first game back from a heel injury.
- The Bulls started off looking pretty good, getting contributions from Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, building a 25-16 lead, but a 12-1 run by the Suns to end the quarter saw it quickly disappear. The Bulls had a similar meltdown at the end of the second quarter, surrendering a 17-4 run to go into halftime with a 13 point deficit, 56-43. They tried to close the gap to start the third quarter, beginning with a 9-2 run, but they could not sustain it, quickly down 13 again midway through the period and would never recover from there on out.
- On their fifth straight road game, the lethargy was showing. In the first half, Phoenix outscored the Bulls 11-2 on fast break points, weren’t able to bang down low resulting in a 30-12 margin, and relinquished 13 points off turnovers while amassing just eight themselves.
- It was clear the absence of play due to the heel injury was affecting Butler. He scored 20 points but was just 6-20 from the field. He was able to get to the line for eight points but could not connect from beyond the arc in three attempts, and posted just three rebounds.
- Robin Lopez had a very respectable game, with the only positive +/- on the team in 23 minutes of play. He was aggressive on offense, going five for nine with 12 points and securing five offensive boards to keep Bulls possessions alive. The Bulls couldn’t do much with those extra possessions, but RoLo did his part.
- Dwyane Wade came back from an illness that sidelined him against Golden State and although he didn’t have a very efficient game (7-16 from the field), his off the ball movement was on point, putting up 18 points with a few backdoor cuts resulting in dunks.
- Jerian Grant was awarded the starting point guard role, but didn’t score his first points until a three ball with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. It would be his only points for the game. As the backup point guard, Rajon Rondo continued to struggle with the worst +/- on the team with -17 in 23 minutes. He had just three points, four rebounds, and three assists.
- As a team, the Bulls shot just 43% for the game. This wasn’t helped by a continued struggle from three point range, connecting on just 5-19 for a paltry 26.3%. For the season, they’re still dead last in the league, at 31.5%. Fortunately, for the Bulls, they were going up against another struggling three point shooting team – the Suns are 25th in the league at 34.1%. Unfortunately, the Suns exceeded their season average by hitting eight threes, good for 42.1%.
- Devin Booker is really impressive on this Suns team. He’s a young star who we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the years to come. The backcourt of Booker and Eric Bledsoe combined for 50 points on 50% shooting with a +32, dominating the minutes sheet with 33 apiece.
- Up Next: The Bulls wrap up their six game road trip in Minnesota against Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves on Sunday. The Suns travel to Houston to play the Rockets on Saturday for a back-to-back.
After a rough night getting trounced by the Atlanta Hawks for three quarters Friday night, the Bulls looked to rebound against a perennially struggling Sacramento Kings team at home on Saturday. The second night of a back-to-back is always rough, and the Bulls have been known to demonstrate an inability to get motivated for sub-0.500 teams. But thanks to a questionable foul call on DeMarcus Cousins against Dwyane Wade with just seconds remaining in the game, the Bulls were able to hold on to victory, 102-99, improving to 22-23.
- Neither team held any substantial lead, as it was neck and neck the whole way. The largest lead of the night was the Bulls by nine, but it was very short-lived, and only in the second quarter. There were 17 ties in the game and 15 lead changes. It seemed whoever had the ball last was going to win, and with Wade’s breakaway missed dunk coupled with a phantom shooting foul call on Boogie in favor of Wade, the Bulls got just that, as Wade’s free throw would be all they would need.
- In a game that was so tight, with neither team holding a lead for very long, and neither boasting a double-digit lead, the difference may have been at the free throw line. The Bulls had a decided advantage of 28-16 from the stripe; Jimmy Butler made all 10 of the free throws he was awarded, while the bulk of the others (12) came from Dwayne Wade.
- Wade had a solid showing, putting up 30 points on 9/20 from the field, six rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. He got to the charity stripe 15 times, the most out of any player on the court. Still, his +/- was the worst of any Bull, at -11. However, two of his three steals were on key possessions late in the game to help seal the deal. Up one, with under 15 seconds remaining, he picked Boogie Cousin’s pocket, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk on the other end.
- Jimmy Butler had a noteworthy game, per usual. Butler scored 23 points on 6/14 shooting, with five rebounds and seven assists. He struggled with his shot a bit down the stretch, which is rare for his superman status, and looked uncomfortable with the double team, but was able to be bailed out by his teammates. Butler is still proving to be by far and away the most valuable Bull on the court – in 39 minutes, he led the team with a +14, which is impressive, considering how tight the game was. In those 9 minutes he didn’t play, the Kings gained an 11 point advantage.
- There aren’t too many sequences that we get to point to this year, so when one sticks out it’s a nice little bonus. One such sequence occurred tonight in the second quarter, after the Bulls began the quarter with a 24-21 lead: Rajon Rondo helped the Bulls get off to a fast start off the bench with a beautiful lob to Cristiano Felicio. The following possession, Rondo whipped the ball on a cross court bounce pass baseline to Paul Zipser for the corner three ball for a quick 5-0 run and an eight point lead.
- We thought Doug McDermott may have broken out of his slump last week, with a 31 point showing against Memphis but has been just 5/18 for 12 points in the three games since. He had just three points on 1/5 shooting Saturday night.
- A word about Boogie Cousins. He had a monster game: 42 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks, and a couple huge threes and some clutch and impressive moves to the basket, but the Kings couldn’t get it done, as there was no other Kings player in double figures (yikes). He’s posted seven 40-point games in his career, but the Kings are now just 3-4 in those contests.
- Up Next: The Bulls travel to Orlando to face the Magic on Tuesday, while the Kings are back at it Monday night in Detroit.