Tag Archives: Cristiano Felicio

Note-A-Bulls: An ill Jimmy Butler leaves Bulls short-handed in loss to OKC

Well we’re 38 games into the 2016-2017 Chicago Bulls season, and they are who we thought they were: a team mired in mediocrity (thanks for the term Rick Hahn) with no clear direction. The Bulls need to take a page out of the White Sox playbook and sell their assets to rebuild for the future. Being a .500 team and the 7th seed in the East with an aging roster may be the worst situation in the NBA right now, minus the dumpster fire that is the Nets who mortgaged their future for a couple 40 years old a few years back. Jimmy deserves better, Hoiberg deserves a chance, and this fan base deserves better. Now let’s take a look at the 109-94 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder (23-16) that dropped the Bulls to 19-19.

  • With Jimmy Butler suffering from the flu, the stud Guard could not duplicate the effort of his Herculean predecessor (MJ) from the ’97 Finals. Butler finished with just a singular point on 0/6 shooting from the field and clearly wasn’t himself, but credit his competitive nature for gutting out 29 minutes that could not have felt good for him. Without Jimmy, the Bulls were down to one alpha for the night.
  • Dwyane Wade was the most consistent threat for the Bulls throughout the night, scoring 22 on 7/16 shooting while also distributing six dimes. Wade also was able to get to the line on a consistent basis going 6/8 on the night. However, Wade could not do it all by himself on this night as he could not keep up with the electric Thunder attack.
  • Fan favorite Cristiano Felicio had himself a nice game, going for a double-double (11 points and 11 boards) on an efficient 5/6 shooting. Felicio’s energy is a breath of fresh air for this Bulls team and he almost always has an impact with his hustle when he’s on the floor. Obviously he will never be a star in this league, but Felicio has proven himself an asset to bring off the bench.
  • Unfortunately, the rest of the Bulls attack was meager to say the least. As a whole, the Bulls shot an appalling 40% (34/84) that would struggle to keep you competitive in a Big Ten brawl. This team is too one-dimensional to confuse any defense and not athletic enough to get to the hoop when that;s their most effective way to score. This team is not built to highlight their strengths or their coaches preferred game plan. For a coach that needs someone to space the floor for his plan to be executed, he hasn’t had the benefit of a bonafide starter whose strength that is.
  • Per usual, Russell Westbrook led the Thunder charge on Monday night. The California native had himself a near triple-double (an off night for him) with 21 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds. Westbrook is absolutely electric on a basis that is hard to comprehend. To play with that much fire night in and night out is truly a pleasure to watch for fans of the game.
  • Steven Adams also played a nice complimentary piece tonight scoring 22 on 11/14 shooting from the floor. Adams gives this team a much needed inside presence and needs to bring his scoring ability on a more consistent basis for the Thunder to be competitive in the top-heavy West.
  • Up Next: The Bulls head to our nations capital to take on the Wizard sans Butler and Wade. Apparently Rondo is scheduled to try and contain Wall, should be quite the spectacle.

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls hang on to win a close one over the Heat at the UC

It is extremely ironic that the Miami Heat were in town to take on the Bulls on a freezing December night in Chicago. Winter may have hit the streets of the city outside, but indoors at the United Center fans packed in to support the Bulls as they tried to gain some momentum against a slumping Miami team. As both teams gathered to the trademark Bull logo at half court, Robin Lopez and Hassan Whiteside squared up. Surprisingly, Lopez won the tip and Bulls basketball was on the air.

The beginning of the first quarter was quite the see-saw battle, as both teams got off to decent starts. Dwyane Wade broke the 0-0 tie nineteen seconds into the game by hitting a short jumper from eight feet out. To nobody’s surprise, Hassan Whiteside got off to a hot start. At the halfway mark of the first, Whiteside had eight points, two rebounds, and one block. The Bulls took a timeout at the 5:33 mark, with the score even at fifteen. After the timeout, Whiteside hit one of two free throws and the Heat had the lead. Miami was able to extend that lead to 23-19, but the Bulls remained in striking distance. In fact, they were able to gain a lead at the 1:14 mark after Denzel Valentine sunk a pair of free throws. That lead stayed to the end of the first, as the Bulls led 29-27.

Per usual, the bench for both teams was out to begin the second. The likes of journeyman Derrick Williams and Josh Richardson for the Heat, and the usual suspects of Valentine and the Brazilian beauty Cristiano Felicio for the Bulls. The see-saw battle continued to progress, as both teams continued to counter punch each other’s attacks on both ends of the court. Wade was busy on the stat sheet against his former team as the Bulls starters returned to the floor. At the halfway mark, the Bulls led by two as the score was 41-39 after former North Carolina Tar Heel Wayne Ellington hit a mid-range jumper. As the quarter continued to progress, the Brazilian Beauty continued to flourish. At the 2:40 mark in the second, Cristiano had six points and six rebounds in only nine minutes of play. On the other end, Whiteside was feasting on Robin Lopez. Singlehandedly keeping the Heat in the game, he had sixteen points and six rebounds at the 2:40 mark. The push by Whiteside must have been inspired the rest of his teammates, because after the Heat tied the game at forty- nine, they seemed to gain the momentum. However, the Bulls scraped this mini-run by Miami and at the half, the score was tied at fifty-five. In the half, there were nine lead changes with twelve ties. Also, Miami outscored the Bulls seven to four in terms of fast break points in the half, which is surprising, considering the Heat were playing their fourth game in five nights.

The third quarter began as the ball was inbounded to Goran Dragic, who dished it off to Josh McRoberts, which eventually resulted in Wayne Ellington drilling a three to begin the scoring. The Bulls answered on the other end with a basket by Dwayne Wade, who continued to play strong at the start of the third. The Bulls looked like they were starting to hit their stride as Wade again was able to make a play, as he broke out on the fast break and threw down a spinning dunk that resulted in an and-one, and a smirk by Wade at the Heat’s bench as he made his way to the free throw line. The veteran continued to be scorching hot, as he hit another shot to give the Bulls an eight-point lead that resulted in a Miami timeout at the 8:40 mark. However, the timeout strategy didn’t go in Heat head coach Erick Spoelstra’s favor, as the Bulls continued to push their lead on the Heat to ten. The energy of the Bulls was clearly higher than Miami, and rightfully so. It just seemed like a matter of time before this happened, due to the Heat’s amount of recent games they had played. The quarter continued, and so did the Bulls run. Once the Bulls got on this run, the momentum was certainly sliding to Chicago’s side. With just under five minutes to play, the Bulls led 77-66 after Whiteside and Dragic connected on an alley-oop at the 4:30 mark. The strategic timeout by the Bulls to bring in substitutions may have hurt Chicago, as Miami cut the lead to six with just under three minutes to play after Josh McRoberts hit a three off a Goran Dragic assist. This momentum created by Miami was largely due to the Bulls’ bench not being able to put the nail in the coffin. The Bulls looked like they were ready to break this game open, but Miami would not go away. After three quarters, the Bulls led 83-75.

The fourth quarter began with the Bulls hoping to put this game away. Unlike the past few seasons, Miami is a team that you need to go out and beat when you play them. Niko Mirotic began the Bulls scoring in the fourth with a running jumper to keep the Bulls lead at eight. Miami continued to answer the Bulls punches, but Chicago looked like they were not going to squander this one as the Bulls continued to lead by eight as Miami took a timeout with just under nine to play in the game. Yet, the Heat just continued to crawl and scratch back into this game. Seeming to have no life, Miami had the lead cut to four with just over six minutes to go. Surprisingly, one of the biggest moments during this game was when Willie Reed missed both of his free throws to keep the Bulls’ lead at four. As a result, fans at the UC received free Chick-Fil-A sandwhiches because Reed missed both. The quarter continued, and it looked like we were on our way to great finish. While this may not be ideal for Bull fans, it does make for some great drama. As the amount of time continued to drop, the Bulls continued to hang on for dear life. The fight by Miami came up short, and the Bulls escaped with a 105-100 victory. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with a game high thirty-one points, along with Dwyane Wade dropping twenty-eight against his former team. So yes, Chicago did drive home safe, even in the bad weather.

What was expected to be a rather relaxed night for the Bulls that would involve heavy minutes for rotation players turned out to be a very close game where Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler played heavy minutes. These are the kind of games that you must build a lead early, because the NBA regular season is such a marathon, and you need your stars to have their knees under them for more important games. The Bulls are off until Tuesday, where they will face the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves at the UC.


The Lineup Laboratory: Let’s Make Space

We know who is going to be playing for the Bulls. A flurry of moves this offseason resulted in one point guard being shipped out and another high profile one being signed on. The Bulls followed up the Rondo signing with the (second) most surprising move of the summer by luring Dwyane Wade from the Heat on a two year deal.

In a vacuum, both of these signings are very justifiable. After the Rose trade, the Bulls were able to get a proven veteran coming off a very good season on what is basically a one year deal. Compared to some of the supersized contracts that were handed out the first week in July, Rondo is almost a bargain, and fills a clear positional need.

Wade, coming off his healthiest season in years, absolutely has gas left in the tank. The Bulls are more than a wing short of being able to contend with the Warriors and Cavaliers of the league, and adding Wade, despite the high cost, bolsters what is generally a shallow position across all 30 teams. While Wade has never figured out how to shoot threes, his herky-jerky “dad at Lifetime wearing a knee brace” game figures to age well.

These would be great signings if basketball was baseball. Baseball is a game of one on one battles, and the team that has more talent in their lineup tends to win. In basketball, simply acquiring talent is not enough. In basketball, a player’s ability to succeed is impacted as much by who he shares the court with as how good skilled he may be as a shooter or driver. Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler would make a killer 3-4-5 in a batting order. But as a 1-2-3 on the basketball court, these undeniably talented players add up to less than the sum of their parts.

The projected Bulls starting lineup – Rondo, Wade, Butler, Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez – features just one above average three point shooter. The streaky Montenegrin is going to need to improve his consistency from beyond the arc if the Bulls starting group hopes to have any space to operate on offense.

The severe shooting deficit in the Bulls backcourt will ultimately limit one of the few strengths of this roster. Between Mirotic, Lopez, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio, the Bulls have a very deep PF/C rotation. Unfortunately, it will be spacing suicide anytime two of these players share the floor and one is not Niko. To cover up the flaws of the roster’s architecture, Chicago is going to need to get creative and find a way to squeeze 48 minutes of outside shooting from the power forward spot.

Already we are hearing about Fred Hoiberg‘s plan to have Doug McDermott play power forward. The 6’8″ McDermott is far too weak a rebounder to hold up at the position for long stretches. But against some of the other stretch fours in the league, McDermott may be able to provide valuable spacing on offense while avoiding his biggest weakness: perimeter defense.

I expect the Bulls will also use Jimmy Butler at the 4 at times during the season. Butler is strong enough to hold up in the post against most big men (including LeBron James). Butler has the quickness to torture other power forwards on the perimeter, and his less than great three point shooting upgrades to average when he’s considered a four. Lineups with Wade, Tony Snell and Butler will give the Bulls the flexibility to switch often on defense, the strategy used by the Thunder and Heat to stop the Warriors in the playoffs.

I imagine Taj Gibson, who has played 89% of his career minutes at power forward, will see most of his playing time come as the backup center. A Taj and Lopez pairing, which should be superb on defense, is just not going to result in a functioning offense with the spacing issues across the roster.

The real losers in this roster shakeup are Portis and Felicio, two players who desperately need on court experience to improve their feel for the NBA game. There are just not going to be enough minutes for these guys on a consistent basis. Both players showed they are not afraid to take a perimeter jumper last season, but until defenses start respecting Portis and Felicio outside the paint, their presence will only further clog the dirty drain that is the Bulls offense.

We still have a long time between now and the start of the regular season and the Bulls may not be done tinkering with the roster. Just a few hours ago it was announced the Bulls signed Isaiah Canaan, who instantly becomes the best shooter in the Bulls backcourt and will provide value off the bench and off the ball. The team could also shake things up by trading Taj Gibson, making $9 million in the last year of his contract, for a three point marksman. Should the Bulls stand pat with this group, Fred Hoiberg is going to have to get very creative with his rotations.

BULLet Points: Butler powers shorthanded Bulls over shorter-handed Pelicans

It had been a long time since a Bulls game in April meant absolutely nothing, making Monday’s viewing experience particularly bizarre. As much as I’ve loathed watching this team during this disappointing and infuriating season, I’ve always rooted for a positive outcome in their games. But when the Pacers officially eliminated the Bulls on Sunday, they also eliminated my ability to care about the outcome of the final two games. Alas, I still paid close attention to the festivities in New Orleans as the Bulls collection of scrubs outplayed the scrubs in Pelicans jerseys.

  • More significant than who played for the Bulls in game 81 was who didn’t play. Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, E’Twaun Moore and of course Joakim Noah all sat due to injuries of varying degrees. Fred Hoiberg started Jimmy Butler at point guard and let the All-Star guard do pretty much whatever he pleased with the reins in his hands.
  • Butler scored an efficient 23 points against the Pelicans, shooting 8/11 from the field and 6/7 from the line. Butler has struggled mightily with his three point shot all season and it was good to see him take – and make – just one shot from beyond the arc. Jimmy was able to waltz to the rim at will all night against a porous Pelicans defense and did not waste many possessions with bad jump shots.
  • Butler managed to dominate the ball without over-hunting for his own shot. Jimmy tallied 11 assists in a game he was the primary ball handler in 28 of 29 of his minutes on the court. Aaron Brooks was the only true point guard available Monday night and he only shared the court with Butler for about 70 seconds at the end of the first half. Butler’s ability to penetrate and draw help – often from two defenders – led to easy kick outs to open shooters and cutters.
  • Despite the high assist total, I would hardly categorize this game as strong support for the “Point Jimmy” argument. Yes, Butler recorded double-digit assists in a game the Bulls were desperate for offensive creation. But the reigning Most Improved Player still has a lot to learn about running a good pick and roll, a necessity for any lead ball handler. Butler has a tendency to peak around screens instead of jet past them, mucking up the offenses timing and limiting the effectiveness of the rolling screener. Butler attempted only one pass to the strong rolling Cristiano Felicio, a mistimed bounce pass that ended up as one of his four turnovers in the game.
  • Speaking of Felicio, the Brazilian rookie continued to take advantage of his opportunity to impress the organization ahead of the fast-approaching off-season. Felicio scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in his third career start. Cristiano shot 6/8 from the field, with half of his attempts coming from 20 or more feet from the hoop. Felicio struggled on defense, often failing to rotate off Omer Asik to impede driving guards, but that type of timing and personnel knowledge comes with time and experience. I’d rather see the giant gummy bear splash some silky jumpers than make a few more hard rotations to the rim.
  • Doug McDermott played just 24 minutes, shorter than the time Justin Holiday and Tony Snell spent on the court. McDermott has too often been relegated to decoy status down the stretch and attempted just one three pointer against New Orleans.  In a game where the outcome truly did not matter, it was disappointing that Hoiberg did not make more of an effort to include the second year wing in the game plan. McDermott’s defense is and will continue to be very bad, and if the team isn’t going to maximize his offensive abilities, then I don’t know what they’re doing.
  • Coming up: the Bulls finish off the season tomorrow night by hosting the 76ers.

BULLet Points: Bulls deliver completely empty signature victory

The Bulls technically aren’t eliminated until they lose another game or Indiana wins one, so Saturday night’s matchup with LeBron James and the Cavaliers still mattered. As is often the case, the Bulls brought their A-game for LeBron and co., pulling out an impressive 105-102 victory. Of course, it’s far too little, too late, so plenty of Bulls fans are just annoyed by this type of performance. Let’s take a look at how they did it.

  • The Spring of Cristiano Felicio continues. Felicio was 7/7 with 16 points, five rebounds, and two blocks in 23 minutes. He provided a real defensive presence and was perfect from the field, slamming down several dunks. Fred Hoiberg rightfully rode Cristiano down the stretch, as he played nearly the entire fourth quarter. The Bulls were +12 in Felicio’s minutes and -9 in Pau Gasol‘s.
  • The Bulls’ success with Felicio in the game is classic addition by subtraction. Pau puts up gaudy rebounding and block numbers that largely amount to empty calories. His slowness getting back and moving defensively sink the unit. His offensive production is overvalued as his post-ups slow down the flow and he takes a high percentage of long mid-range shots. Felicio does all the little things defensively and stays out of the way for the most part on the other end. The Bulls will be a better team without Pau in the starting lineup.
  • Good news! The Bulls have the rights to Cristiano Felicio next season for under $900,000, making the 23-year-old Brazilian a legitimate find. The Bulls will also have matching rights after next year, so Felicio will be on the team for a long time if things go well. A fun silver lining to a season that’s been anything but.
  • Bobby Portis and Felicio made up the frontcourt for almost the entirety of the fourth quarter comeback. The Cavs led 82-79 after three, but the Bulls stormed ahead to a double-digit lead before a late flurry from LeBron James made things interesting.
  • Ultimately, the James-Kevin Love frontcourt didn’t get the job done, as Tyronn Lue elected to go small for that stretch. Tristan Thompson never came in throughout the Bulls’ onslaught, and I wonder if that would’ve stopped the bleeding.
  • Both LeBron and Love were phenomenal, though. James finished with 33 points and seven rebounds in 39 minutes. He nearly willed the Cavs all the way back at the end, drilling multiple three-pointers at critical times. He was 4/5 from distance on the night, a far cry from his 30.2% clip on the season. Kevin Love notched 20 points and 13 boards.
  • Jimmy Butler turned it up late to secure victory. He finished with 21 points, six boards, and three steals. Derrick Rose had a tough night, adding only 10 points while posting a -20 in 32 minutes.
  • Nikola Mirotic tallied 13 points and six rebounds in only 17 minutes. He’s really started to look like a valuable player since coming back from his appendicitis. He’s shot 43.7% on threes since the All-Star break and is up to 38.2% overall.
  • J.R. Smith was lights out, scoring 24 points with seven three pointers. He’s quietly been one of the most prolific three point shooters in NBA history, and some nights he’s just going to roast you from deep. The Bulls are lucky J.R.’s hot shooting didn’t sink them.
  • Mike Dunleavy still looks like a corpse, which is unfortunate.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head to New Orleans tomorrow night.