Bulls

Five reasons to watch tonight's "Bulls Classic"

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Five reasons to watch tonight's "Bulls Classic"

Five things to watch in Tuesday night's Comcast SportsNet Chicago "Bulls Classics" broadcast, featuring the Bulls' 97-93 1992 NBA Finals Game 6 victory over the Portland Trailblazers:

1) Michael Jordan led the Bulls with 33 points in the close-out game, out-dueling his biggest rival at the shooting guard position, Portland's Clyde Drexler. Jordan, who averaged 30.1 points per game that season, won his second consecutive league MVP award and third overall. Not that he wasn't already a household name, but by bringing Chicago a second championship, there was no doubt he was already a legend, at only 28 years old.

2) The Bulls' second consecutive title was the franchise's first that was won on the home court of the old Chicago Stadium. It was a fitting show of appreciation for Bulls loyalists and those who jumped on the bandwagon alike, commemorating an outstanding, 62-win regular-season campaign and cementing a dynasty that would dominate the decade in the NBA. After sweeping the Heat in the first round, the Knicks took the Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals before they dispatched the Cavaliers and Trailblazers in six games apiece.

3) Scottie Pippen's 26-point Game 6 effort, to go along with four apiece of rebounds and assists, don't quite illustrate his brilliance at that point in his career, but he was nearing Jordan's equal as a slasher and had perhaps surpassed him as a defender (he was named to the first team of the NBA's all-defensive team, as well as garnering second team all-NBA honors for the first time in his career and making his second All-Star Game appearance) and all-around talent. Meanwhile, starting big men Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright suffered through rough outings, but Scott Williams picked up the slack with eight rebounds off the bench, while Stacey King also contributed. John Paxson's 13 points were another key component to the win.

4) The Blazers, which lost to both those 1992 Bulls and the 1990 Detroit Pistons in the Finals, just couldn't get over the hump. As talented, balanced, deep and big as they were, it seemed as if they needed another piece to complement star Clyde Drexler. Perhaps Drexler would have benefited from being a No. 2 option in Portland; he went on to win a championship with the Rockets alongside University of Houston teammate Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995.

5) Portland center Kevin Duckworth, who passed away in 2008, was a Chicago-area native. The Thornridge High School graduate -- the south-suburban school also produced Indiana University great Quinn Buckner -- attended Eastern Illinois before entering the NBA in 1986. After his rookie campaign, he quickly blossomed, becoming an All-Star in the 1988-89 and 1990-91 seasons. While some observers poked fun at his girth, the late Duckworth was quietly considered one of the most underrated centers of his era.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.