Bulls

Bulls cut down big Celtics lead but give one away in Boston

pau-gasol-0122.png

Bulls cut down big Celtics lead but give one away in Boston

BOSTON — In the playoffs, stealing games on the road is crucial to winning a series and advancing, but sometimes you have to steal some in the first 82.

After the Bulls submitted to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night at the first hint of adversity, they finally began to dig themselves out of their man-made hole against the aggressive and dictating Boston Celtics.

They methodically charged back and the game was well within reach, but they couldn’t take advantage of a reeling squad running out of gas, losing 110-101 at TD Garden.

More pointedly, the Bulls ran out of good players and good opportunities, as they couldn’t cut into a three-point lead late in the fourth after trailing by as many as 16.

Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose were the only guys wearing black who could say they were productive from the jump, and for spurts, so was Pau Gasol. Gasol scored 18 with 11 rebounds but had crucial turnovers in the first half when it appeared the Celtics would run away with matters.

The Celtics lead by 15 at the half, shooting 50 percent and forcing 13 turnovers as the Bulls looked nonchalant, to say the least.

“They were too comfortable, that was the thing tonight,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They were too comfortable, hitting shots, got second-chance opportunities and we turned the ball over.”

[MORE BULLS: First place Cleveland Cavaliers fire head coach David Blatt]

Rose continued his aggressiveness, with 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Butler, a gametime decision with flu-like symptoms, showed few signs of illness with 28 and a season-high 14 rebounds.

“I wouldn’t say (we have) no help,” Rose said. “It’s about being on the same page. All the hustle plays, it’s effort. Loose balls, rebounding, all that takes effort. We’re not taking that effort to be a championship team.”

The production and effort stopped there as the Celtics had Avery Bradley score 20, Isaiah Thomas score 22 with five rebounds, Jared Sullinger put up 18 with 12 rebounds and five assists and a host of other players wearing green do something, anything that contributed to a win.

Fred Hoiberg, though, had no options. He showed increased faith in Nikola Mirotic, but when the Bulls had a chance to take a lead with 4:39 left, a Rose bounce pass was mishandled by Mirotic and went out of bounds. A layup could’ve put more fear into a collapsing Celtics squad.

Mirotic was 1-for-7, Doug McDermott took one shot in 22 minutes and Tony Snell took one in 16 minutes.

“It’s tough. I feel for em, when you’re struggling it’s the worst feeling in the world,” Hoiberg said. “I thought the one who turned things around for us was Bobby (Portis). Sprinting into the ball screen, making contact and we were getting downhill and into the rim. That’s when we got it going. We missed great opportunities. Cut that thing to one and led to two key turnovers.“

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their 20 turnovers were a problem, and so was their porous 3-point shooting as they again came up virtually empty from deep after being one of the most proficient teams from distance earlier this season.

They hit just three of 13 from deep, while shooting 43 percent for the game.

Their defense, one that has yielded 105 points per game this month, was on track for another Golden State-esque performance on that end, giving up 90 points through three quarters before showing a little resistance to start the fourth.

“The fire that we had in that comeback is what we need to have,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve had moments where we have it. But man we have a lot of moments where we haven’t. When they get a 10-point lead, put your head down then it grows to 15 instead of bucking up, finding a way to get back in the game. Then again, dig yourself a hole, takes too much energy to climb out of it. Then you’re in a dogfight.”

But getting stops was foreign to the Bulls, as well as finishing possessions on the occasion they forced a miss. Giving up long offensive rebounds felt like death by a thousand cuts when they cut the sizeable lead to a workable margin. The Celtics finished with 16 offensive rebounds, many of them while the Bulls tried in vain to make them sweat.

Rose, perhaps annoyed by something this morning, showed out in the third. He scored 16 as his jumper was on and his first step was cat-quick, even against Bradley, one of the best on-ball defenders the league has from the perimeter.

Butler took to the glass to help out when it was clear the Bulls didn’t have the legs to box out and go for the ball.

But in the end they didn’t have enough and walk eyes wide open into a hornet’s nest in Cleveland against a riled-up rival after letting one get away.

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

2-18_markkanen_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

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.