Bulls

Bulls' errors spoil valiant effort in San Antonio

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Bulls' errors spoil valiant effort in San Antonio

It happens so quick and yet, it doesn’t feel devastating even though it’ll show on the boxscore that the San Antonio Spurs win every game by a margin unmatched in NBA history.

The Bulls were every bit the Spurs’ equal Thursday night but overall couldn’t match their execution, falling 109-101 at the AT&T Center.

Every time it seemed the Bulls were ready to grab some momentum, something worked against them.

Trailing by five late in the third, they had a chance to cut it to two but Nikola Mirotic missed a wide-open triple from the corner, followed by Kawhi Leonard having one bounce softly off the rim then back in again, pushing the lead to eight. It seemed to be that way all night for the Bulls, fighting uphill against a buzzsaw and against their own limitations.

They hit five more triples than the Spurs, made 12 of 13 free throws and outrebounded them by a 50-40 margin, but their own worst energy came back to bite them, with 21 turnovers leading to 16 Spurs points.

“That was the game,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Played well for the most part except for the turnovers. You can’t give a team like that, especially in their home building, extra opportunities.”

The Bulls leave San Antonio feeling they let yet another winnable game get away.

“It was a game for the taking,” said Taj Gibson, whose missed dunk led to Hoiberg getting the first technical foul of his career late in the fourth quarter, both believing he’d been hacked on the way up.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“We turned the ball over a lot, a little myself. There’s plays you wish you could take back. We had great looks, the energy was good. We just came up short.”

By the time Danny Green snuck behind E’Twaun Moore for a follow-up dunk with 4:09 left to put the Spurs up 10 and re-establish some breathing room, it seemed fait accompli the Bulls’ effort in ending the Spurs’ 30-0 home start would be for naught.

“They’re so experienced, so talented and they just know the game,” Derrick Rose said.

Moore had a standout game, hitting four triples, most of them when the Bulls were teetering in the first three quarters and the threat of being out of the building was high.

Moore finished with 20, starting in place of Jimmy Butler, but they sure could’ve used Butler on the Spurs’ best player.

Derrick Rose was guarded by Kawhi Leonard, the premier perimeter defender the NBA has to offer. And without Jimmy Butler, not only was Leonard free to roam offensively but to hassle Rose on the other end.

Leonard led the Spurs with 29 points and seven rebounds to go along with two steals and two blocks. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 with 10 rebounds in 33 minutes and Tony Parker, who kept Rose’s head spinning all night with constant activity, scored 20 in his return from injury.

Rose, along with Moore and Justin Holliday (12 points), played exceptionally well in spurts to keep the Bulls in it. He scored a quick seven in the first four minutes to start the third quarter and the Bulls made the Spurs sweat.

The Spurs had moments where shots rolled in and out, which Rose pointed out succinctly.

“They missed a lot of wide open shots, too, so that was our reason to hang in the game a little bit longer,” he said.

[MORE: Jimmy Butler receives positive news from Dr. James Andrews]

Rose scored 21 points with six assists, and only committed one turnover in 36 minutes.

“I wouldn’t say one play away,” Rose said. “A couple plays away. We had plays where we didn’t box out, (they) pitched it back out for open shots. We had plays where they got all the way to the lane.”

But he was one of the few who was unfazed by the Spurs’ perfect position defense.

They didn’t make many mistakes but when they did, the beauty of the Spurs was revealed.  Although the giveaways didn’t come in spurts, they didn’t have to because the Spurs capitalized, seemingly every time.

The Bulls had their turnovers and to boot, could only force eight out of the Spurs, limiting their chances for easy opportunities.

“That’s that great experienced teams do,” Hoiberg said. “They’ve won 30, 40 games in a row at home. You shoot yourself in the foot giving up so many easy opportunities.”

Then the other aspect of this team is when Gregg Popovich sits down and allows his team to run its offense to perfection.

Flawless cuts to the basket. Precise picks. And most of all, perfect passes.

The Spurs tallied 29 assists on their 44 field goals, with Parker dishing out 12 helpers.

Hoiberg won’t complain about effort, as they fell to a superior team in a perfect atmosphere in a building that hasn’t seen a loss in over a year.

But it didn’t stop the Bulls from sliding back into ninth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, with the Miami Heat meeting them in Chicago Friday.

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

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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.