Derrick Rose helps Bulls put away pesky Sixers


Derrick Rose helps Bulls put away pesky Sixers

Who cares if it was the pesky Philadelphia 76ers giving the Bulls 48 minutes of run, when nobody who bought a ticket to the festivities expected it to be difficult, because they came to see a revival.

The Derrick Rose revival.

And as the crowd roared his name after cat-quick, brainless drives to the basket resulted in vintage Rose results, it was like he never left for six weeks or even two years.

After Rose took two hard dribbles with a spin to the basket for a layup with 1:00 left, he reminded everyone his eyes were never an issue, whipping a bullet pass to Taj Gibson for a dunk to effectively seal matters Saturday night, with a 114-107 win at the United Center.

“I thought he played terrific,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought he played well in a lot of areas, he made a few great hustle plays. You can tell he is feeling good out there.”

If his first two games were the warm-up to his home return, he delivered on call with 22 points, eight assists, six rebounds and zero turnovers in 28 minutes of play, his first fourth-quarter appearance since his injury.

“I’m just happy to be playing again, excited and we’re winning games,” Rose said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

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He made eight of his 19 shots, being far more definitive on his drives to the basket late, after settling for five triples that came up short.

“The shots I missed, I felt they were good shots, in and out. I just gotta get my feet under me a little more for my jump shots,” Rose said. “But it comes with playing basketball.”

Tony Snell and Nikola Mirotic carried the sluggish Bulls early in the fourth, combining for five triples as the 76ers kept fighting back despite their already-underwhelming roster having just nine players available.

But they couldn’t keep up their execution as the Bulls had to keep pace with the Toronto Raptors, who won in Miami minutes before the Bulls game went final. Seemingly every time the Bulls were ready to put them away, a couple of their 41 3-point attempts would fall and they’d be right back in the Bulls’ faces.

It gave the Bulls time to experiment with lineups, as Thibodeau subbed offense for defense down the stretch, a tactic in the past he’d been reticent to do.

“It allows us to have Niko, Taj and Pau on the floor together,” he said. “Then when we sub, we can go more by what the game needs. They all need a good chunk of time.”

The game needed a lot at different points, especially with the Bulls struggling for efficiency, shooting just 38 percent at the half and actually trailing by one—being kept off life support by 21 trips to the foul line.

Gasol got going in the third with 14 of his 23 points, but they still couldn’t hide from the 76ers, who played hard and executed longer than anyone thought possible.

“We just took the circumstance and made it work as best we could,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We went into the game against the Chicago Bulls, as good a defensive team as they are…with no point guards. To have the guys respond the way they did, I cannot ask more from them.”

It was almost enough, until Snell got going, scoring 11 in the fourth in place of Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich’s hyper-extended left knee gave him trouble again, and his status for Monday’s game in Brooklyn is unknown.

“I thought it was something I can manage through, but I guess I couldn’t,” he said.

The supporting pieces set the stage, but the night belonged to Rose, who showed what he can give when he’s playing in the final 12.

Devastating drives to the basket.

Commanding attention from defenses, leading to opportunities all over the floor.

And a confidence that this Bulls team can compete with the best, even if they let the league’s worst stick around for far too long.

"Just wanting it. Pushing myself," Rose said. "Last game just pushing the ball, turning it over. But (I'm) getting in a rhythm of attacking and getting used to having the ball in my hands in certain situations."

Robert Covington scored 22 for the 76ers, and veteran guard Jason Richardson hit four triples on his way to 19 points, as the Bulls’ ugly habit of inconsistent second quarters reared its ugly head yet again, as it did in Miami and Orlando recently.

And although it wasn’t Rose to the rescue, it was the kid from Chicago who put the finishing touches on a win that came tougher than expected, but was necessary nonetheless. 


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


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.