Bulls storm into matchup with Cavaliers with laugher in Milwaukee


Bulls storm into matchup with Cavaliers with laugher in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE — Onto Cleveland.

The series the NBA world has been curious to see is now upon us, after the Chicago Bulls finally decided to get desperate and do away with the Milwaukee Bucks with a runaway 120-66 Game 6 shellacking at the Bradley Center, the largest playoff win in franchise history.

Whether it was by four or 40, the Bulls needed to put the pesky Bucks away on the road as opposed to sitting on their hands and waiting for a seventh game in Chicago — and by the 48-minute display, one is left to wonder how this series was taken to a sixth game as opposed to it being ended a few nights prior.

Just like it was evident from the dawn of Game 5 the Bulls weren’t ready for what the Milwaukee Bucks were bringing, the reverse was definitely the case Thursday as the Bulls stopped playing tight and tightened up on the Bucks, jumping out to an 8-0 lead before methodically and systematically breaking the Bucks down piece by piece en route to a 34-point halftime lead that actually extended to 88-44 late in the third quarter.

After the offensive disaster that took place in Game 5, where the Bulls couldn’t hit much of anything, they needed a sterling offensive performance, a confidence booster of sorts.

Shooting 51 percent and 50 from three with 15 triples while holding the Bucks to 32 percent is the type of game film Tom Thibodeau won’t mind showing in preparing for the second round.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It looks a lot better when the ball goes in the rim,” Thibodeau said. “A lot of times you don't have control over when the ball goes on or doesn't go in. If they're the right shots, you want them to shoot them.”

And when Mike Dunleavy comes out scoring 19 in the first half, you know it’s more than just a good night for him; it’s a night birthed from supreme ball movement, the recipient of open 3-point looks as the Bulls looked anything like the panicked outfit that took the floor three nights ago.

With the series against the Cleveland Cavaliers set to begin Monday, Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler needed to play well, together. Rose missed his first five shots but it wasn’t an indication of how well he ran the Bulls offense, as he assisted on the first three Bulls field goals and five of the first seven, most to Dunleavy.

“Mike is playing great, knocking down shots. Mike is playing great,” Rose said. “Being a veteran, coming back to the bench. Talking. Just being Mike. And that's what we need, somebody that's a little bit older and experienced talking to young guys like Tony. And to the guys that's coming in, making sure they're ready and prepared.”

By the time he hit his first field goal, a runner which started a streak of seven straight points in the second quarter, the Bulls were already off and running, leading by 20 two minutes into the period.

In 24 minutes of effective work, Rose finished with 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds on six of 14 shooting. Butler, the man who opened his mouth about setting the tone and believing his teammates would follow with his defense, registered four steals and five rebounds to go along with his 16 points in 31 minutes.

[WATCH: Antetokounmpo tackles Dunleavy, gets tossed from Game 6]

That defensive mentality permeated to his teammates, as the Bulls prevented the Bucks from hitting the offensive glass, and forced nine turnovers to match their nine field goals by the time the score rose to 47-20 in the second.

All series long, the Bucks played with poise and composure, but as the game and series began to slip away, youth was served in a not-so good way. As Dunleavy spotted up for a transition triple, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo charged into him leading with his forearm and nailed him, perhaps payback for Dunleavy apparently hitting him in the face on a previous possession.

Dunleavy could be in danger for league review once they look at his shot to the neck of Michael Carter-Williams early in the first, which caused him to go to the locker room before he returned to exact some revenge with a low blow.

“I don't wanna comment on it. It's a physical game, there's a lot going on,” Thibodeau said.

Antetokounmpo was ejected for his foul while Carter-Williams was given a flagrant one foul for his action.

All series long the Bulls reacted to the Bucks’ aggressiveness, and it took six games to fight back—six games of learning they can’t afford against the Cavaliers.

Onto Cleveland.

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


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.