Tag Archives: Nikola Mirotic

Note-A-Bulls: Butler drops 40 to carry Bulls to back and forth win over Lakers

The Bulls improved to an impressive 9-5 on the year with a 118-110 victory over the Lakers (7-7) on Sunday night to split their Los Angeles double header this weekend. It was a back and forth affair that featured a lot of up and down play and a lot of long balls. There were a total of 53 shots from behind the arc for the two teams combined with 21 of them finding the bottom of the net. The Bulls led by a singular point at the half before pulling away in the second half and surviving a Laker comeback attempt to pick up the W. Let’s get more into what happened in this game and what it means going forward.

  • I don’t know how I got through that intro without mentioning Jimmy Butler, but somehow I did. This whole post could be about the man growing into an MVP candidate before our eyes. Remember when rumors were swirling around draft time for Butler to be traded to the Timberwolves. Seems like a distant dream now as Butler has developed into maybe the second best player in the East.
  • One play in particular stood out to me. It was towards the end of the 4th with the Lakers starting to mount a comeback. Butler got a rebound on an ill-advised shot by D’angelo Russell. He came down and was subsequently fouled by Julius Randle. Only no foul was called and instead there was a jump ball called. On the tip, Jimmy out-hopped the three inch his superior, Randle, by climbing the ladder to swat the ball back to his team. That kind of determination is why the Bulls will win plenty of games this year.
  • Finally time to get to Butler’s numbers. Jimmy went for 40 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. How’s that for a stat line? Over his last eight games, the Marquette product is averaging 28 points, seven boards, and over five dimes per game. Given his numbers and his top-10 PER rating thus far (27.1) it is time to be taking Jimmy seriously as a superstar in this league. Enjoy this kid while you can, he’s a joy to watch and never takes a play off.
  • I suppose there were other players in this game so let’s hit some of the highlights from the rest of the squad. Isaiah Canaan continued to stretch the floor while coming off the bench. The diminutive guard scored 17 points on 6/10 shooting, including 3/6 from deep. Rajon Rondo scored only four points, but added nine rebounds and 12 assists to his tally on the night. Rondo was also has a +/- rating of +15, quieting some of the noise from Bulls fans saying the team is better with him on the bench.
  • Another Bull who had a quality game was Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic dropped 15 points and also showed some hustle grabbing 15 boards. But what impressed me most, and gave me hope going forward, was his ability to make the extra pass in transition. Sure, he took some bad shots down the stretch, but overall, Mirotic showed a great propensity to look for the open shooter. Let’s home this continues as the Bulls desperately need to keep his shooting ability on the floor.
  • Another trend that continued is the Bulls ability to absolutely dominate teams on the glass. The Bulls are tied for second in the league in rebounding and just out-rebounded a solid Laker team by 19 on the road! The bulls were also able to snatch 18 offensive rebounds creating countless second and third chances that just demoralizes your opponent in a close game such as this one.
  • For the Lakers, it is obvious that this team is a more prepared and focused one under Luke Walton than Byron Scott. They are only .500 on the year but their young talent has begun to show some of that potential we keep hearing about. Lou Williams continues to impress off the bench as he scored 25 points on 8/14 shooting, including a red-hot 5/6 from three-point land.

Up Next: The Bulls continue their circus trip deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains as they take on the Nuggets on Tuesday night.

Note-A-Bulls: Wade, Bulls, emerge victorious in the 305

After an exciting 3-0 start, reality hit the Bulls with a three game losing streak. Coming off another loss, the Bulls looked to hit back against a respectable Eastern Conference foe, the Miami Heat. Through nine games thus far, the list of guys who have stepped up for the Bulls continues to grow, but perhaps it was the lack of reliance on one guy that helped the Bulls keep the Heat contained through each quarter. Not for a lack of trying, Dwyane Wade failed to make a significant impression in his former home arena.

  • Per usual, Coach Hoiberg sent out Rondo, Wade. Butler, Gibson and Lopez to start things off. While the numbers differed heavily by each frame, the group was able get the job done in a variety of ways.
  • The 1st quarter was a streaky one for the Bulls. Starting down 4-12, the Bulls managed to score 12 unanswered to go up 16-12, and held onto the lead going into the 2nd.
  • Going into the 2nd quarter up one, the game began to take shape as both teams managed to reach the 30-point threshold. Starting out slow again, the Bulls went down seven points early on. Like the first quarter, they grabbed the lead back and would continue going back and forth, eventually heading into the half tied. With limited playing time, Bobby Portis managed to grab a couple of rebounds and make use of his minutes.
  • Coming out of the tunnel tied, the 3rd quarter was a complete 180 for both teams. It was 12 minutes filled with rebounds, fouls and turnovers. It mostly remained a one-possession game throughout, as each team managed to score just 17 points in the 3rd quarter.
  • In the 4th, the Bulls grabbed an early lead and kept their distance for most of the 12 minutes, holding on to win 98-95.
  • I said earlier in the season not to expect Robin Lopez to lead the lineup in rebounds on most nights, as there are a fair share of guys who can step up in that department. Tonight it was Rajon Rondo who hauled in a very impressive 12 boards. While the offense wasn’t particularly efficient, Rondo managed to go 6-14 from the field with 16 points, rounded out by 6 assists.
  • As the season takes shape, Hoiberg continues to stick with his usual game plan of giving Mirotic and McDermott a healthy mix of playing time, while also showing Canaan and Portis to limited action. The bench provided a quiet 25 points, while Doug McDermott saw his playing time reach 33 minutes.
  • Six of the nine players who saw action scored in double digits, while the three who did not (Gibson, Canaan, and Portis) were all held to under 25 minutes.
  • As will be the case throughout the season, we saw both good and bad from Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic had a respectable 10 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes, but was not particularly valuable on defense, picking up three fouls.
  • Despite matching up against Hassan Whiteside, who had a great performance logging 20 points and 20 rebounds, Robin Lopez managed to snag 9 boards and a healthy 16 points, leading the Bulls with 20 field goal attempts in 38 minutes.
  • The bad: The Bulls allowed the Heat to shoot around 45% from downtown on 29 three point attempts. Luckily, the Heat only made 2/3rds of their 15 free-throw attempts, and were shaky from inside the 3-point line.
  • As for the Heat, the storyline was similar to the Bulls. Everyone chipped in, but they could not outplay their offensive inconsistencies. Aside from Whiteside’s 20-20 performance, they struggled shooting from the field, and managed to stick around mainly due to their looks behind the arc. They had four players score at least fifteen points, but didn’t receive much otherwise.
  • Justice Winslow showed flashes of growth as he was 50% from the field, with 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 15 points. His balance will be something to keep an eye on if the Heat find themselves in the playoff picture as the season progresses.
  • Up Next: the Bulls host the 2-5 Wizards Sunday night. They look to extend their record to 6-4.

Note-A-Bulls: Wade and Co. drop second straight to Rose and Noah in return to the UC

Tonight the home team Chicago Bulls lost to the New York Knicks 117 -104. It was the return of former Bull stars Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose to the United Center, and they did not disappoint.

Derrick Rose showed flashes of his old self, scoring 15, with an incredibly high 11 assists and 7 rebounds. He kept the turnovers down for the most part as well, only committing 3 turnovers. Noah also had 16 points and 9 rebounds.

But the real story of the night was the faceoff between Knick’s bigman Kristaps Porzingis and the Bull’s Dwyane Wade. Porzingis, someone who new Knick’s coach Jeff Hornacek has been clamoring his team to give the ball to, had 27 points and 5 rebounds. He hit four 3s, and was 10 for 15 overall.

On the other hand, Dwyane Wade has this newly found skill in his game. It’s called the 3 point shot. Fans and analysts alike came into this year complaining that the Bulls had no spacing to be found in their starting 5. Coming into the game, Wade had been 5/12 from 3, giving him a percentage north of 40 on the season. Very surprising for a guy with a career 28.6 percentage from 3 point land.

Well the Bulls have found their spacing, and his name is Dwyane Wade. Tonight he scored 35 points along with 10 rebounds, as Chicago seemed to out rebound New York all night. Wade was 5 for 7 from 3, bringing his yearly totals from deep to 10 out of 19, nearly completing 50 percent of his shots from 3 point land.

Even though playing much better transition defense than the Knicks, the Bulls were not able to carry over a 2nd quarter run, as the Knicks outscored the Bulls by 14 in the second half.

Each member of the Knick’s starting 5 had at least 15 points. (The bench only scored 17.) Shooting 52 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3, everything was going down for New York.

The Bulls shot 44 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3, a poor showing against such a poor defensive team. Butler had 26 points, hitting 11 for 11 from the line. Mirotic had a strong second quarter where he had 10, but ended up scoring only 14 for the night off the bench.

Chicago out-rebounded New York 42 to 29 – the combination of Gibson, Lopez, Mirotic, and tonight even Wade, gives the Bull’s a fundamental advantage over teams that have low shooting performances. (Which tonight the Knicks unfortunately did not.)

NOTES –

  • Derrick Rose flashed some of his talents of old. This finish right here is something pulled straight out of his MVP season.

  • Also, his 3 turnovers were the result of him driving and doing that insanely stupid jump pass. It looks cool in highlights. It helped him rack up 11 assists against a poor defensive team on the perimeter. But at some point, he’s going to have a game in which he shoots 4/15, has 5 turnovers from that jump pass alone, and he gets pulled in favor of Brandon Jennings.
  • This is random – Kyle O’Quinn off the bench in the high post was very intriguing – a few times he was able to hit a 16 footer with ease. With that Knick’s second unit (or really the lack thereof) I expect that to be a bright spot going forward.
  • Carmelo Anthony. Oh joy. Carmelo Anthony is one of the league’s best and most talented isolation scorers. Tonight he showed that off, scoring 25 on 9 of 22 shooting. However, when watching this Knicks team, his play almost seems detrimental at times. Hornacek was brought in to New York to speed up the offense. Run the fastbreak. If a suddenly enlightened Carmelo decided he would push the ball, run the floor, and play defense, he’d get better and more open shots. It would make the Knicks a million times better. Will that happen? No. But it’s what will hold the Knicks back when push comes to shove come playoff time.
  • Kristaps Porzingis needs the ball more. He needs to be taking more than 15 shots a game. His ability to stretch the floor, play big against guards in transition, make him a monster offensive threat. Some of his playmaking and decision making skills need refined. But Hornacek loves him for a reason. He will be the pulse for that team.
  • Doug McDermott has really developed into an efficient offensive player. He can put the ball on the floor with multiple ways to get to the basket, as well as displaying his deadly 3. Even though he won’t be able to start because of his defensive inefficiencies, he will be one of the league’s best scorers off the bench. Count on it.
  • Nikola Mirotic is another guy exactly like McDermott – his ability to stretch the floor and drive to the hoop make him very valuable, starter potential at some point. However, his lack of quickness on the perimeter make him a small 4. He’s able to rebound very well, however, so at some point don’t be surprised if Hoiberg often runs a small lineup with Gibson and Mirtoic as the two bigs.
  • Christiano Felecio is the definition of a dark horse player. His ability to be the primary ball handler on top, a la Joakim Noah, as well as play excellent defense down low and on the perimeter, will get him valuable minutes with the second team, and he showed that tonight as well.
  • Up Next: The Chicago Bulls play at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the Indiana Pacers Saturday the 5th 6:00 PM Central Time.

 

 

Note-A-BULLs: Chicago Bulls Take Season Opener Against Celtics

In case you missed it, this off-season, the Bulls ditched Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, and Joakim Noah, and replaced them with The Big Three (lol) of Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, and Robin Lopez (… no, you’re thinking of Brook Lopez. Almost the same thing). The arrival of these three is in line with the plan to get younger, faster, more athletic, and complement Fred Hoiberg’s patented Hoiball TM. Well, alright, not exactly. Ok, not at all. But maybe they can be good anyway because getting into the playoffs is fun. Let’s break down the Bulls home opener as they move to 1-0 on the season (undefeated!).

  • The Bulls’ offense looks about the same as it did last year whenever Pau Gasol wasn’t in the game: a series of dribble hand-offs around the perimeter, followed up by a drive baseline with the defense icing, and kicked for a contested three. Oh, and the occasional back-cut alley oop from the top of the key to Jimmy Butler. But, this year we get to mix in some Rajon Rondo passing magic, and some Dwyane Wade threes (you heard me right), which is exciting.
  • The Bulls led by as many as 15 in this game, with a starting five of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Robin Lopez. The Celtics went on a 14-3 run to open the third quarter and cut it to one, taking a small lead later on in the period, before the Bulls responded with a run of their own to regain and extend the lead to six, ending the third quarter.
  • They started the fourth with the hodge podge of Wade, Michael Carter-Williams (MCW), Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott. And as these NBA games tend to go, unless you stomp on a team’s throat when they’re down, they won’t go away. The Bulls went on a 9-0 run in the fourth to take a 95-81 lead, but the Celtics did not go away, and the Bulls could only score four points over the next five minutes to allow the Celtics back into this one with an 11-0 run of their own. But Wade had the answer with a step-back three to seal the game late; the final: 105-99.
  • I made fun of the Bulls for having Dwyane Wade as one of their main three point threats, and I will continue to do so. But tonight, he made me look foolish (last year he was 7/44). He was 4/6 from beyond the arc- one, a desperation shot as the shot clock wound down, and one, a clutch three ball to lock up the game. He had 22 points and five assists, leading the team with a +15 in 32 minutes.
  • The Bulls made seven three pointers in the first half, one of which was a Butler buzzer beater as the half expired on a pull up three. He’s still settling for step-back threes – perhaps a bad habit hangover from last year. He had 24 points in 36 minutes on 6/17 from the field, but was 4/6 on the three ball and got to the line 12 times, knocking down eight.
  • Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder got into a scuffle when JB tried to take a charge from Crowder, then tripped Crowder as they got their legs entangled. Jae put the ball on Jimmy’s chest, and a technical foul was issued to both players, as well as ones on Isaiah Thomas and Rajon Rondo for getting in the mix as well. Much ado about nothing, let’s play basketball. All of this was strange, considering Butler and Crowder were teammates at Marquette. Some people might pat Butler on the back for having some fire in the home opener, but I thought the tripping was kind of petty.
  • Taj Gibson was a nice threat inside; his footwork looks improved from last year, posting 18 points on 8/13, and 10 rebounds for a nice double-double.
  • Rajon Rondo still can’t shoot – four points on 1/9 shooting, but he’s not here for that. He had nine assists and six boards.
  • Butler, Wade, and Rondo led the team in minutes. I’m not sure how sustainable that’s going to be with the latter two going forward, but Jimmy has proven he can handle the work load.
  • Doug McDermott was a non-factor in this game, shooting 2-5 with five points, and was scoreless from outside in 21 minutes.
  • Mirotic still not getting calls on the defensive end. Noteworthy? Probably not. But I noted it. He had 15 points on 6/11 shooting, but was a paltry 1/6 from deep.
  • MCW had one small flurry of good play coupled with a bit of unorganized mess, which is par for the course, given that he was the least efficient player in the NBA as a rookie two seasons ago, despite being Rookie of the Year (basically, he was the only offensive option on a crappy team and had a lot of points as a result).
  • Robin Lopez played too, I think… right? *Checks box score* Yep, he was there. He played 27 minutes.
  • The Bulls ran out 16 five-man lineups tonight. The one that had the most success (+11 in over 12 minutes): the starting five. The one with the least success (-5): Butler, MCW, Lopez, Mirotic, Rondo. Fortunately, that lineup only played for about a minute and a half.
  • A word about the Celtics: they had a lot of energy tonight, but looked a little disheveled on defense, which is strange for a team that was fourth in defensive efficiency last year. After adding Al Horford and Amir Johnson into the mix, I would imagine it will take them a couple weeks to get into a groove. Expect this team to be tough.
  • Up Next: The Bulls welcome Paul George and the Pacers to the United Center on Saturday night in a heavyweight matchup of undefeated teams.

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.