Bulls

Bulls survive scare, edge Hornets

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Bulls survive scare, edge Hornets

After a four-day layoff and starting the second half of the season against a short-handed team they had already defeated by 23 just two weeks ago, The Bulls (28-8) would get all they could handle from the New Orleans Hornets (8-26), holding on for a 99-95 win.

Derrick Roses 19-foot jumper broke a tie ballgame at 95 to put the Bulls up ahead for good. It was the same play the Bulls used to beat the Atlanta Hawks back on Jan. 3rd, the only difference being Luol Deng was open after a back-door cut.

You would be surprised how much we practice that play said Joakim Noah.

After a 13-0 run by New Orleans put Chicago down 95-91 with 1:25 remaining, the Bulls turned up their defense forcing the Hornets into a missed field goal and a turnover on their final two offensive possessions and finishing the game on an 8-0 run to finish the game and are now 14-2 at home.

Rose led the team with 32 points to go with nine assists. Noah finished with 15 points, 16 rebounds and Deng and Carlos Boozer (11 rebounds) both finished with 14 points.

After sitting the last 13 games, Richard Hamilton returned to the starting lineup for Chicago and five points and five assists in just under 17 minutes of action.

I thought turnovers hurt us, said Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau. The second shot hurt us. They didnt shot a high percentage but I thought they got to the line. We were closing to their drivers not under control, so that got them to the line some, but well take the win.

We played them in New Orleans, they were short-handed, they had just gotten Chris Kaman back and theyre playing a lot better, continued Thibodeau. Theyre playing teams real tough, they got some wins right before the break, so theyre playing with more confidence. As they get players back, that team is a very good team. They play hard, they play together and their tough. Their record doesnt indicate how good they are.

It appeared readiness wouldnt be an issue in the first period as the Bulls offense ran smoothly as they jumped ahead by 10 points early in the period, before the scrappy New Orleans Hornets winners of four out of their last 10 closed their deficit to 30-26 going into the second quarter.

With all starters healthy for the first time this season since Dec. 30ths contest against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Bulls Bench Mob was at full strength, but couldnt provide their usual energy to increase the Bulls lead and the Hornets beneficiaries of the whistles strong free throw shooting in the first half (15-15) and Chicago being out of sync allowed the visitors to outscore them 24-17 in the period, giving them a 50-47 lead at the half.

I thought we had a few possessions in a row where we were careless on the break and that also let them back into the game, said Thibodeau. We were trading buckets with them for a while and they took the lead.

The Bulls started the second half strong, nailing eight of their first 12 shots and avenged a disappointing first half, shooting 54 percent and outscoring New Orleans 29-20 in the period and forcing them into 34 percent shooting.

Leading 76-70, going into the fourth, the Bulls begin the period on a 7-to-2 run to push their lead to 11, when the Hornets made their run to take a four-point lead, setting up Chicagos run and defensive stand.

We definitely held it together and we played defense towards the end, said Rose. I think thats the best we played throughout the whole game.

Chicago will hit the road for three-straight games and lead the NBA in road wins (14-6).

Even with the road trip, the Bulls are pleased to have all hands on deck, but as is the season youll hear often after Bulls wins.

We have to knock the rust off a little bit, said Rose.

Everybody is coming back from vacation and being with their families and were just happy that we got the win. The most important game now is tomorrow, where were playing against a team thats playing great right now.

The San Antonio Spurs (24-10) are winners of 12 of their last 13 games.

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.