Bulls

Minus turnovers, Bulls feel they're in good shape vs. Bucks

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Minus turnovers, Bulls feel they're in good shape vs. Bucks

Mike Dunleavy opened his arms and jokingly looked to the heavens when the suggestion about solving the Milwaukee Bucks’ aggressive defense was presented in simple form at Sunday afternoon’s practice.

Take the double-team, move the ball twice and open shots will be plentiful.

“Ahhh, yes. Brilliant,” Dunleavy said. “That, in theory is what we're trying to do. Make that ball move, get it out of the double team and take advantage of 4-on-3 on the weak side.”

[MORE: Goodwill: Bucks' improvement through series should alarm Bulls]

Dunleavy is clearly a recipient of crisp ball movement, as he’s shooting a torrid 57 percent from three in the four games this series, only making two two-pointers.

But getting those open shots is clearly easier said than done, as evidence by the Bulls’ comedy of errors, turning the ball over 28 times in their 92-90 Game 4 loss to the Bucks, where a win could’ve enabled the Bulls to get some much-needed rest before the second round.

Trying to force their individual offense led to a lot of the turnovers, as the Bucks want the Bulls to shoot perimeter jumpers, and have the long athletic wings to cover a lot of ground after double-teams.

“Well, in general, we looked at all our turnovers and some were their defense and some were not making the right read,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Usually, if you hold onto it too long or dance with the ball or try a risky pass, it will lead to a problem. Hit the first open man. Be sound with the ball. When we did that, we got good shots.”

How rare are 28 turnovers in a playoff game? It’s the third-highest amount in a playoff game in the last 25 years, trumped only by Indiana’s 33 in 1995 and Miami’s 32 in 1997 — the latter coming against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.

If you didn’t cry about it, well, you sort of had to laugh. There was probably no snickering in the Bulls’ film session, where Thibodeau put every turnover on display for his team to see, but Dunleavy recognized how comical it could appear.

“When you turn it over 28 times, there's some pretty amazing ways to do it,” he said. “At some point you start becoming creative. It was pretty amazing the way we turned it over. Hopefully we fix it.”

When asked what he saw, Dunleavy voiced what everyone watching on TV witnessed as the Bulls struggled with the fundamental attribute of setting up their offense for good shots.

“Just a little of everything,” Dunleavy said. “One, let's say we want to get it in the post. We've had trouble getting it in there, had turnovers there. Then making that first pass out, had issues there. Then lastly when we get it out are we making the next pass or dribble into the paint and get caught in traffic? That sums it up.”

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The Bulls certainly take their turnover issue seriously, as the Bucks’ high-risk, high-reward style of defense leaves plenty of holes for the Bulls to be effective. When you shoot 49 percent from the field and 56 from 3-point range, it usually births a sense of optimism that if they clean that up, they’ll be fine in Game 5.

After all, before Derrick Rose’s final turnover on the Bulls’ last possession, they were in position to win the game despite the errors. Rose had eight turnovers, while the Bucks have taken Pau Gasol (five turnovers, five field goals in Game 4) out of the series essentially from an offensive standpoint, not allowing the Bulls to run offense through him.

“I thought overall we've rebounded the ball well,” Dunleavy said. “When you turn it over 28 times you won't miss the shots to hit the glass. Our possessions it's either a good look, we're shooting close to 50 percent or it's a turnover. Hopefully like I said we can take care of the ball.”

They know the solution, it’s just up to them to implement their game plan to move onto the next round.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”

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.”