Bulls

Bulls get down and dirty with Celtics for sixth straight win

bulls-win-0107.png

Bulls get down and dirty with Celtics for sixth straight win

Good thing that throughout this stretch of efficient, pretty basketball, the Bulls didn’t forget how to play in the mud.

Jimmy Butler demonstratively yelled “no!” when Celtics guard Evan Turner tried a fourth-quarter drive he stripped out of bounds.

The usually demure Derrick Rose slammed his hands on the floor, earning a technical foul while complaining about not getting a foul call on a drive to the basket.

“That’s the story of my career since my MVP year (2010-11), it feels like I haven’t gone to the line like I’m supposed to,” he said.

And Pau Gasol, Bobby Portis, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk traded bumps and bruises all night in what will likely register as one of the more physical games of the season.

In other words, number six did not come easy, but it came.

But on the back of some tough play and silky smooth old-school drives from Rose in the fourth quarter, the Bulls emerged with a 101-92 win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night.

[MORE BULLS: Catch a replay of the Bulls' win over the Celtics right here]

Rose had two crucial layups and an assist to Butler for a layup of his own, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists in another sterling offensive performance, shooting 9-for-16 from the field.

“Derrick has got his rhythm back,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “As long as we keep the ball moving, that has given us a lot of success as of late.”

Gasol, who played his most physical game of the season, scored 17 with 18 rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes. Butler had another 10-assist performance to make up for a tough go at shooting, as he scored 19 on 5-for-14 shooting.

“It’s all about how you finish,” Butler said. “My teammates picked me up early. I think we won because of our defense, we played well all over the floor.”

Doug McDermott came to life in the fourth, hitting two triples to held stem the tide when the desperate Celtics tried mounting a comeback. The pretty shots were a rare sight for either squad, as the Bulls shot 41.5 percent from the field and the Celtics were a putrid 35.7 percent.

Rose helped hold jitterbug guard Isaiah Thomas to 5-for-17 shooting, which included the 20-point scorer missing all four of his 3-point attempts, as the Celtics shot 5-for-25 from deep. And Turner, who always wants to impress in his return home, shot just 4-for-12 for 10 points.

[MORE BULLS: Bobby Portis opens up about rookie season]

The Celtics, coming off a disappointing loss at home to Detroit the night before, looked a little leg weary and were without their coach Brad Stevens, who left the team to visit a former player he coached at Butler who’s now battling cancer.

They didn’t look ruddlerless and at times played with more fervor than the Bulls, but it didn’t translate to offensive efficiency as the Bulls held them to just 14-for-49 shooting in the second and third quarter, when the Bulls outscored them by 17 and took control.

The offensive flow that had been such a standard in the last week or so was uneven. Not ineffective, but turning the ball over too much and Butler’s inability to get going slowed things, as he went scoreless in the first.

“First 12 minutes we weren’t doing anything. Our pace was beyond brutal,” Hoiberg admitted.

Butler was doubled every time he had the ball and even sometimes when he wasn’t. It was clear the 36-point performance Butler had last month in Boston was fresh in the Celtics’ mind, but they clearly didn’t plan on Rose carving up their interior.

Rose took advantage of the 5-foot-9 Thomas guarding him and went straight to the basket at every chance, essentially keeping the Bulls in the game despite falling behind by 10.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

But their confidence in what has been built was on display, as they didn’t deviate from the plan that has earned them eight straight 100-point games through this current winning streak.

“It’s what we talked about in the timeouts,” Hoiberg said. “Once we got it going and had a little spurt, it injected a little energy. We got some momentum and carried that to the third.”

And Nikola Mirotic had a couple big plays before the half, along with Rose and then Butler finally getting going with an off-balance three-point play, a key point in the Bulls’ 18-6 run that gave them a one-point halftime lead.

Mirotic only shot 3-for-10 but scored 11 with eight rebounds and played with some necessary toughness on the boards when possessions were at a premium.

Piling up the wins as they find their identity is of utmost importance, and they seem to be taking advantage of the opportunities given to them.

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

2-23_butler_hurt_espn.jpg
ESPN

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.