Note-A-Bulls: Bulls shock Boston in Game One 106-102 to steal home-court from East’s #1 seed

One win down. Three to go. In what shall henceforth be referred to as the Bobby Portis Game, the Chicago Bulls stunned the #1 seed Boston Celtics by a score of 106-102 in the TD Garden to take a 1-0 series edge in this best of 7 first round clash.

Bobby Portis had far and away his best game as a Bull, scoring 19 on 8/10 shooting and 3/4 from deep while grabbing nine boards, the Arkansas product kept the Bulls in this game when it looked like Boston may take hold of the game. Ending the game with a +/- of +12, Portis’ confidence shown through at a critical time in this game when Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade were unable to find their shot.

In a back and forth affair throughout, this was by no means the prettiest playoff basketball on display thus far. There were turnovers, 35 total, poor shooting, neither team shot above 43 percent, and just overall sloppiness in this contest. But that didn’t mean this one was without intensity.

After tragically losing his sister Chyna in a car accident on Saturday, Isaiah Thomas somehow managed to suit up in Game 1 for the Celtics and did not disappoint. Thomas ended the game with 33 points, six assists, and five rebounds on 10/18 shooting in an inspirational effort by the diminutive guard. Thomas was able to get in the lane at will against this Bulls squad until Butler switched on to him in the last half of the 4th quarter. From that point on, Thomas found it much tougher treading as the Celtic offense struggled down the stretch with their best player being locked down by the Bull’s superstar.

In a first half where both teams probably felt fortunate to be in the game, the Bulls went into the locker room with a slim advantage 48-46. The Bulls were shooting a measly 2/14 from beyond the arc and only 38 percent overall. Meanwhile, the Celtics had turned the ball over 11 times before the break and had surrendered a whopping 16 offensive boards already. While both teams were feeling fortunate to be in the game, they also both were probably shaking their head at the inability to create a double-digit lead due to the other teams poor play.

In the second half, the difference came down to bench productivity and one team having Jimmy Butler. Both those landed in favor of the Bulls, as on top of Portis, Jerian Grant and Cristiano Felicio each contributed positive minutes with Grant hitting a huge three late in the last frame.

After that, Jimmy Butler did what he does best, try to single handedly close out games for this inconsistent Bulls squad. Fortunately, he was able to do so. Scoring 23 of his 30 points after halftime, Butler stepped up when his team needed him most, knocking down some clutch contested treys while the game hung in the balance. His defense down the stretch on IT also proved critical in shutting down the Celtics the last five minutes.

While Sunday night was a rare bright spot for this organization over the past few years, it wasn’t without its reminders of why the Bulls secured the East’s 8th and final playoff seed. Nikola Mirotic was downright horrific in Game One. In 19 minutes, the forward scored just four points on a dreadful 1/9 from the field including 0/5 from three. His defense also showed little to be desired as his mere presence on the court put the Bulls at a disadvantage on both ends. The Bulls will need Mirotic to step up his game if they want to take three more in this series to pull the upset.

Additionally, while the Bulls somewhat solved their woes in the 4th quarter, they still struggled to close out the game. Thanks to a couple unforced turnovers by the Bulls, the Celtics received ample opportunities to come back in the final minute of play. If they hit one of their open threes in that final minute, we could easily be talking about another 4th quarter meltdown for Los Bulls. Fortunately that was not the case, but again, they need to tighten this thing up if they really are going to push the Celtics in this series.

As for the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas was great. His effort was nothing short of herculean given what he went through over the last 24 hours. Unfortunately, there were times when he seemed to be on an island out there getting no help from his teammates. Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley need to perform better than their 9/25 combined shooting night to take some of the pressure off of IT. Thomas ended the night with a +/- of +12 in 38 minutes of play. The Celtics can’t be that bad in the 10 minutes per game Thomas is on the bench, and with the bench combining for only 22 points, that was not the case on Sunday night.

Up Next: The Bulls will look to take a commanding 2-0 lead back to the UC on Tuesday night in TD Garden where the Celtics will be out for revenge.

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Note-A-Bulls: Bulls storm back in the 4th to ground the Hawks and move in to playoff position

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.

Note-A-Bulls: The Bulls battle back against Milwaukee, win 109-94, to get back in playoff picture

Looking to forget about a loss to the 76’ers in their last game, the Bulls drove up the road to take on the Bucks in Milwaukee Sunday. On the outside looking in, the Bulls looked to pick up a win over a team on the other side of the playoff bubble.

Working what he was dealt, Hoiberg went tall with Rondo, Butler, Zipser, Miortic, and Lopez. For the Hornets, it was Middleton, Brogdon, former Bull Tony Snell, Maker, and Antetokounmpo. The first quarter was an action packed one, with both teams scoring back and forth. Despite the 60 points scored in the quarter, the lead was never larger than four points for either team.

Down 31-29 to start the 2nd quarter, the Bucks began with a 12-2 run, to lead 43-31, just three minutes into the new quarter. After slowly chipping away at the Milwaukee lead, the Bulls made their move by scoring 9 straight in the final minutes of the half to even things at 52-52. From there, two Rondo assists to Lopez and Mirotic gave the Bulls a surprising halftime lead, 56-55.

Similar to the 1st quarter, the 3rd was competitive and close. Each team held small leads over one another, before the Bulls extended the margin to six points halfway six minutes into the half. For the final half of the quarter, the Bulls dominated, extending Milwaukee’s margin and ultimately grabbing a 91-79 lead for the final 12 minutes. Nikola Mirotic was extremely productive in the quarter, grabbing four rebounds and showing off his long-distance shooting. The Bucks looked to squander the Bulls’ lead in the quarter, but Chicago would have none of it. A quick 7-2 run put the Bulls up 98-81, continuing the offensive success. The Bulls would later grab a 20-point lead and never look back, finishing off the Bucks 109-94 on a solid offensive night.

  • As far as offense goes, the Bulls’ starting lineup illustrated their success; every player scored in double digits, with Zipser being the only one tallying less than 18. Here were the FG makes and attempts per player: Mirotic (6/9), Butler (8/13), Zipser (3/7), Lopez (9/13), and Rondo (8/11).
  • Once again, Rondo showed his value by grabbing 9 rebounds, dishing out 9 assists, and finishing the night with 18 points.
  • Off the bench, the reserves couldn’t quite emulate what the starters were doing. No one scored more than four points, and no player shot better than 33.33% from the field. Valentine played a very quiet 24 minutes, while Lauvergne saw 18 minuts of action.
  • Despite a little more help from the bench, the Bucks starters failed to knock down shots from the field. The team shot just 44%, despite a solid night from Greg Monroe and Antetokounmpo, 16 and 22 points respectively.
  • Despite starting, the young big man, Thon Maker, was given just nine minutes of action. Malcolm Brodgon logged 14 points in 30 minutes of action, continuing to show an ability to compete at the NBA level.
  • Next up: the Bulls host the Cavaliers on Thursday. Given their recent history, the matchup should be more promising than the stats would suggest.

Note-A-Bulls: Sixers embarrass the Bulls at the UC 117-107 thanks to Saric’s big night

While most of the country was focused on the Sweet 16 Friday Night, the NBA still offered a slate of 10 games. This included your Chicago Bulls, who faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers at the United Center. Coming off an 18-point win Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons, the Bulls hoped to earn their first “winning streak” since winning four straight back in February. This is a game the Bulls must win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Despite the Bulls mediocre play, the UC was filled on Friday. Robin Lopez squared off against Richaun Holmes of Philadelphia, with Lopez winning the tip. Bulls basketball was on the air with Neil Funk and Stacey King. The first five minutes of the game were very much in the Bulls’ favor. They were able to jump out to a 16-6 lead, earning three assists on six field goals made. Nikola Mirotic started the game where he left off Wednesday, leading the Bulls early with seven points. However, the Sixers answered with going on a 6-0 run after they took a timeout at the 7-minute mark. This led Fred Hoiberg to take a timeout, hoping to break the Sixers’ run. Following the timeout, the Bulls jumped back out to an eight-point lead thanks to the work of Mirotic. Mirotic found Denzel Valentine for a three that hit nothing but net to give the Bulls that eight-point lead (26-18). However, the Sixers would answer the Bulls run (surprise). The quarter ended with the Sixers going on another 6-0 run, with the score 28-24. Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 11 points. He and Mirotic accounted for 21 of the Bulls 28 points.

The second quarter started out slowly for the Bulls. They started out the quarter two for seven and allowed the Sixers to get a six-point lead. That lead was cut down to as little as four, but the Bulls couldn’t regain the lead. Once Paul Zipser air-balled a three from a fairly good look, you knew things were about to get ugly. Sean Rodriguez, the backup point guard of the Sixers, was putting on a show. He helped Philly push their lead to nine, and had nine points in nine minutes played. The Bulls were letting the Sixers get to the basket at will, allowing 34 points in the paint at the 3:20 mark in the second quarter. At that stage in the game, the Sixers had 49 points. The minutes continued to shrink, and the Sixers lead continued to grow. After Rodriguez created his sixth assist of the game, the Sixers extended their lead to 17! Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers led the Bulls by 17 at the United Center. OK. Now that you read that again, let’s get back to the game. The final thirty seconds of the half were no different than anything else in the game thus far. At the end of the first half, the Sixers led 59-46, shooting an absurd 57.8 percent from the floor. Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 20 points. However, the only other Bull to be in double figures was Mirotic with 10.

The third quarter started out just how you thought it would. In the first two minutes of the quarter, the Sixers pushed their lead to 20. The point guards of the Sixers continued to cause trouble for the Bulls. T.J. McConell had four of the Sixers first four points in the quarter. It was getting so bad that Stacey King was comparing Rodriguez and McConell to John Stockton. This pathetic defense is just inexcusable against a team like the Sixers. With just under eight minutes to play in the third, the Sixers led by 22 POINTS, shooting 63 percent. The only bright spot was (take a wild guess) Jimmy Butler. However, Butler could only do so much. It was essentially one-versus-five. As a result, the score wasn’t in the Bulls favor. I would try and write something positive, but there was just no content. The Sixers continued to just shove their lead right down the Bulls’ throats. After three, the thrashing continued as the Sixers led 93-71. Butler had 31 of those 71 points. The Sixers had 66 (hey-hey!) points in the paint after the third.

The fourth quarter started out fairly well for the Bulls. They started out the quarter on a 9-4 run, which cut the lead down to 17. However, with only nine and a half minutes to play in the game, the Bulls would need to put on quite the show to make the entire comeback. The momentum was pushing in the Bulls favor. They continued to chip away at the Sixers’ lead, as they were able to cut it down to ten after Butler found Bobby Portis for a mid-range jumper. That assist was Butler’s eighth of the game, he was getting close to a double-double. However, this little spurt of momentum wasn’t enough. The Sixers did what they needed to do to not let the Bulls get back in the game and eventually came out with the win. The final score was 117-107. Butler finished with 36 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

This game was no different than any other Bulls game this season when facing a bad team. They didn’t show up to play, they got down big, tried to come back, and eventually lost. They continue to just go in circles, showing no signs of change. It’s unacceptable to be down 26 points against a team with the resumé of the Sixers, let alone your home court. With the loss, the Bulls fall to 34-39 on the season and are two games back of the Miami Heat for the eight seed. The Bulls are off until Sunday, where they’ll look to bounce back against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center.

Note-A-Bulls: A blown 4th quarter lead leaves the Bulls on the outside looking in of Eastern Conference playoffs

In a game that had tons of presage hype, the actual contest itself didn’t fail to deliver, unfortunately it was the Toronto Raptors gobbling up the good side of the headlines after the Bulls lost to Toronto for the first time in 12 games 122-120 in OT. After the unfortunate passing of one of the great GMs in NBA history, Jerry Krause, mastermind behind the 90s Bulls dynasty all of yearn for, there was still an important game to be played.

Sitting a game and a half back of the 8th seeded Heat, the Bulls were playing in a tough arena against a good team, albeit one that the Bulls hadn’t lost to since New Year’s Eve 2013 in the Raptors. After 3 1/2 quarters, it appeared as if the Bulls would pick up a marquee road win and continue to terrorize the confused Raptors. But then, with 6:39 left in this one and the Bulls up a comfortable 15, DeMar DeRozan showed up and the Bulls forgot out to put the Ball through the cylinder.

The result, the Bulls shooting just 3/20 from the field over the next 11+ minutes of play including overtime, in a stretch that saw them score just six points over a full quarters worth of time. Give Toronto credit, they put the pressure on the Bulls with aggressive play and by hitting their shots to force the Bulls to tighten up.

The aftermath of this one is just as ugly as the game itself. The Bulls now sit in 10th place in the East, 2 games back of the Heat, with just 11 games remaining on their schedule. Robin Lopez will most likely be suspended due to a fight with Serge Ibaka we will take a look at later. And finally, adding injury to insult, Cristiano Felicio, the Bulls back-up to Lopez, went down hard on his tail-bone in the 4th and appeared to be in a considerable amount of pain so missed games for him are not out of the question. The Bulls will need a quick and decisive turnaround to put this game behind them if they want to sneak into the Eastern Conference playoffs.

 

  • The reason the Bulls had such a large lead late was due in part to the incredible play of Rajon Rondo. The Kentucky product had an astounding first half scoring 19 points on 7/8 shooting including a shocking 3/4 from deep. Rondo also added five dimes and even got to the line in the first two frames. Frankly put, this was the best half of basketball Rondo played all year.
  • Instead of creating spacing issues in this offense, Rondo was able to create space for those around him. Due to his prolific shooting effort, he was able to suck defenders into the lane with him as he either found a back door cutter or kicked it out for an open three. This is the man the Bulls front office was hoping for when they signed the veteran guard away from the Kings this past off-season.
  • Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and Rondo’s night was no different. He ended up shooting just 2/8 after the break and committed two vital turnovers to fuel the Raptors come back. Rondo’s rise and fall in this one embodies what this game, and season, have turned into for this once proud franchise.
  • Jimmy Butler did everything he could to prevent a meltdown in this one. Butler ended the night with an impressive line of 37 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists to go with an impressive 12/14 from the charity stripe. 24 of those points came after the second quarter, as Butler seemed to be the only Bull attempting to close out this game with any sense of urgency. Unfortunately, as we all know, that was not enough as his tough jumper towards the end of regulation came up short forcing the Bulls into an overtime they would not prevail in.
  • The Sportscenter highlight of the night came not from any basketball being played on the court, but rather, a scrap that broke out after a missed shot. Robin Lopez appeared to accidentally stumble into Serge Ibaka after the forward grabbed a rebound. Ibaka then appeared to give an elbow into RoLo’s back. The two proceeded to get up close and personal, both just missing each other in big swings at the others expense. The two players got ejected, and with Felicio’s injury less than a quarter later, the Bulls were left extremely thin in the front court.
  • The Raptor’s star of the game as hands down DeMar DeRozan who finished with a line of 42 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. While DeRozan attempted a staggering 38 shots, his playmaking in the fourth quarter is what lead to the Raptors to a 34-19 edge in the period to stretch this game into the extra frame. With fellow backcourt mate Kyle Lowry out an extended period of time, DeRozan has been forced to step up the workload and has done brilliantly to keep the Raptors n a top 4 position in the East.
  • Up Next: the Bulls face what feels like a do or die game at home against the Pistons on Wednesday night.

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