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Bulls finish strong in EuroBasket opening round

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Bulls finish strong in EuroBasket opening round

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011Posted: 1:22 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Follow @CSNBullsInsider
The trio of Bulls with international ties concluded a collectively successful opening round of EuroBasket competition Tuesday.

Although Luol Deng's Great Britain squad didn't advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament, Deng finished as the leading scorer and second-leading rebounder through first-round play and led his team to wins in their two final games, putting up 32 points and 10 rebounds against Portugal and 28 points, 14 rebounds and six assists against Poland.

As the host country of the 2012 Summer Olympics, Great Britain was already assured of a spot in London and after its progress this summer -- and the possible addition of former Bulls guard Ben Gordon, who didn't play this year because of a reported insurance issue --there should be more optimism for the perennially-dismal national team.

France, Joakim Noah's team, went undefeated in its pool to win its group and advance to the quarterfinals after surviving an overtime thriller Monday against Serbia. Noah fouled out in the extra period, but went for 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists against former NBA counterpart Nenad Kristic, who ended last season as a Celtics center. Spurs point guard Tony Parker has been dominant for France and with fellow NBA players Nicolas Batum of Portland and Boris Diaw of Charlotte also playing key roles, Noah hasn't put up gaudy statistics.

Omer Asik's Turkish national team, runner-up to USA in last summer's FIBA World Championships, also advanced to the next round with a 3-2 record in the same pool as Great Britain. Asik, coming off a fractured left fibula suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals, progressed throughout the first round and scored his highest point total, 12, in Turkey's upset win over Spain -- the favorite in the tournament was without star Lakers big man Pau Gasol, but still had his brother Marc of the Grizzlies at center -- Monday.

Noah and Asik will face off Wednesday in their teams' first game of quarterfinal action.

Who do you expect to come out on top in the individual matchup? Keep in mind, Asik is much more experienced when it comes to the international game.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.  

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal.