Bulls

Bulls frontcourt trio leads the way for 'clicking' team

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Bulls frontcourt trio leads the way for 'clicking' team

Carlos Boozer responded to being snubbed for the Eastern Conference All-Star team in the best way possible Friday night, with a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds in the Bulls 103-87 win over the Warriors at the United Center.

Boozer got the Bulls going early and had a dominant first-half outing to help the hosts run out to a huge early advantage. After the game, the power forward claimed that while he was disappointed in not being selected, hes fine with taking a mini-vacation next month.

RELATED: Boozer should join Noah, Deng as All-Stars

At the end of the day, weve got two guys representing us and Im super proud of Joakim and Luol. Obviously I wanted to be in there, too, Boozer said. But Im going to go home to Miami. Im going to come back with a great tan, make all you guys the media jealous.

Joakim Noah, who was selected as a reserve for the East, didnt let his newfound All-Star status go to his head. Instead, the center delivered a vintage performance, scoring 14 points, snatching 16 rebounds, dishing out four assists and blocking three shots, while forcing his former Florida teammate, David Lee, named a Western Conference All-Star reserve Thursday evening, into a 6-for-15 shooting night.

HIGHLIGHTS: All-around effort carries Bulls past Warriors

I was just playing my game. Its not about that. I just wanted to play with high energy and play my game. I still feel like I could have done things better tonight, but its a great honor to be part of the All-Star game, Noah explained. But its not the reason why I play the game of basketball.

Jimmy Butler, the third member of the Bulls starting frontcourt, kept up his solid play in place of the injured Luol Deng the recently named back-to-back All-Star missed his fourth consecutive game with a strained right hamstring with a 16-point, 12-rebound outing, earning the praise of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Hes a pro. Hes a good player. Hes hard playing and I think he can do a lot better, too. But I love his toughness. He competes on every play, hes not afraid. Guys like that can continue to get better, so I want him to stay hungry, keep improving, the coach observed. But he has shown, even last year, in the opportunities that he got, he played well and hes doing the same thing now.

Thibodeau was positive about the efforts of the entire frontline trio, who each notched a double-double the first time the Bulls have achieved the feat this season also lauding the way Boozer and Noah played.

Its huge. Jo was terrific. Offense, defense, rebounding, energy, he said. Carlos, I thought his rebounding and just his presence inside, his cutting, his screening led to fouls, which got us to the free-throw line some, too. But it got us established inside and opened some things up for us.

MORE: Hinrich-Robinson backcourt gives Bulls a new dimension

Perhaps more significantly, the team is clearly finding its groove, even without the services of Deng and the still-sidelined Derrick Rose, making the Bulls a scary postseason proposition as the season continues.

Obviously theres a lot of room for improvement, but I think our intentions have always been good and its just sort of clicking for us right now, Kirk Hinrich explained. Theres kind of a good calmness, but also readiness and sense of urgency at the same time. Weve kind of had that edge."

Joakim Noah added: I think its high energy, rebounding, good defense. We hit shots. A lot of guys stepped up tonight and thats a positive: Jimmy Boy Butler, Kirky Worky Hinrich, Los Boozer. It feels good to win.

We really feel like our basketball is yet to come, when our horses come back, he continued. I feel like we were really active tonight and we were definitely the hungrier team. When youre the hungrier team, it usually ends up with the win.

Boozer concurred: D-Rose is still out, Luol is still out. Were doing it without big pieces of our team being in the game, so thats very impressive.

Every team goes through ups and downs, they go through peaks and valleys and right now, were on the rise.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.