Pau Gasol's triple-double helps Bulls grind out win over Bucks


Pau Gasol's triple-double helps Bulls grind out win over Bucks

The excitement was gone in the United Center, replaced by nervous energy and waning emotion.

The bodies kept falling and the young Milwaukee Bucks kept charging throughout the fourth quarter, coming back from a 13-point deficit and giving the Bulls more of a scare than they would’ve liked to admit.

But with no choice to do anything but, the Bulls used duct tape and know-how to pull out a 100-90 win, in what could be described as a must-win considering they’re facing a road-home combo of San Antonio and Miami later in the week.

With Jimmy Butler being a scratch due to knee soreness following his first game back, the Bulls also lost Aaron Brooks and Bobby Portis to injury, leaving Fred Hoiberg with very few options to turn to, and his team didn’t look to have the necessary effectiveness throughout as the athletic Bucks stalked them for the better part of three quarters.

Pau Gasol’s block of a Greg Monroe hook shot with a little over two minutes left prevented the Bucks from cutting the Bulls’ lead to three, and displayed what he was able to do all night, as he finished with his second triple-double with 12 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists. His scoring was the last thing to come aboard.

He only hit four of 14 shots, but the Bulls shot 50 percent from the field — it just didn’t look like it as they turned it over 18 times for 23 points.

“We made some key plays down the stretch, hit some big shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought we came in with the right mentality. This is the second game where we jumped out to a big early lead.”

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Whenever the Bucks seemed ready to take things over, the Bulls would apply a little duct tape to the boat that seemed ready to capsize, keeping it afloat just a little while longer.

A Nikola Mirotic triple when the Bucks pulled to within two at 6:57.

A Taj Gibson block and saved rebound from out of bounds, which led to an E’Twaun Moore triple to give the Bulls an 88-83 lead with 3:34 left.

“It’s just about having the will to win,” Gibson said. “It’s tough, games like this we have to push through. I understand guys are down, but these are the games you look forward to, to build confidence.”

Three times the Bucks came within a basket in the fourth and every time, the Bulls pulled something from their behinds to give themselves breathing room.

“Nobody wants to be in this position, right at the end of the cliff,” Gibson said. “But like coach said, you have to get up and take a couple punches to the face and keep swinging.”

The jabs came fast and furious, if not outright wild from a Bucks team still believing they can play a part in the playoff picture.

Jabari Parker continued his torrid stretch following the All-Star break, and versatile do-everything forward Giannis Antetokounmpo played nearly every position on the floor, including point guard to give the Bulls fits.

Parker blew by Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott for dunks and slashing drives on the way to 16 points and 10 boards. Jerryd Bayliss continued being a nuisance to the Bulls with five triples off the bench on the way to 20 points.

“We were pretty thin with Jimmy out, and we lost Aaron and Bobby got poked in the eye, so we had to get some big minutes from some of our guys,” Hoiberg said.

After getting hit in the eye on a screen and looking every bit of dazed and confused, Rose hit the Bucks right back where it hurts most — the scoreboard.

He hit a triple, a pull-up jumper and a step-back jumper, giving the Bulls a temporary reprieve from their ineffectiveness.

Rose finished with a game-high 22 points and seven assists, as he was the only point guard on the floor for either team, and played 38 minutes.

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Too many times, the Bucks disrupted the Bulls offense with aggressiveness, overplaying the strong side of the defense and forcing cross-court passes, many of which weren’t caught cleanly if at all.

It was nearly a replay of the Rockets’ strategy from Saturday night, only they didn’t have Butler on the floor as a productive player, scorer or safety valve.

But without their best player, they relied on some old-fashioned guile to pull out a crucial win.

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie


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.”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.