Marathon on Madison: Pistons overtake Bulls in 4OT classic


Marathon on Madison: Pistons overtake Bulls in 4OT classic

The Pistons and Bulls battled for control of the East in a far away galaxy, a long time ago and after many years of inactivity there could be a true resurgence of a rivalry between the I-94 combatants.

And with the Pistons coming, sometimes the little breaks and big ones go in the other direction.

Like free throws.

Like loose balls that have a mind of their own.

It took more than 48 minutes, and more than 58 for the score to be settled but the Pistons took on everybody and came away with a win after the NBA’s second quadruple overtime game in 18 years with an 147-144 win at the United Center.

Six players played over 50 minutes of the available 68, and five players scored over 30 points, including Jimmy Butler’s career-high 43. Three Pistons fouled out, almost in succession in the fourth overtime but it wasn’t enough.

“The guys kept fighting,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Derrick, Pau and Jimmy kept it going all night, but unfortunately we didn’t get off to a good enough start in the fourth overtime.”

It looked to be over as the Pistons distanced themselves with a 7-0 run, and Butler hit a triple to cut it to one before made free throws gave him one final chance with 4.4 seconds left.

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But Butler couldn’t shake Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a good look, and his triple bounced harmlessly off the rim to give the Pistons a 2-0 edge over their rivals this season—the first being a measly one-OT affair in Detroit.

Butler said he was late setting a screen that he wound up flaring off of by a millisecond, giving the defender a chance to recover before the possibility of a fifth overtime came to fruition.

“That’s why it was contested,” Butler said. “I think every shot I shoot has a chance. Nothing I can do about it now.”

The Bulls couldn’t control the big-little tandem of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, as Jackson repeatedly attacked the Bulls down the stretch — well, down the stretches of this classic game.

Jackson rebounded from missing three buzzer-beaters to finally wear down the Bulls, scoring 33 with 13 assists to go head up with Rose, who produced his best game of the year with 34 points and seven assists.

Drummond fouled out in the fourth overtime, but not before he turned the game on its ear with 33 points and 21 rebounds in 55 minutes. Drummond and Gasol (30 points, 15 rebounds, five assists) battled all night, as Drummond led with his athleticism and youth while Gasol had his guile and experience putting Drummond in foul trouble, calling for an offensive foul on one play and getting it a couple times down later.

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“They put a lot of pressure on the rim with Drummond,” Butler said. “He’s good. I think he’s gonna be an All-Star. He’ll be one of the best centers to play this game if he continues to work.”

Tired legs, weary minds and exhaustion kicked in well before the fourth overtime began, and the Bulls will be kicking themselves on the way to New York for Saturday night’s game against the Knicks for a couple reasons.

Rose, after attacking the Pistons defense all night, settled for a 15-foot jumper in regulation as opposed to driving it to the basket — similar to what he did in Detroit in their first meeting on Oct. 30.

“We wanted him to attack but they played him well,” Hoiberg said. “We tried to slip a screen and confuse the switch. They stayed with it and made a heck of a defensive play.”

Rose forced Jackson into misses at the end of two overtimes that made up for his missed jumper in regulation, giving the Bulls second, third and fourth chances at getting control of the game.

At the end of the second overtime the Bulls had a timeout remaining after Jackson’s missed jumper left 2.4 seconds on the clock but they didn’t take it, leaving Tony Snell to fire up an 88-footer that went long

"It was a decision where looking back on it, I should've used it, absolutely," Hoiberg said of not taking the timeout. "I look back on that one for sure.”

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said neither he nor Hoiberg put on an offensive coaching clinic, as both coaches stuck with their regulars through the extra sessions. Joakim Noah played seven seconds after regulation ended, and it was hard keeping Doug McDermott on the floor considering the Pistons attacked him at every opportunity, so Tony Snell played 38 minutes.

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“I thought we had the guys in there that would give us the best opportunity to win the game,” Hoiberg said.

Twenty-two-year old Caldwell-Pope had enough gas down the stretch to hit two crucial triples in the second and fourth OT’s, along with defending Rose and Butler at crucial times to aid in the Pistons stealing a win and ending the Bulls’ four-game winning streak.

Neither side led by more than eight, and each had gripes down the stretch with the officials and each other as fatigue set in. Gasol clearly looked gassed in the last two overtimes, barely able to jump after banging with Drummond all night.

Gasol’s recovery of a Rose loose ball after Rose lost it mid-air resulted in him getting fouled by Ersan Ilyasova with 32 seconds left and hitting two free throws to give the Bulls a 105-103 lead in regulation before the Pistons recovered themselves to send it to overtime.

But it was more to come, even as Rose’s most impactful and devastating performance, albeit on 34 shots, became a mere subplot to a wonderful finish neither side should be ashamed of.

But, boy, will they feel it on the plane out of town.

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.