Bulls

Curry, Warriors embarrass Bulls in measuring stick game

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Curry, Warriors embarrass Bulls in measuring stick game

Stephen Curry had the ball on a string and thought Derrick Rose was right with it, but when Rose didn’t allow himself to be shook, the United Center stood and applauded the defensive effort.

Then Curry found a curling Klay Thompson escaping Jimmy Butler a few inches away, and seconds later that effort went unrewarded as the best shooter in basketball fed the second-best shooter in basketball.

Triple, swish, timeout.

It was that kind of night for the Bulls against the NBA champs, who openly said this game was a measuring stick to their progress to date.

And a 125-94 loss to the Golden State Warriors sent a resounding message that though the Bulls have a reputation for getting up for the big games, their elevator doesn’t reach that high.

“They play the right way,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “All their guys move, they cut and every guy on the floor can make a play.”

[MORE BULLS: In house that Jordan built, Warriors look capable of hitting Bulls' 72-win mark]

Coming in knowing full well the Warriors can embarrass you if you’re not adhering to the gameplan or if the gameplan doesn’t cover everything, the Bulls still succumbed and the submission seemed to happen early.

Again, communication was a problem.

“It was embarrassing, we stopped communicating when while we were out there,” Rose said. “You could easily tell there was no communication on both sides of the ball.”

The Bulls shot 37 percent in the first half and trailed by 19 when the game was barely 15 minutes old. The Warriors shot 52 percent and toyed with the opponent as if it was a varsity-JV matchup.

Curry and Thompson didn’t have explosive nights, but they surely weren’t silent, as Curry had some dazzling moves and Thompson filled in the blanks where necessary. Curry could’ve tallied a triple double but in 34 minutes scored 25 points with 11 assists and seven rebounds.

Thompson scored an easy 20 in 32 minutes, hitting three triples as the Warriors shot 38 percent and made 12 long balls.

“They’re tough, they have a lot of guys who can score, a lot of guys who can guard, yeah. But when you don’t play good basketball, any matchup is difficult in this league,” Butler said.

[MORE BULLS: Derrick Rose: 'I love the way I'm playing right now']

The Warriors didn’t put an all-out assault like they did on the Cleveland Cavaliers when they went up 43 points in a laugher. They just did all the great things championship teams do on a given night: never got lost on screens, shared the ball endlessly and ignored the noise.

“Guard, for one," Butler said. “We’re too worried about offense too much at times. We don’t play defense, we don’t rebound, we don’t get back. It’s not the bigs, it’s on everybody. When we’re not guarding, we’re not a very good team.”

Rose provided most of the noise early for the Bulls as they jumped out to a quick lead that wouldn’t hold. He finished with 29 points, including 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the first quarter.

Rose burned so much energy early attacking the basket and challenging Curry, he asked out six minutes into the game due to fatigue. The Bulls were down 13-12, but the Warriors went on a 21-6 run to finish the quarter, effectively ending it before it began.

Without Butler being his usual self, the Bulls were no match. He didn’t get involved until the third quarter, and by then the Warriors had a 20-point head start.

He finished with 23 points and five rebounds but only had four at halftime, when the Warriors achieved a 21-point lead.

“It just shows how bad we can be if we don’t guard,” Butler said.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Harrison Barnes scored 19 with three triples, while Andre Iguodala came off the bench to score 10 and disrupt the Bulls offense, one that made just one of 20 triples and shot 37 percent from the field.

“We came out like that in the second half and had a chance to cut it to single digits,” said Hoiberg, referring to the Bulls grabbing a little momentum to cut the lead to 67-56 midway through the third.

But the offense folded, and the lead was quickly pressed back to 16 and then to 24 at quarter’s end.

“We missed some easy shots, we let it affect us on the other end and they got some easy baskets. They kept attacking all the way to the finish line.”

Pau Gasol was 30 points short of his effort in Detroit, going 0-for-8 with only a free throw in 23 minutes.

Nikola Mirotic was also on a milk carton, going 0-for-5 along with Tony Snell only making a field goal in the last six minutes, when the game was well out of reach.

Everything the Bulls did wrong, the Warriors pounced on.

They stripped weak drives, caught the Bulls napping way too much on defense for multiple backdoor layups and open shots, laughing all the way home.

When the Bulls got close, the Warriors would hit a couple of triples in succession to hush the impending roar of the United Center. Then it became showtime, with alley-oops, long triples and the general joy that comes with being a member of a Warriors team challenging the 1996 Bulls' record of 72 wins.

For the Bulls, there was misery for the better part of 40 minutes and the knowledge of knowing they’ll have a long, long way to go before reaching elite status.

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

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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.