Bulls collapse in final minutes against Jazz


Bulls collapse in final minutes against Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY — Only the Bulls.

These Bulls would be the ones to turn a pretty gutsy effort on the road in a building that hasn’t been good to them in years and riddle it with last-minute mistakes and mishaps, spoiling what could’ve been a bounce-back win against the Utah Jazz.

Instead, they’ve lost their second in a row in as many nights, falling 105-96 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, squandering a 3-point lead in regulation when it looked like they would have a thrilling win.

Gordon Hayward emerged from having a bad three quarters to finish with 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, but the Bulls will find plenty of reasons to kick themselves for literally throwing away a win they desperately needed.

They’ve now lost nine of 13, and since the start of December, the Bulls are 16-16.

“A tough way to lose that one. Felt we gave that one away,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We had our chances, they made the plays, they made the necessary plays to win. We missed some shots, we missed some free throws.”

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The Bulls played through adversity for the better part of 48 minutes, when they held slim leads and took what they thought was a decisive lead with 18.5 seconds left on a Derrick Rose triple, but they didn’t account for the adversity they brought upon themselves.

They kept the Jazz players out of the lane after allowing a freeway of easy opportunities early, going on an 18-2 run at the end of the first half and seemingly took control until the fourth when the Bulls looked to choke the life from the Salt Lake City crowd.

But from there, things went haywire—or Hayward, one could say. After missing one of two free throws, the ball went off Taj Gibson, getting the Jazz up for a tie and Hayward delivered, driving unimpeded to the basket for a layup.

It was the start of the destruction, and it was many of the Bulls’ main players who didn’t come through. Butler scored 26 with six assists and seven rebounds, but will wonder about his missed free throws in overtime that could’ve made the deficit more manageable.

“Just being careless with the ball, not doing what we were supposed to do,” Butler said. “That’s how we’ve been playing lately. That’s the way it’s been going. The same outcome is what we’ve gotten every time.”

Rose, who scored 14 with three assists on a 6-for-21 night, had a couple turnovers late and let Raul Neto have a career-high 14 points on him, including a couple baskets late in regulation. They never fully got engaged in overtime, perhaps stinging from the shock of their inability to put the game away in the first 48.

Then they looked like candidates for “First 48”, bringing very little to the extra session.

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Plenty of chance situations went against the Bulls. A tipped rebound here, a review that determined an inbounds pass went off Butler’s fingertips and general things that go against a club when its struggling.

“We trust those guys in that situation,” said Hoiberg, referring to Butler and Rose. “Too casual, too casual on the turnovers in overtime.”

“They were still playing hard,” said Rose of the Jazz. “The turnovers and everything, they were forcing them. Blocking shots, getting to the lane. Their inside presence was always there the entire game.”

Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, two young bigs with athleticism, length and girth, gave the Bulls issues all night. Favors had four blocked shots to go with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Gobert had 16 and 12 rebounds in 43 minutes.

Pau Gasol scored 19 with eight rebounds but had his hands full with Gobert, and fouled out in overtime as proof of such a difficult go of it.

And more than anything, the Bulls, a supposed veteran team that shouldn’t get rattled in instances like these, got rattled.

And it showed.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment


Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”

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.”