Tag Archives: Tristan Thompson

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.

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.

Quick Bulls Thought: Cavs Take Round One

Welp, the Bulls lost to the Cavs in the home opener. I can’t say I’m all that surprised at the actual result, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed.  I had this game as a loss for the Bulls in my preseason predictions for various reasons, but the Bulls should have won the game. Up five points with under a minute to go is usually a victory for Thibs’ Bulls.

But, now the Bulls stand at 1-1, and although every win is important, it’s early in the season, and as I’ve discussed in my First Quarter Preview, I expect some more losses to come, and some might be frustrating.

Now here we are, just two games into the season, and the questions are already beginning, as anticipated:

Q: Derrick Rose is inactive against the Timberwolves due to the ankle injury. Is this what we’re going to expect all season? Another battered and injury-prone Rose?

A: Although every Rose injury has Chicago holding its breath, this isn’t one that Bulls fans need to worry about. Ankle sprains are commonplace in the NBA – the only reason he’s scrutinized is because of his propensity for leg injuries, so an ankle causes some concern. The reality of the situation is that sitting Derrick for the Wolves game is the right decision. In a back-to-back, it’s possible Derrick may have sat some anyway, since he is on minutes restrictions. So all things considered, no, Bulls fans shouldn’t worry about an ankle. 80 games to go, Bulls fans.

On the upside: Derrick looked great, posting 20 points in 25 minutes on 8-16 shooting and showed he can still pull the ball out of his pocket.

Q: Butler’s preseason injury seemed to be handled poorly – even if he has as little a thing as a jammed thumb in that preseason game, shouldn’t he have been taken out and examined?

A: It is my general view that player injuries today and how they are handled are much softer than in the 1980s and 90s. I don’t think that is disputed much. Guys seem to miss games for the smallest of reasons. This isn’t surprising, considering salaries have grown tremendously since then, and guys are playing for more than just pride and achievement (i.e., $). Owners, managers, and coaches have to protect their investments, so they hire medical staff that create additional precautions than would have been in place 20 or 30 years ago – they don’t want to be responsible for making a “clear-to-play” decision if the player wasn’t truly ready, so they tend to tell the players that they should be cautious. My point here is that I think we as fans worry a little too much. These guys are competitors and will play if they can play, unless somebody explicitly tells them not to.

I didn’t exactly answer the question yet. Historically, the Bulls’ medical staff has not been as conservative as other organizations. But considering that Jimmy is back for the T-Wolves game, it couldn’t have been that serious, so no, I don’t think it was handled poorly. It’s possible he’s coming back too soon, of course, and people will challenge the Bulls’ organization if this injury persists, but I have to trust the Bulls’ medical staff. I usually think these discussions are just talking points for sports radio and newscasters when they don’t have more important things to talk about. Much ado about nothing. Let’s talk about the game, instead. It’s more interesting.

Q: Why weren’t McDermott and Mirotic in the game more? Shouldn’t Thibs be switching up the lineups and getting guys minutes early in the year?

A: They’ll get their minutes. The reality of the situation was game flow and match-ups. Of course, the emphasis is on winning, so Thibs is going to make decisions that he thinks will give him the best chance to do that. Last night, Dunleavy had a tremendous game and played great defense on LeBron. Looking at the box score, you would think he got destroyed, scoring 36 points, but if you watched the game, Dunleavy passed the eye test – his defense was pretty solid. LeBron is just damn good. Snell came into the game and knocked down a couple of huge threes, and he also did a good job on LeBron with his length. Yes, he had the silly rookie-like mistake of fouling LeBron when the ball was out of bounds, giving him two free throws late in the game without taking any time off the clock,  but that shouldn’t be the thing we remember about Snell from this game – he played a good one. Since McDermott and Mirotic aren’t ball handlers and they can’t play Center, that leaves the 4 spot open. Between Noah and Gibson, are you going to play McDermott and Mirotic as under-sized 4’s over them for very long? I don’t think that’s realistic. McBuckets and Mirotic will get plenty of minutes. It just wasn’t in the cards last night for those two, and I’m not losing any sleep over it.

Another side note: It was great to see Hinrich diving to the floor and Rose taking a charge. It’s extremely important that the veterans set the tone. Although wins at this point in the season are not make-or-break, I do like to stress the value of instilling a winning culture. If the veterans are getting down to the floor, it sets an incredible precedent that teaches the new guys that this team really is something special, and it’s worth putting in the effort.

Q: Tristan Thompson had twelve offensive rebounds. Why couldn’t we have an answer for him?

A: Before anybody gets too excited, the Bulls will be better next time. Thibs’ teams always find ways to rebound, and they will get there by January when the Bulls play the Cavs in Cleveland (although I did catch him admitting that the Bulls didn’t have an answer for Tristan, something he rarely admits about anybody). Tristan’s offensive rebounding was the main reason the Bulls couldn’t win, and despite LeBron’s 36, Kyrie’s 23, and Love’s 16, Thompson is the unsung hero of the night. He kept possessions alive and out-muscled the Bulls’ bigs. He was also in the right place at the right time, as Bulls defenders had to rush to double team LeBron when he would get into the paint, leaving an opening for weak-side positioning on rebounds.

But after Gibson turned his ankle, it clearly affected his play down the stretch, and I point to this as one of the main reasons Thompson continued to out-board the Bulls, even though he was consistently effective earlier in the game as well. But Taj failed to get position countless times, and he even fell down on a key rebound with 24 seconds to go in the game off of a James’ miss, presumably due to instability on that ankle. Tristan secured the rebound and put it in to send the Cavs up 4 in OT, all but sealing victory.

The Bulls will not get out-rebounded in January, you can count on that. The Bulls play the Cavs four times this year, and they are the Vegas favorites to finish one and two. If this game was any indication of how the rivalry is going to go (hopefully including a postseason Eastern Conference Finals matchup), we’re in for a treat.