Tag Archives: Kyrie Irving

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls Win 4th Straight, Top “Kingless” Cavs 117-99

In their second game as the “new-look” Bulls, Jimmy Butler and company faced the Cleveland Cavaliers without Superstar LeBron James. With their recent trade of Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, the Bulls started Bobby Portis and Jerian Grant, alongside Butler, Wade and Lopez. Both teams got out of the gate extremely slow, missing many of their first shots from the field but the Bulls were able to keep it close and play neck and neck with Cleveland for the first half. A hot shooting night from 3pt-land and a depleted Cavaliers team allowed the Bulls to come out of Cleveland with a win, their 3rd against the Eastern Conference favorite this season.

  • The shorthanded Cavaliers looked beatable tonight without their entire Big 3, especially early on in the game.
  • 4 ½ minutes into the game the Bulls were shooting 31.3% from the field, and the Cavaliers were shooting 35.7%, prompting announcer Jeff Van Gundy to want to leave the game early.
  • The Bulls came into tonight last in 3pt field goal percentage and 3pt field goal attempts, and completed a season high tonight of 15 made 3 pointers in the game.
    • In their second game without sharp-shooter Doug McDermott, the Bulls shot a surprising 50% from behind the arc with the help of rookie Denzel Valentine, newcomer Cameron Payne and the continued great play from Jimmy Butler, who finished with a triple double (18pts, 10reb 10asts).
    • I am still trying to figure out the Bulls plan with Valentine. A month ago, Valentine was between the D-League and the NBA, and I wrote that if he couldn’t crack this version of the Bulls roster, there wasn’t really much hope for him moving forward. However, it seems with the trade of Taj Gibson, Valentine will get that consistent chance he’s been waiting for. With Portis continuing to struggle, and after a 15-point game last night, Valentine finished with 11 points from the field tonight, 3-5 from distance, including two big threes in the 4th quarter to put the game away. It was nice to see him actually given a chance out on the floor and to see him deliver efficient results.
  • It was the Bulls bench that carried them in the first half, accounting for 21/35 points at the 7:58 mark in the 2nd quarter.
    • Newly acquired guard Cameron Payne made his Bulls debut and finished with 6 points on two 3 pointers. He looked a little uncomfortable bringing the ball up the floor, but was confident shooting. It should be interesting to see how the Bulls use him moving forward, as there is a logjam at the point guard position.
  • Former Bull Kyle Korver was quick to impress again, finishing 4/7 from 3pt land and 14 points. He now is 5th all-time in NBA history for most 3 pointers made in a career, just passing Vince Carter and Jamal Crawford. Korver will be remembered as one of the premier 3-pt shooters in NBA history, yet I still look at his time with the Bulls as a disappointment, as they never were able to run plays for him effectively, never able to get the looks he got tonight from the field.
  • At the half, the Bulls, playing one of their better halves of the year besides a few defensive lapses, found themselves down 56-55.
  • The second half showed consistency for the Bulls. They were able to take advantage of a Cavaliers team that is now 0-9 when playing with only 1 of their 3 stars.
    • However, their star that did suit up, Kyrie Irving, finished the night with 34 points, an impressive showing.
  • To note:  Former Mavericks Guard Deron Williams will be signing with Cleveland for the remainder of the season, adding another scoring piece to Lebron’s arsenal.
  • A clock malfunction at the end of the 3rd quarter allowed Rajon Rondo’s buzzer beater to count, giving them an 89-76 lead and by the 9:14 mark in the 4th, they were up 20 points, 98-78.
  • New Bulls Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Antony Morrow (DNP) did not see the floor in the second half, as Fred Hoiberg went the rest of the half with his normal rotation.
    • Unlike last night, Hoiberg decided to stick with Nikola Mirotic down the stretch vs. Denzel Valentine, a questionable decision in my opinion. While Mirotic finished the night with 14 points, and had a big 3-pointer at the end of the game to put it away, he was still only 2/5 from 3 and chose not to box out on a missed free throw by Christiano Felicio, again giving more reason to question his on-the-court commitment that we hear about in media reports.
  • This article cannot be complete without mention of Dwyane Wade. After his “poster” of a dunk last night, he continued to turn back the clock, finishing with 20 points, including some nice slashes to the basket and vintage step-back jumpers.

In my eyes, for the first time this season, the Bulls played a full 4 quarters. They were up for the challenge of a road-trip to Cleveland and proved that they still have some fight in them this season. While many of us are hoping they are just good enough to stay out of the playoffs and get that lottery pick, it was encouraging to see good play from young talent. While I don’t cheer often watching this team, I enjoyed seeing a Denzel Valentine 3-pointer swish through the net at a pivotal movement in the game. The rest of the season is about development and seeing what you have in young talent moving forward. While I do not think they did enough at the trade deadline, freeing up the rotation ever so slightly, to now give newcomer Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant and Denzel Valentine an actual opportunity allows the Bulls to actually be watchable. While it may not be pretty at times, these kids have to play to see how you can build for the future.

A funny ending is always nice when you can walk away with a win. Dwyane Wade was a rebound away from a triple double; when Jimmy Bulter swiped away the Cavaliers missed shot to ensure his own triple double. The next possession as the horn sounded, the Cavaliers missed again, Wade jumped to grab the rebound, all alone under the basket, and Christiano Felicio knocked it out of his hands out of bounds as time expired. All Wade could do was smile and succumbed to the fact that Felcio denied him of as he put it,  “greatness.”

  • Up Next: the Bulls look to keep their winning streak alive as they take on the Denver Nuggets at the UC on Tuesday.

BULLet Points: Bulls stand pat at trade deadline, get smoked by Cavs

The Bulls are simply not a good team right now. They’re missing their best player, Jimmy Butler, as well as the heart of the team and a key defensive contributor in Joakim Noah. Nikola Mirotic somehow had a complication from his appendix surgery (only the Bulls), meaning he won’t be back anytime soon either. With a roster that is clearly flawed at full strength, the Bulls have slipped deep into a dangerous place while trying to fend off the injuries. The rest of this year should be more focused on the future than the present.

While many front offices might look at the factors in play and decide to trade some impending free agents and slip into the lottery, the Bulls…did nothing. Kirk Hinrich was shipped away as a salary dump, a surprising but nonetheless confusing move for Gar Forman. Moving Hinrich amounts to nothing more than a money saver for Jerry Reinsdorf, but it also underlines the Bulls’ clear understanding that they lack a championship roster. There were no major rumblings of win now moves, and the Bulls disappointingly passed on trading Pau Gasol. The latest out of Chicago is that re-signing Gasol is a top priority for the team. Gar is also denying calling this a championship roster in the preseason, so I guess we all just imagined that together! Let’s get to the BULLets before I lose my mind.

  • Derrick Rose was fantastic yet again, continuing his run of highly encouraging play. Rose had 28 points and seven boards in 30 minutes, including 18 at the half that kept the Bulls alive. He only notched two assists, but as Jeff Mangurten points out, the Bulls missed on 12/14 shot attempts off potential Rose assists. Derrick continues to score more efficiently, mixing in lethal step-back jumpers with increasingly effective acrobatic layup attempts. The rest of this lost season should provide a low-pressure environment for Rose to continue getting his groove back. Check out this article by Mika Honkasalo about how Derrick’s bank shots are a massively important addition to his game.
  • E’Twaun Moore received the start alongside Rose again but struggled to match his recent play. Moore scored five points with no assists in only 22 minutes. He was supplanted by Tony Snell, who actually grabbed seven boards and added nine points in 33 minutes of his own. The return of Mike Dunleavy Jr. won’t help Tony find more playing time, but there is undoubtedly a place for him in the rotation if he starts playing better. The Bulls could use a boost like that too, after Snell had very little trade interest around the league.
  • Bobby Portis notched a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. While he still struggles to be an impact player, this is hardly discouraging for a rookie. Rather, we should be excited about his aggressiveness on both ends and commitment to strong positioning and helping on defense. As long as Portis keeps getting minutes and learning on the fly, he should develop into a key rotation player.
  • LeBron James had a typically stellar game, notching 25 points, nine boards, and nine assists. He had plenty of help from his teammates, with Tristan Thompson dominating the boards en route to a double-double. On a more encouraging note, Kyrie Irving was thoroughly outplayed by Derrick Rose.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head home to host the surging Toronto Raptors tonight. They should be fairly heavy underdogs.

BULLet Points: Balanced Bulls attack spoils Tyronn Lue’s head coaching debut

After dropping two in a row, including an ugly loss Friday night in Boston, the Bulls went into Cleveland as big underdogs. With Tyronn Lue taking over for recently fired head coach David Blatt, the Cavs were expected to reassert their dominance in a comfortable double-digit victory over the Bulls. Instead, Chicago pulled out an impressive 96-83 win on ABC primetime.

  • Derrick Rose continued to play in all-out attack mode. While he didn’t convert as efficiently as he has been lately, Rose got himself plenty of good looks that helped open the floor for the rest of the team. He finished 5/21 with 12 points, but he played much better than his stats.
  • Jimmy Butler had another solid performance, notching his customary 20 points and adding nine rebounds. He’s been a beast on the glass lately, always finding ways to contribute outside just scoring. Butler also did a great job on LeBron James, who struggled mightily when guarded by Jimmy but excelled otherwise. James finished with 26-13-9, but he shot poorly and padded his stats when it was too late to count.
  • Pau Gasol was the Bulls MVP in this one. He posted 25 points on 11/16 shooting along with 10 rebounds and six assists. Even more importantly, Gasol showed more effort boxing out, playing help defense, and executing offensively. He’s still going to miss a few rotations and throw away a few lazy passes each game, but the Bulls can be a lot better when Gasol holds himself to a higher standard.
  • For the first time in a couple weeks, Nikola Mirotic showed some confidence. He drilled three three pointers and added 17 big points in 25 minutes. The Bulls need Mirotic to play like this more consistently; he’s too talented to bury in the rotation. Niko’s ability to drill long-range shots, draw fouls anywhere on the floor, and make plays with the ball in his hand is highly rare for a big man.
  • Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were complete nonfactors in this game, though Irving is still working his way back from knee surgery. Love only grabbed five rebounds and was ineffective offensively outside the post. It’ll be interesting to see how Tyronn Lue works Love into the offense more, likely with touches at the elbow. It will be a process, but the Cavs also don’t have a ton of time to make sweeping changes.
  • Coming up: the Bulls take on a hobbled Miami Heat team tonight.

Emergency Roundtable: ROSE FOR THREEEEEEE

Jake Weiner: I didn’t expect this. I really didn’t. Even with Kevin Love out for the playoffs and JR Smith slated to miss the first two games, I couldn’t see the Bulls taking Cleveland past six. After seeing the Bulls go up 1-0 in both 2011 and 2013, I even assumed we’d do it again before falling to King James. The winner of Game 3 in a 1-1 series goes on to win about 80% of the time. The Cavs destroyed the Bulls in Game 2 and with JR Smith back from suspension, it was time for LeBron to break our hearts once again. Derrick Rose, not insignificantly playing in his ninth playoff game of the season, had a different narrative in mind.

Game 3 was by far the closest game of the series, somehow the only one with lead changes. Winning a playoff game with that tight a margin is about so much more than the final play. Kyrie Irving aggravated his sore foot early on and failed to record an assist; Jimmy Butler played the greatest defensive game of his young career against James; a hamstring injury to Pau Gasol forced Tom Thibodeau into using his lethal smaller lineups (read: NIKO); the referees turned in a preseason performance that heavily skewed toward the road team.

But for at least one day, none of that comes even close to mattering. Derrick Fucking Rose hit Chicago’s first game winning shot in the playoffs since The Great One singlehandedly won Game 6 in 1998. All the setbacks, all the intense rehabilitation, all the nagging doubts…vindicated. Rose got back to the mountaintop last night and did something his team has never done before: win a second playoff game against LeBron. No matter what happens from Game 4 on, we’ll always have The Bank Shot.

Steven Kerstein: Being the piece-of-shit gambler that I am, I usually don’t get into games unless a) my White Sox are involved or b) there is money on the line.  Having said this, last night’s performance (obviously) had me jumping out of my seat.  To put it simply,  Game 3 played out like a cliche sports movie..  Sometimes, we all need a little of the Disney-like Shenanigans in our lives.

While Derrick’s shot will be how we remember Game 3 decades from now,  there were a few themes (less obvious) that set up the final moment.  The Bulls were +15 in rebounding (54-39), +7 from the line (25-18) and only committed seven turnovers to Cleveland’s 11.  If the Bulls can stick to maintaining the edge in these three areas, they should be in good shape.   Before I sign off so you can focus your attention to the better writers, I’ll leave you with one final statistic.   Derrick only attempted two three-pointers in the first 47:58 of game play. Rose was not settling for the most part and getting to the line.  While I’m usually not a proponent of him jacking up copious amounts of triples, I’m sure glad he made time for number three.

Jacob Bikshorn: Up until the moment I saw the ball pass through the hoop and the clock hit all zeros, I figured Game 3 was going to be another heartbreaking postseason loss at the hands of LeBron and Friends, Version 2.0. A first half marred by blown layups and jumpers that popped in and out seemed like an early kiss of death. To leave points on the table against King James is, under normal circumstances, an unforgivable sin. But the ball did pass through the hoop after a brief pit stop at the backboard. Derrick Rose, whose last true playoff run was cut short by LeBron and Friends, Version 1.0, guaranteed that this current clash with LeBron will finally make it at least six games.

Rose’s shot was incredible. The roar that erupted from my living room full of mildly intoxicated dudes could be heard from the street, where our shouts mingled with the countless others around the city. It was like an incredible weight had been lifted off of all of us. The first games against Milwaukee where Rose looked so explosive were reassuring, but those performances didn’t carry the weight of last night.

Last night’s game was not “The Old Rose,” “Vintage Rose,” or “MVP Rose.” But it was the type of performance that this Bulls team, loaded with more offensive talent than any of the Thibodeau era, needs to overcome the superstars in Cleveland. Derrick finished the game with 30 points on 10/26 shooting. While going 38% from the field leaves something to be desired, Rose’s shot chart tells a better story, with the painted area overcrowded with attempts. Rose, who averaged over five three point shots a game during the regular season, limited himself to just three attempts Friday night. And while he only made one, what a one it was.

Drew Hackman: The importance of Game 3 and why I had a healthy mix of jumping, screaming, fist-pumping, and skipping around like a little kid after Derrick hit that shot:

  • Derrick had missed his last few isos in previous possessions, including a missed free throw, which were chances he had to extend the lead.
  • The Bulls haven’t had a playoff winning buzzer beater since the Jordan era (1997 Finals).
  • Derrick needed this.
  • We (Bulls fans) needed this.
  • LeBron’s teams against the Bulls in recent history have lost Game 1 and then swept the remainder. This curbed that trend.
  • So much for “bad” Derrick on one day of rest.
  • Jimmy did a great job slowing down LeBron.
  • Kyrie aggravated his ankle – another reason the Bulls needed to capitalize with a W.
  • JR Smith made his presence known after the suspension was lifted, going 4/8 from three point range. It was important that the Bulls didn’t allow the Cavs to think he’s a difference maker.
  • The Bulls did a great job on the boards, despite Tristan Thompson’s unrelenting activity.
  • The Bulls have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series tomorrow afternoon at the United Center.

Jeff Berest: So even though LeBron and Kyrie combined shooting just 11/38, the game was pretty much back and forth the entire way. Don’t think the Bulls can count on two of the top ten players in the world putting up another clunker like this one. I’m not saying the Bulls are outclassed by the Cavs, but if they are going to take two of the next four games they got to stay on their A game. Because LeBron will not go softly into the night. Although I would kind of like to see this all blow up in Cleveland’s face; trading Wiggins for Love and then not making it past the second round.

Pau leaving in the middle of the game with an injury was subtly a turning point and may have actually been a blessing in disguise (yikes). The Bulls probably didn’t miss his horrendous and well-documented rim protection. Thibs finally released Nikola Mirotic from bench purgatory, and he was able to be a +19 in 22 minutes. Even though I’m not a Bulls fan, I feel my frustration boiling over when Mirotic isn’t on the floor. It makes no sense at all. He’s such a matchup problem, especially now that the Cavs are without Kevin Love. Thibs has made a conscious effort to not play Mirotic in the playoffs, even though he was one of Bulls best players during the regular season. Like WTF?

The game winner from Derrick Rose was…(insert hyperbolic adjective here). You really have to feel great for him, and the tribulations he’s been through leading up to this point is what makes this such a great moment. He definitely called bank on that shot too. (Editor’s note: He did not, unfortunately). I had zero stake in the game and who won, but I even got up off the couch to cheer for D-Rose after the shot.

How Love’s Injury Impacts The Bulls

How Kevin Love’s injury impacts the Eastern Conference:

It is yet another tough day to be a Cleveland sports fan. The current state of affairs as it relates to NBA playoffs has experienced a monumental shift now that we are armed with the knowledge that Kevin Love will most likely be out for the rest of his first ever playoff run in addition to J.R. Smith being suspended for the Cavs next two playoff games. We have seen injuries plague many teams around the NBA this season, notably the Thunder, but this one may be the most devastating of them all, potentially snatching away a title from LeBron and his red hot Cavaliers team. There has been much more open dialogue about other teams remaining in the playoffs, and we will observe how these changes to the Cavs roster affects these teams, notably the Chicago Bulls.

Biggest beneficiary in the East: Chicago Bulls

This one seems almost too obvious of a choice to anyone who has been following the NBA recently. Chicago has now transcended into the most offensively talented team in their conference and their path to the NBA finals has certainly become a little clearer than it was just a few days ago. This is somewhat of a surprising notion for a Bulls team that has struggled to take care of the ball in addition to struggling in putting away a young, inexperienced, and less talented Bucks team. This is not to say that all the praise in the world should not go to Jason Kidd and his team for their ability to continually make life difficult for the Bulls offensively, which has helped Milwaukee quietly climb back into the series after a very impressive road win and fighting off elimination twice in a row. It has mainly been due to the Bulls inability to handle the Bucks defensive length and wingspan which has proven to be very effective in terms of contesting shots and creating turnovers. All things considered, the Bulls have been playing terrible recently by their standards, but I think 10 out of 10 people will tell you they will move on from their first round matchup, myself included. How poorly Chicago has been taking care of the ball is a major cause for concern and certainly won’t fly against their next potential playoff foe in the Cavs, who will be looking to get more easy transition buckets now that the offensive resources at their disposal have been significantly depleted. I am running under the assumption that the Bulls won’t drop two straight against the Bucks, including a final game at home, and that they quickly return to a closer version of their normal standard of play.

That being said, it is hard to argue that the Bulls don’t have a legitimate shot at dethroning the King in the playoffs if they advance to the next round. Throw in the fact that the Cavs are without another huge perimeter threat in J.R. Smith for their next two games and we can really see how daunting of a burden winning will be for LeBron and Uncle Drew. If the Cavs face the Bulls in the next round they are going to be in huge trouble, no question. If I’m Thibs I attack the main Cavs weakness, which is their newfound lack of three point shooting. I would take a page out of Jason Kidd’s playbook and counter Irving defensively with someone who is bigger and has a longer wingspan to contest outside shots (Jimmy Butler). Not only does it decrease Irving’s chances of getting hot from long range as he has demonstrated very proficiently thus far in the playoffs, but it also forces him to drive into a very defensively sound group of Chicago bigs that in all likelihood will force him to give the ball up to other teammates, a gamble that I am sure the Bulls would love to take. I think that the Bulls plan offensively is rather simple as well: play keep away from LeBron. The Bulls are in a favorable position offensively because of the multitude of scorers that they have. The Cavs will have a tough time containing all the scoring threats that the Bulls have. Whether it’s making a determined effort to get the ball to Gasol down low, feeding Butler or Mirotic as they run off ball screens, or spacing the floor to create driving lanes for Rose to get to the basket; there are many offensive variations that Coach Thibodeau can run depending on how LeBron is positioned defensively. Being able to properly react to different defensive schemes thrown at them can be a huge advantage for the Bulls. This definitely won’t be a cakewalk for them since their first two games are on the road and the Cavs still have the best player in the world who may decide to bear the whole team burden on himself, but there are definitely tactical individual matchups to be exploited successfully both offensively and defensively.
With the Hawks coming back to Earth after their incredible regular season and an up and down Wizards team still standing in the East, the Bulls can see a glimpse of a coveted NBA Finals appearance if they can clear the Cavaliers hurdle. That potential matchup will be close if these two teams face off against each other because we always seem to underestimate LeBron’s ability to bring the best out of anyone he plays with, but the Bulls know that if they revert to their consistent style of play they have shown this season, then they have a very realistic shot of making a deep run. However, in the short term they need to address their turnover issues and move the ball better to utilize all the offensive potential that they have on their roster so they can begin to trend towards the right direction. That being said, I would be much more optimistic about what the future holds based on the recent developments if I were a Bulls fan. It will be fascinating to watch.