Tag Archives: Utah Jazz

Note-A-Bulls: Win streak at 4 as Bulls win a slugfest over the Jazz

Thursday night the Bulls continued their road trip with a stop in Salt Lake City. Coming off the win in Portland on Tuesday, the Bulls hoped to carry their momentum to 8-4. Meanwhile, the Jazz came in with a 7-5 record with star Gordon Hayward playing some of the best basketball of his career. Averaging a very strong 22 PPG, the now six-year veteran is looking like a true superstar. Called for a 9:30 CST start time, we didn’t have tip-off until 9:45 CST.

  • Plenty of green sits were available at the Vivint Smart Home Arena for what have been a marquee matchup twenty years ago. The Bulls supporting their classic all red road jerseys, while the Jazz wore the hit or miss sleeve jerseys with a musical note in the upper right corner of the uniform. Robin Lopez beat out the newly paid center, Rudy Gobert, and Bulls basketball was on the air. Lopez also was the first player to register a point, followed by a Boris Diaw three from the corner a few possessions later. The first TV time out came around, the Bulls led 16-15. A majority of the first quarter was quite the chess match, as both teams fought back and forth. At the three-minute mark, the Jazz led 21-20 with Dante Exum leading the way with six points. In the final minute, both teams played strong defense and the score through one was 26-25 Utah.
  • The second quarter began with Denzel Valentine checking in for the Bulls. Valentine was one of the many bright young talents that were on the floor at the start of the second, with the likes of Bobby Portis and Trey Lyles. The Bulls began the quarter on a seven to one run. This run was created because Gobert was off the court, and the Jazz had no protection at the rim. As a result, the Bulls were free to attack the basket. Once Gobert returned to the court, the Jazz again were able to get back into the game, protect the basket, and eventually tie the score. As we came close to the five-minute mark, the game continued to bounce back and forth. Rudy Gobert continued to do Rudy Gobert things, blocking, rebounding and scoring. The scoring portion was somewhat limited, as with under five minutes to go, both teams had yet to reach forty points. Yet, water seems to always find its level. The Jazz made a small run in the final two minutes, and at the half the Jazz led by two after Jimmy G. Buckets drilled a deep three at the buzzer. The G… it stands for Gets.
  • The second half began with a three attempted by Rodney Hood that was well short. The Bulls took the momentum from Butler’s buzzer beater right into the second half, as they jumped out to a six-point lead at the 9:30 mark. Jerian Grant started off the quarter strong, he was attacking the rim very well despite the tall Frenchman not named Diaw near the basket. The timeout that occurred at the 9:30 mark did not really slow down the Bulls. The offense started to click, again led by Grant, as the Bulls led by nine with just over five minutes in the third. However, just as it seemed things would really crack open for the Bulls, the Jazz cut the lead right back to five as Gordon Hayward made a strong defensive play on Jimmy Butler. In typical NBA fashion, the Bulls decided to play their hand and extended their lead once again to ten at the 1:30 mark. There was an opportunity for another buzzer beater at the end of the quarter, but Gobert missed a layup where he easily got fouled, however there was no call. After three, the Bulls led 66-58.
  • After some maintenance on the hoop and an extended soundbite of “We will rock you”, the fourth quarter began with a great possession by the Bulls, as they spread the ball out beautifully, and Dwyane Wade scored one of the easiest layups in his career. But the strong basketball didn’t stop there. Denzel Valentine drilled a three and extended the Bulls lead to fifteen. It didn’t stop there. This game was the Bulls to lose. With less than ten minutes to play, the Bulls led by seventeen and had only allowed to the Jazz to score sixty points. Once again, in typical NBA fashion, a run was made. At the 6:43 mark, Joe Johnson hit a floater to cut the Bulls lead to twelve. Utah cut the lead down to eight, as the Bulls could not get any offense for quite a few possessions. But then, D-Wade took over. After Dante Exum hit two free throws, the veteran drilled a big mid-range jumper to put the lead back to ten. Yet, these Bulls proved that they are not the Bulls that we’ve come to know (sound familiar?). Jimmy hit a massive twenty-foot jumper to extended the Bulls lead back to seven with just over a minute remaining. Final score: Bulls win a slugfest in the land of the Mormons, 85-77. Drive home safe Chicago.
  • Overall, this game just added to the argument of why having no Rajon Rondo might be a good thing for the Bulls. It’s just very clear that their defense is a lot better when he is not on the court. There is no way that you could hold a team to under 85 points, even if they are a poor offensive team, with Rondo in the starting lineup. So questions will certainly start to arise as to what the Bulls will do with Rondo.
  • Up Next: the road trip continues as the Bulls will be in Los Angeles until Sunday night, as they will play the Clippers Saturday and the Lakers the following day.

BULLet Points: Bulls handle surging Jazz with ease

The Bulls looked to stay on track against the surging Jazz, who came in winning four straight, both teams trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. Cruising to a relatively easy 92-85 victory, the Bulls sit tied for 8th and are a half game back of the Pacers for the 7th seed, which would result in a likely face off against the Toronto Raptors, a team the Bulls have not lost to all season, even on a short bench.

  • The game was never really in question, despite a couple of Jazz runs to cut into the lead, mostly because of the play and leadership of Taj Gibson. He was vocal out there on the court and in the locker room, getting on guys for missing defensive assignments and challenging his teammates to step it up and put teams away. It’s a welcome sight, especially with leaders Pau Gasol and of course Joakim Noah sidelined for the game.
  • What Doug McDermott had to say about the halftime speech: “Taj is a guy, every once in a while, he’ll get on us, snap on us kind of hard. I think we need that from him. I think we need it more to be honest, because I think everyone responded really well.” Taj put up 15 points and 10 rebounds of his own to back up his talk.
  • Derrick Rose had a phenomenal game with 22 points and four assists on 10/15 from the field and 2/2 from three point range. Encouraging box score aside, he’s been passing the eye test of late, attacking, making good decisions with the ball, and shooting with more confidence. Having the pleasure of being at the game for this one, I went crazy along with the crowd after this ridiculously acrobatic play:

Okay, one more…

  • Cristiano Felicio added to the heart, hustle, and muscle getting his first career start, alongside Taj Gibson, and fared quite well. In a surprising nod over Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic, Felicio played just 12 minutes, but led the Bulls with a +9. He was directly responsible for a couple of key plays, including a steal off of a Jazz inbounds after a Chicago basket. The Brazilian big man has been improving since his rise from the D-League. He’s not quite a reliable player, but is filling in as best we can ask for when called upon.
  • Jimmy Butler still led the Bulls in minutes at 33, but with a depleted and injured team, and not many guards aside from Rose the Bulls can count on, it’s a step in the right direction. He’s second in the league in minutes, at 37 per game; anything under that mark is an improvement. Recovering from an injured knee, and playing on a team that by all accounts isn’t vying for a championship (or likely even an Eastern Conference Finals appearance), you have to wonder where to strike the risk/reward balance in these games. I see the value of toughing it out for the sake of building chemistry and trust, but the Bulls are way beyond that, with only 14 games left to play.
  • The Bulls defense stepped up tonight, holding the Jazz to 40% FG, 30% from beyond the arc, and holding a team to 85 points or less for the first time since January 23, which, oddly enough, happened to be against the first place Cleveland Cavaliers.
  • Also, this was so sweet:

  • The Bulls have to string together quite a few wins coming up, if they want a shot at avoiding Cleveland in the first round, since they’re playing the bottom feeders. Their immediate upcoming schedule consists of the Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks twice, and the Orlando Magic. The Bulls have now won two straight, and if they take care of business against these lesser teams, they have a chance to win six straight for the first time since January 7.
  • Coming up: the Bulls host the Kings on Monday night.

BULLet Points: Bulls blow ugly game in Utah

The Bulls (26-20) have now lost five of seven after dropping last nights game in Utah (21-25) 105-96 in OT. Let’s take a look back at the good (very little) and bad (way too much) from last night’s contest.

  • The Bulls managed to blow a game they had no business losing in the last minute. Derrick Rose hit a clutch triple on a beautifully drawn up play (a Jimmy Butler drive that drew all of the defense’s attention) that left him all alone behind the arc to give the Bulls a 93-90 lead with just 18 seconds remaining. What followed was a string of errors that forced the Bulls into OT. First the Bulls fouled an 80% free throw shooter in Gordon Hayward. Then, Taj Gibson botched a rebound after Hayward missed the second. After allowing Hayward to get in the paint for a layup to tie up the game, Hoiberg failed to draw up a good enough play to get the ball in bounds, let alone give the Bulls a chance to score. It’s hard to say who shoulders the blame for the late game collapse, but I think it’s fair to say everyone deserves a slice of the blame pie for failing to close out a mediocre team on the road.
  • Another game has passed, and the questions about Hoiberg’s rotation remain as constant as ever. Hoiberg played a seemingly banged up Jimmy Butler a disturbing 47 minutes, while Gibson and Gasol each logged over 40 for the game as well. This pretty easily explains why the Bulls ran out of gas in the overtime, getting outscored 12-3 in the extra five minutes. For a Chicago media that was ready to lynch Tom Thibodeau for running players into the ground, the press has been eerily quiet when it comes to Hoiberg’s distribution of minutes. Especially considering that Jimmy Butler (38.3 mpg) is still leading the league in playing time by a full minute over the next closest player. This is doubly baffling considering that Tony Snell (a recent starter) and Aaron Brooks (a +4 on the night) played a combined 15 minutes in an overtime game. I know Hoiberg is hell-bent on not subbing in OT, but as the coach you have to notice when your players are fatigued and hurting the team on both ends of the floor. Meanwhile, E’Twaun Moore played 27 minutes with a plus/minus of -17 while looking completely lost on defense the majority of the night. Something needs to change in Hoiberg’s rotation or the Bulls will continue this lack of consistency for the full 82 game marathon.
  • The backcourt duo of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler both got taken to the woodshed on the defensive side of the ball. Brazil native Raul Neto relished the opportunity of facing off against the former MVP and went for a career-high 14 points on 6/8 shooting while netting a +18 in 32 minutes. Meanwhile Butler was getting beat by Gordon Hayward in every conceivable way. Hayward finished the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists and took over down the stretch for the Jazz, scoring 15 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
  • The game was decided down the stretch by who was the more aggressive team. Utah continually drove the lane and got to the line in the fourth quarter and OT while the Bulls spent most of their possessions standing around while Jimmy Butler played hero ball. The Jazz were rewarded with 20 free throws after the third while the Bulls managed just eight over that same span. Butler is a special talent, but he can not do it all on his own in crunch time. Rose, Gasol, and Gibson combining for nine points over the final 17 minutes of play is not going to get it done on the road. This is especially true when Rose shoots an abysmal 6/21 for the game, too often forcing his shot in the lane instead of looking to kick it out to open teammates.
  • The lone bright spots for the Bulls were Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol. Gasol got the Bulls going early scoring 11 points in the first, finishing the game with 19 points on 8/13 shooting to go along with eight boards. Butler did his best as always to will the Bulls to a much needed W, scoring 14 points in the 4th quarter and overtime to end the game with 26 points, seven rebounds, and six assists on 10/17 shooting.
  • Coming up: The Bulls continue their road trip against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

Making Sense of Trade Deadline MADNESS

This past Thursday was the most amazing trade deadline in years for us basketball junkies. So much occurred in the 11th hour before the clock hit 3:00 PM EST. Twitter was a tweeting as deals were being reported left and right and everything was coming at us at once. All of this was really hard to digest right away, and still a few days later it’s not entirely clear what every team was thinking. So here’s your guide through what actually went down, and why.

Before we get to the “nitty-gritty” and the game of “point guard roulette” that was played, lets quickly recap all the minor trades that transpired. I’m going to skip over the really inconsequential moves because nobody wants to hear my rambling thoughts on Pablo Prigioni going from New York to Houston, or why Ramon Sessions was traded for the 147th time. Here we go…

Celtics acquire Isaiah Thomas from Suns for Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavaliers

Why did it happen?

The Celtics have been pretty fond of Isaiah Thomas dating back to last off-season. Danny Ainge saw an opening to get him and in exchange gave away one of their many future 1st round picks. The Celtics are the most “un-tanky” of all the “tankiest” teams in the league (those are words now). Boston is really not helping themselves only being bad enough to secure the somewhere around 11th pick in lottery. Suns pick up a future asset and cut their losses with the ill-fated Thomas signing.

76ers trade K.J. McDaniels to Rockets for Isaiah Canaan and 2015 second-round pick

Why did it happen?

K.J. McDaniels is on a goofy one year deal and because of his play this year some team is likely to give him an offer sheet that the Sixers aren’t interested in paying. Further, many in Philadelphia are saying that Sam Hinkie doesn’t really want to deal with K.J.’s agent after botching the initial contract negotiations. Plus the Sixers really like Isaiah Canaan and have tracked him since last year’s draft, and now have an obvious void at PG. Houston grabs another wing player who can defend really well and could see minutes in the playoffs.

KG minny

Brooklyn sends Kevin Garnett to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young

Why did it happen?

Flip Saunders is a genius, and when I say genius, I mean he makes other GM’s look like geniuses. T’Wolves traded a first round pick for 50 games of Thad Young, and then traded Thad so they could have a family reunion with the corpse of KG. Now they may want to extend the contract of said corpse. Flip you continue to amaze us all.

Trail Blazers acquire Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee from Nuggets in exchange for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a lottery-protected 2016 first round draft pick

Why did it happen?

Blazers get a key pickup in Afflalo who can provide scoring off the bench, something Portland needs desperately. Only costs them a future first rounder, and likely a pick that will land between 22-30. Nuggets who are now in a rebuild, acquire an asset.

All of this brings us to one of the biggest trade deadline clusterf&*%s we’ve ever seen…let’s dive into it.

In three-team trade, the Thunder acquire Enes Kanter and Steve Novak from the Jazz for Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett and two draft picks (one from the Pistons); Oklahoma City also receives D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler from Detroit for Reggie Jackson.

Why did it happen?

Let’s start with the Jazz. Kanter publicly announced he wanted out, Utah obliged and picked up some future draft picks. The Jazz are eager to start the Rudy Gobert era, and losing Kanter probably won’t haunt them. Detroit upgraded the PG position in hopes to squeeze into one of the final playoff spots in the East this season and prepare for the future. Reggie is for sure an upgrade from Augustin, and they could choose to resign him this off-season as an insurance policy if Brandon Jennings recovery is stunted. But that is something Stan Van Gundy will have to attend to later. They desperately want to make the playoffs, that’s why the deal went down.

Which brings us to OKC, who is a clear winner in this trade. They discarded an unhappy Reggie Jackson for a low post threat in Kanter, as well as some solid bench pieces in Augustin, Singler, and Novak. This gives OKC a really deep roster which could spur them to a title run this year. Augustin can definitely hold his own as a backup PG; Kanter at times is a very gifted low post scorer and may command double teams on some nights. They also acquire two lights-out three point shooters that could hit some big shots during the playoffs with so much defensive attention constantly going towards Durant and Westbrook.

goran dragic fox sports

In three-team trade, Suns send Goran and Zoran Dragic to Heat in exchange for Danny Granger and two draft picks, while also acquiring John Salmons from Pelicans; New Orleans gets Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams from Miami.

Why did it happen?

Dragic was emphatic over the displeasure he had with the Suns front office, and basically forced Phoenix’s hand to deal him before the deadline passed. Pat Riley savvily stole Dragic for essentially nothing: some fringe NBA players and future first round picks that Riley himself will probably never be in office to select. Miami’s league-worst stable of point guards was their one true weakness now that Hassan Whiteside has emerged as the reincarnation of Alonzo Mourning.

Acquiring Dragic, who was second team All-NBA last season, was such a huge acquisition for Miami that for a short 24 hours they perhaps were a dark horse title contender before Chris Bosh’s scary blood clot issue was discovered. But Miami will likely be able to resign Goran during the offseason and could potentially compete in 2016. More importantly, Bosh will be okay. So the Suns acquire more future picks and rid themselves of an unhappy Dragic. They also receive Danny Granger and John Salmons, who both could be waived or just wither away on the bench for the rest of the season. New Orleans get a warm-blooded backup PG in Norris Cole, which is something they need if they are to beat out OKC for the eight spot, though it is highly unlikely. Jrue Holiday’s injury is taking a turn for the worse, and you really can’t have Tyreke Evans playing 40 minutes a night at the point.

In three-team deal, Bucks send Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Suns in exchange for Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee; Additionally, Phoenix sends their protected 2015 first-round pick from the Lakers to 76ers, and Philadelphia sends Michael Carter-Willams to Milwaukee

Why did it happen?

This was clearly the most shocking trade of the whole deadline. The Bucks imploding their frontcourt and trading their leading scorer during a playoff run is not a strategy many teams subscribe to. The Bucks must have felt that impending restricted free agent Brandon Knight was worth more to the open market this summer than he was to their organization. Milwaukee is not interested in paying a dollar figure potentially between $12-15 million that Knight will command this summer. So instead they swap in Michael Carter-Williams who is at least under team control for two more years.

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The problem is they’re swapping Knight for possibly the worst shooter in the entire league. They do gain a 6’6″ point guard and now have a stable of players who are extremely long and can defend multiple positions. Jason Kidd likely sees a lot of himself in MCW and must feel that he can work with him to fix his woeful jump shot.

The Bucks definitely improve on defense, but will now really struggle to score the ball in the halfcourt and don’t really have someone to go to in crunch time. That will really hinder them this season, but going forward with Jabari Parker and the Greek Freak, they will surely be an interesting team to watch. They also acquire Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis to add more bodies to an already deep bench.

The Suns get a pretty good replacement for Goran Dragic in Brandon Knight. Dragic is much better than Knight, but Knight may fit better into the Suns guard dominated offense. Knight is much more a combo guard than Dragic was and can be a prolific scorer. The duo of Bledsoe and Knight seems like a more natural fit than the Bledsoe and Dragic duo, because Knight can easily transition into the 2 spot. They painted themselves in a corner when they alienated Dragic and were forced to deal him and try and get some value before he became a free agent this summer. Phoenix really screwed this up, but Brandon Knight could pay dividends for the Suns eventually.

What won’t pay dividends is the idiotic move to trade the Lakers top five protected pick to Philadelphia. It’s just insane to let that pick go. They must have proposed multiple deals not involving the Lakers pick before they eventually caved to Milwaukee and Philadelphia’s demands. Losing the pick is bad, but losing Dragic and getting nothing return is worse. So they downgraded from Dragic to Knight and let go of an asset that had the potential to land them a future star this summer. Wow. That’s some Flip Saunders-like ineptitude.

So here’s what the Sixers and Sam Hinkie were thinking when they dealt away the “current” face of the franchise. The Sixers are not in the business of trying to become average; they’re trying to reach greatness. To the Sixers, MCW was just an average prospect who may have hit his ceiling. They did not view him as a future cog going forward; he plays the deepest position in the entire league and is 100% replaceable in their eyes.

Another reason for ditching MCW is that his numbers are inflated because of the run ‘n’ gun style the Sixers play, they have more offensive possessions than most teams. He also constantly has the ball in his hands and only shoots 38% from the field, and 26% from three (I just threw up in my mouth reading those numbers). His numbers are just awful by any standards for a starting guard in this league.

The Sixers want to develop a team around stars and MCW is never going to be one. By acquiring the Lakers’ protected pick, they are just giving themselves another opportunity to hit the lottery and draft a potential building block. They don’t really feel like they are taking a huge step back by shedding MCW either. By draft, trade, or free agency, the Sixers are constantly seeking the right opportunity to nab a superstar. Hinkie himself is one of the guys who orchestrated the James Harden trade. That is a type of scenario that they will be looking for moving forward, besides just drafting talent. Remaining flexible by staying way under the salary cap and gathering tons of valuable assets is what will make the Sixers a desired trade partner when a star from another team becomes available.

It’s not often those types of draft picks like the Lakers’ become available. It has the potential to be great, and the Sixers were selling high on MCW. Especially considering he’s a PG who can’t shoot and whose only viable trait is his height. All of this trying to acquire and develop around stars is easier said than done, I realize. But what the Sixers want to do is build something that will last not just a few years, but possibly for a decade or longer. The Sixers management is dedicated to building something special and you can begin to see through the mist if you squint really hard. The Hinkie strategy may seem outrageous to many and logical to few, but on Thursday they made the easy decision.