Tag Archives: LeBron James

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls Bench Bests James and the Cavaliers

Bulls. Cavs. In Cleveland. LeBron. Wade. Kyrie (okay, no Kyrie). Love (okay, no Love). Rondo (okay…. no Rondo). But LeBron! And Wade! Okay, they were both a bit under the weather. It wasn’t quite the blockbuster that was hyped – the first time these two cities have faced off since the World Series – but the Bulls have a history of beating LeBron James’ teams during the regular season and tonight was no different, as the Bulls improved to 18-18 with a 106-94 victory, giving the Cavs their 8th loss of the season, and only their 3rd at home. This is the fifth time the Bulls have bested the Cavs in two years.

  • Out: Kyrie Irving (hamstring), Kevin Love (illness), Rajon Rondo (sucking)
  • In: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James (“flu-like symptoms”)
  • The Bulls started the game down 15-2 and it looked like they were just going to get steamrolled. But the bench had other ideas. They helped them climb back in it for a six point halftime lead. In the first half, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott combined for 26 points on 10/14. Dougie McBuckets on his own was a perfect six for six in that first half, three for three from deep, with 15 points in the second quarter alone. Meanwhile, the starters had just 22 points on 10/28.
  • Part of what got the Bulls back in this game and helped them build the lead (as large as 17) was ball sharing. They rarely had possessions that were owned by one player, save for a couple of Wade/Butler instances. The Bulls assisted on 23 of 41 field goals, which is about their average for the season, but that 36 point second quarter saw the ball hopping around and finding good shots.
  • The offense did a great job working through their 4’s and 5’s, and Taj Gibson was the main beneficiary of it, having himself quite a nice game with 18 points on 9/10 shooting and seven boards to boot. But should the Bulls trade him? Great piece by our former colleague Jake Weiner.
  • The Bulls three point shooting was in full gear tonight. They’ve been atrocious this year, last in the league in both points scored per game and three point field goal percentage by a long shot. However, they didn’t seem to care tonight, like, really at all. They shot 30 three pointers and made 13 of them. If Jerian Grant wasn’t chucking, and the Butler waste-three at the end of the game didn’t count (okay, I know they do, but still), it would improve to 12/25 – three from Jimmy Butler, three from Wade, three from Dougie and three from Threekola. That’s fun stuff right there. I don’t care who you are. Now, if they can just get MCW to stop shooting threes…

  • Although Butler had an off night, he came through in a big way in the fourth quarter with ten straight points. One particular sequence with about six and a half minutes to go in the game was especially crucial. With Cleveland closing to within one point, Butler took a charge on LeBron, hit a three, altered a shot at the rim on defense, nailed a jumper, and then got to the line the following offensive possession, all in the span of about a minute and a half. Momentum, Bulls.
  • Fortunately for the Bulls, James would not have his own “flu game.” He did have a typical LeBron game though, at 57% from the field with 31 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, but he also had five turnovers and couldn’t make up for the production loss from missing Irving and Love. He also had the worst +/- on the team (-13) but probably more of a function of being on the court for the most amount of time than anything else (36 minutes).
  • UP NEXT: The Bulls host Toronto on Saturday. The Cavaliers begin a road trip in Brooklyn on Friday.

Note-A-Bulls: Cavs leave United Center empty handed after hard fought victory for the Bulls

On a chilly Friday night on the west side of Chicago, over twenty-thousand packed into the United Center to see the Bulls and Cavaliers square off for a key division game. As promised, LeBron James filled his half of the bet with Dwyane Wade and came to the UC in a full Cubs uniform. Both teams were coming off losses in their most recent match-ups, looking to regain momentum.

The teams assembled on the court, the Cavs sporting their all blue jerseys, and the Bulls in an atypical grey sleeve jersey. It was Tristian Thompson and Robin Lopez at center court, Lopez won the tip, and Bull basketball was on the air nationwide.

The first six minutes of the opening quarter were no different from how the Bulls typicalls begin games. A complete back and forth battle, with Taj Gibson starting off very strong. Taj had six points and three rebounds within the first six minutes of play. At the 6:07 mark, the Bulls had a one point lead as Wade hit a driving layup while going hard to the rim. The first quarter continued to march on, and the see-saw battle continued to progress. The typical subs made their way in, and after one the Cavs had a slim lead of 33-30.

The Cavs began the second quarter with an Iman Shumpert shot that wouldn’t go from twenty-one feet out, and the Bulls capitalized on the following possession with Jerian Grant hitting a routine layup. Then the King made his way back onto the court. After Grant hit the layup, the Cavs led 33-32. James returned to the court, and led the Cavs to go on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 40-32 at the ten-minute mark. However, the Cavs did not let the stoppage of play break their momentum. Channing Frye hit a big three to keep the Cavs lead at eight, with the score 47-39. However, after that three, the Bulls found their gear again. They were able to cut the Cavs lead to as small as one as the score was 54-53 after Lopez hit a short-range jumper. Just under one minute to go in the half, Taj Gibson got one of the biggest gift fouls that one will ever see. Kevin Love pretty much “Love tapped” his chest, and Taj laughingly went to the free throw line. The first half ended with a very high score, Taj Gibson continuing to lead the Bulls with eighteen points. Through two it was Cleveland 60, the Bulls 59. The Bulls were 0-7 from downtown, while the Cavs were shooting nearly fifty percent from three. However, this was promising considering that the score was only 60-59.

LeBron inbounded the ball to Kyrie Irving to begin the third, with Irving drilling a mid-range jumper. The Bulls continued to claw with the leaders of the East, as both teams came out strong to begin the third. They looked like they were slowly picking of some momentum, as they led by eight at the 7:30 mark and the Cavs had gone cold. Jimmy G. Buckets and Wade were hitting their stride as they had combined for twenty-five points. The Cavs took a timeout at the 5:45 mark after Robin Lopez hit a sky-hook turnaround shot, and the Bulls continued to keep their eight-point lead. As usual, a timeout proved to work well. Kevin Love drilled a three to start the Cavs next possession, and the Bulls lead was cut to five. The next possession was crucial, as the Bulls needed an answer. Rajon Rondo, out of all players, splashed a three for the corner and the lead was back to eight at just over three minutes left. With under two minutes to go in the third, Nikola Mirotic threw a floater to the rim and Jimmy Butler volleyball tapped the ball right into the basket. After three, the shootout continued, as the Bulls led 88-80. Taj leading Chicago with twenty-one points and nine rebounds, and LeBron leading the Cavs with twenty-three points and eight assists.

The Bulls began the fourth with a missed jumper by Wade from seventeen feet out. In the following possession, LeBron added to his assist total and found Channing Frye for an easy layup. The Bulls continued to maintain the sizable lead with excellent offense and good ball movement. Until (of course), Rajon Rondo made a poor pass and the Cavs capitalized on the fast break and hit a three to cut to the lead back to five. With just under six minutes to go, the Bulls struggled to close the door. However, after shooting 0-7 to start the game, Niko hit a little floater in the paint to put the Bulls back up seven. With just over two minutes to play, LeBron committed his third turnover in the quarter, and the Bulls were able to extend their lead to eight. ON THE NEXT POSSESSION, JAMES COMMITTED ANOTHER TURNOVER. Following that, the Bulls played perfect defense to force a shot clock violation. After a bit of scare within the final fifteen seconds, the Bulls were able to hang on and win 111-105.

With the win, the Bulls improved to 11-6. Not only is it nice to see the win-loss column have a plus margin of five, but this win over the Cavs must serve as a big momentum builder for Chicago. To get a win against a team that has had a chokehold on you for such a long period of time has to inspire the Bulls at least in some manner. However, the Bulls have hardly any time to bask in the victory. Once everyone is ready to leave the UC, the Bulls will hop on the charter and head to Dallas to take on the struggling Mavericks tomorrow night.

You can still hate LeBron James

Well folks, it happened: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers crawled back from a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 deficit against the seemingly insurmountable Golden State Warriors to claim a championship for the city of Cleveland. And as is tradition in 2016, Twitter became a luscious garden of Hot Takes, as the tears of a million Jordans provided the necessary nourishment for takes—ranging from scorching hot to borderline absolute zero—to bloom beautifully for all the Internet to enjoy.

But as Twitter harvested this fresh crop of Takes, something bizarre and disarming occurred: the world reached a sudden consensus that the time to hate LeBron James had passed. As an experienced user of the Internet, I’ve come to be wary of any perceived Internet consensus. It’s important that there are people out there who think things like “a hot dog is a sandwich” or “Young Thug is not a religious figure”—these disagreements bring balance to the Internet force and allow us to identify idiots on the web.

So on Sunday night, as the timeline collectively asked no one in particular “How can anyone dislike this guy?”, it became clear that something was afoot. Two primary narratives emerged: the first from people who have always liked LeBron, painting the ever shrinking bandwagon of LeBron haters as “Michael Jordan fanboys…clutching their 1992 Air Jordan tennis shoes while quietly whimpering.” The second was from people who have long disliked LeBron but can no longer hold onto that disdain because of “the way he delivered” throughout this epic series. Both narratives are oddly detached from the way that we consume sports.

Let’s establish a baseline of facts so that I seem reasonably intelligent: LeBron James is one of the top five basketball players ever to play in the NBA and the best all-around player in the NBA right now. He has a remarkable set of physical gifts and can do things that nobody—Jordan, Magic, Bird, you name it—could do. He absolutely dominated the last three games of the Finals, and the notion that anyone else deserved MVP is nothing short of preposterous.

But all of these facts were facts two weeks ago, two months ago, and two years ago. To say that LeBron played amazing basketball in these Finals understates the historic evisceration he handed the defending champs. I hate LeBron James, but I’m not a moron. So why, suddenly, did LeBron become beyond reproach from good old fashioned hate?

As a 10-year-old Pistons fan in the summer of 2003, I hated LeBron from the instant he was drafted by the Cavaliers. I delighted in telling all of my friends that Darko Milicic would win a title before the self-titled King, and I delighted even more so in being proven right less than a year later. I was a little shithead.

During the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals I was forced to confront the fact that LeBron was rather good at basketball, good enough on his own to decimate my beloved Pistons. But that didn’t mean that I stopped hating his guts. As his first tenure in Cleveland twisted and turned, with the Cavs never assembling an adequate supporting cast for LeBron to deliver a title to his hometown, I cheered on his continual failures because they validated my hatred. And when LeBron went on national television and committed the most perplexing public relations faux pas of the 21st century, I roared with excitement as the LeBron hate train left the station.

I own a “LeBron went south but his mom rides West” shirt that I wear at every conceivable opportunity. (I should probably wash it.) I laughed at his 2011 Finals collapse, reveled in hot takes about whether or not he had a clutch gene, and, ultimately, avoided ESPN for days after his first two titles, still clinging to the only argument I needed, Shawn. And as he came back to Cleveland looking to avenge his Decision, nothing made me giddier than seeing Steph Curry become the cool little behemoth standing in the King’s way.

Given this history, why would any of the events of the last two weeks cause me to change my mind about LeBron James? I never hated him because he wasn’t good at basketball, because he wasn’t as good as Jordan, because he wasn’t clutch, because he was an unrepentant crybaby on and off the court, because he subtweeted his teammates and coaches, or because he comically lacked a degree of self-awareness that anyone in the public eye should have. On the contrary: all of those irrational criticisms were true—became true, even—because I hated him.

Sports hate is not rational. We yell and scream at and about people who are literally the best in the world at what they do because it gets our juices flowing. More often than not, we cherry pick moments and narratives on and off the field to create heroes and villains among a crop of people who are pretty similar to each other in a vacuum. (The reminders over the past few days that LeBron is by all accounts a model father and spearheads significant charitable endeavors buttress this notion; it’s not like the guy just now became a decent human being.) That’s how we explain away nitpicking the performance and behavior of multimillionaire superstars in bizarrely different ways—“can you just IMAGINE if LeBron had thrown HIS mouth guard at a fan?!?!”—and it’s what allows us to harvest our bounty of hot takes in the first place.

But there’s something special about that sports hate. No, I’m not just going to suddenly shut up and enjoy the greatness of an athlete that I’ve always despised. And no, I’m not going to just give in, essentially waving the white flag because the guy is just too damn good. I’m a hater through and through, and the number one object of this perverse fandom is punk ass LeBron James.

I know I’m not alone. Whether it’s Tom Brady, Alex Rodriguez, or Sidney Crosby, the world loves to hate athletes who have proven themselves great time and time again, and even when we occasionally pause to ask ourselves how and why that hate flows, we remember that Brady is a deflator, A-Rod is a steroid abuser, and Crosby is soft.

So on behalf of LeBron James haters everywhere, I will begrudgingly step forward and take this L. But when the 2016-17 season gets going, I’ll be right here, ready to kick the LeBron hate train into high gear as I always do, hoping for him to once again fail and whine about it so I can laugh in his stupid face. And despite what the tides of Twitter may tell you, dear reader, you’re more than welcome to join me on the hate train—which is suddenly far less crowded than it was two weeks ago—for what is sure to be another exciting season of literally hoping a complete stranger sucks at his job in a way that will disappoint millions of people. All aboard!

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.

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.