Bulls: Another alarming loss leaves Hoiberg in foul mood


Bulls: Another alarming loss leaves Hoiberg in foul mood

Fred Hoiberg was in no mood to discuss the minutia of the Bulls’ puzzling overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a game that had “trap!” written all over it, a game Hoiberg was curious about in terms of seeing how his team would respond after Thursday’s exhilarating win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There wasn’t much to say considering the Bulls went scoreless in overtime for the first time in their 50-year history and after the 6:33 mark of the fourth quarter, missed 19 of their last 20 shots in their 102-93 loss at the United Center.

He could’ve pointed to getting outrebounded 58-50, or the 19 turnovers, or giving up seven 3-pointers to a team that doesn’t like shooting them.

It wasn’t an eye-popping loss like earlier in the week against Charlotte, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone associated with the Bulls to say the team put forth the necessary concentration Saturday afternoon.

The smooth veneer worn by Hoiberg looked more like a sneer when he met with the media, equally puzzled and frustrated in having to explain what everybody has seen twice in a very young season.

[MORE: Bulls starting five an evolving matter for Hoiberg]

“We get 82 opportunities to put on a jersey to go out and play for your team,” Hoiberg said.

In two of the seven, the efforts have been alarming, particularly against teams not expected to be in the playoff hunt come April.

“I can’t understand how we play with as much energy as we did the other night and then show up the next night just expecting to win the game,” Hoiberg said. “It’s tough to fathom how that can happen.”

Some would point to last season as the start of a trend, leading Derrick Rose to say the time to be alarmed is “right now”.

“It’s all about effort. At some point we’ll get tired of getting our asses whupped. One day,” Rose said. “It’s all about bringing that championship caliber effort. We gotta stay more consistent, we have to stay more together while we’re out there.”

Instead it was the young Timberwolves who played with cohesiveness, taking every opportunity the Bulls gave them from start to finish and played with remarkable poise down the stretch while the Bulls seemingly self-destructed.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Rose, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic built a house of bricks with bad shooting and tentative play, and the game very well could’ve ended in regulation until Pau Gasol tipped in an errant Mirotic miss with 21 seconds left to tie the game at 93, setting up overtime.

Rose shot 3-for-13, Butler was 4-for-15 which included missing all of his seven 3-point attempts and Mirotic struggled again, getting in foul trouble and missed seven of eight shots in 17 minutes.

His last three games, Mirotic has totaled 11 points with 12 rebounds on just 4-for-24 shooting. For the night, the Bulls shot 36 percent, but in the second half and overtime, shot 26 percent (14 for 54).

“We got off to a fine start, but then we missed four layups out there,” Hoiberg said. “We need to manufacture some good looks and get the ball moving.”

But they weren’t equipped for the final five minutes, going scoreless and not even getting good shots, as Karl-Anthony Towns rebounded from early foul trouble to score 17 points and 13 rebounds, including a thunderous swat of a Rose layup in overtime, and Andrew Wiggins led all scorers with 31 points, including four 3-pointers.

Wiggins’ spin and dunk with 55.5 seconds left tied the game at 91, and Prince’s running hook with 27 seconds left gave them a lead before Gasol’s timely tip-in.

Wiggins was wearing Butler and the Bulls out early, with 22 in the first half before cooling off late, but the Bulls weren’t able to run away and hide in the fourth, leading by six after a Tony Snell corner triple.

The Timberwolves kept coming, despite shooting just 41 percent from the field, were able to play sound defense to stay in it to scrap themselves into an overtime affair.

[RELATED: A more aggressive Derrick Rose benefiting Bulls]

Many of the Bulls warning signs were abound.

Missed rotations defensively.

Coming up empty after easy opportunities were squandered.

And those darned turnovers, after a one-game reprieve, reappearing like a rash that refused to go away.

“I wish I knew why that happens,” Hoiberg said. “I would like to think when I played this game a million years ago, one thing I did was break through a wall every time I stepped on that floor. We have to fix it.”

Rose echoed his coach’s sentiments, believing part of the problem is a matter of familiarity but also being troubled by the sporadic efforts.

“Coach is doing a good job of putting us in different groups and lineups,” Rose said.  “This is the worst you’ll see us play and hopefully in a couple days you’ll see the difference.”

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie


Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.