Bulls

Randolph, Grizzlies halt Bulls' overtime streak

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Randolph, Grizzlies halt Bulls' overtime streak

Watching the Bulls (23-16) play these days isnt for the faint of heart.
After game-winning shots to win the two overtime games on their recent road trip, including Friday nights thriller in Boston, Saturday evening they returned to Chicago to host the Grizzlies (26-13) and in a battle between two defensive-oriented teams, the Bulls played their third consecutive contest featuring an extra session, falling 85-82, in a wild affair featured had another heart-racing finish, as well as Joakim Noah on the bench for nearly the final 23 minutes.
Playing without sideline leading scorer Luol Deng the small forward was out with a right-hamstring injury, aggravated in last night's win the hosts got out of the gates with a flourish, as Carlos Boozer (17 points, 14 rebounds) opened the games scoring, before Noah (10 points) put on a personal showcase.
The versatile center led a fast break, dishing to Rip Hamilton for a transition layup, then throwing down a pair of dunksincluding one, off an assist from Jimmy Butler (18 points, eight rebounds), who started in Dengs place, over Memphis power forward Zach Randolph (13 points, 19 rebounds), who was a game-time decision with a back injuryand hitting a face-up jumper.
Boozer scored the next two baskets for the Bulls, who saw all five startersincluding Kirk Hinrich, who left the game with two early foulsrack up assists in the early going, but the Grizzlies hung tough, mostly due to the solid play of underrated floor general Mike Conley, Jr. (13 points, nine assists).
More: Don't take Noah's benching out of proportion
But the Bulls maintained their slight cushion, as Noah made all five of his shot attempts, adding in one more dunk for good measurein an opening period that certainly justified his All-Star consideration, playing against one of the Western Conferences top centers in Marc Gasol (19 points, eight rebounds)to help the hosts have a 22-18 lead after a quarter of play.
Early in the second frame, the Bulls most recent acquisition, sharpshooter Daequan Cook saw his most meaningful action since arriving in Chicago, replacing Butler at small forward and while he didnt do anything noteworthy upon entering the contest, it did demonstrate that notoriously demanding Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau had at least a semblance of confidence in his ability or at least was willing to see what the Ohio native was capable of.
However, the Bulls had their hands full with Grizzlies reserve forwards Darrell Arthur and Marreese Speights, despite Boozers continued scoring efforts after he was reinserted into the contest.
Memphis momentum persisted as the period continued and as Rudy Gay got goingwithout Deng to defend himthe visitors went on a 13-0 run over nearly five minutes of action to not only take the lead, but completely seize control of the game.
A Hamilton jumper ended the spurt, but the Grizzlies post tandem of Randolph and Gasol seemingly wore down the once energetic Bulls, who faced a double-digit deficit, 44-34, at the intermission.
After the break, things didnt get much better for the hosts, as Memphis similarly-stingy defense held the Bulls offense in check for the early portion of the third quarter.
While the Grizzlies werent vastly better scoring the ball, the energy of Chicago native and defensive specialist Tony Allen gave them some life and the visitors managed shoot a better, if not spectacular, percentage from the floor to maintain their comfortable winning margin on the road, silencing the home crowd.
Buoyed by the energetic play of reserve Taj Gibson (10 points, 12 rebounds), the Bulls loyalists got back into the game and although the home team didnt make significant headway, it became a more competitive affair as the period waned on.
Still, in the same week that the Bulls held their previous visitor, Atlanta, to a historic 58-point outingthe Grizzlies held them to a season-low 71 last monththey headed into the final stanza risking setting an ignominious mark of their own, as they trailed, 60-47.
Propelled by the play of a lineup composed of Boozer and second-unit mainstays, including Butler, whose uncanny knack for offensive rebounds was impressive for his sizeit was needed, as Noah, the teams top rebounder, didnt play again after the midway point of the third quarterthe Bulls chipped into the deficit and made it a single-digit contest early in the fourth quarter, scoring the first six points of the frame.
It remained a competitive affair, as the frontcourt trio of Boozer, Butler and Gibson making their presences felt on the interiorthe athleticism of the latter two, in particular, gave the visitors problemsand backup point guard Nate Robinson (11 points, five assists) running the show and leading the squads transition attack, the contest evolved into a two-possession affair midway through the period.
More: Butler impresses in first career start
A Marco Belinelli triple with 4:08 remaining made it a one-point game, 69-68, in the Grizzlies favor, and after a Randolph miss on the subsequent Memphis possession, Butlerwho played a Deng-like minute totalwas fouled on the Bulls next trip and knocked down a pair of attempts from the charity stripe to give the hosts their first lead since the second quarter to conclude an 11-0 spurt.
As the game entered its stretch run, a Robinson bank shot from deep with 1:33 to play gave the Bulls a 75-72 advantage, but four consecutive points by Gasola pair of free throws and a traditional bucket from in the paintgave Memphis a 76-75 lead with 34.1 seconds to play.
Belinelli drove to the bucket and was fouled with 31.4 seconds left and split a pair to tie the contest and after Randolph missed a jumper on Memphis trip downcourt, the Bulls secured the rebound, but following a timeout with 2.4 seconds on the clock, Robinsons attempt to win it at the buzzer was off the mark, leading to the home teams third straight overtime affair.
Memphis struck first in the extra session, scoring the periods first six points via the familiar duo of Randolph and Gasol.
Just when it appeared that the Bulls had run out of gas, Belinelli made a layup with 1:32 remaining, re-energizing the dormant crowd, and after Randolph split a pair of free throws on the Grizzlies next trip, a Butler fast-break layup made it a one-possession affair, 83-80, in favor of the guests.
Randolph was fouled with 39.1 seconds leftdisqualifying Gibson; backup center Nazr Mohammed, not Noah, replaced himbut he missed both foul shots, prompting a Bulls timeout.
A wild sequence ensued when play resumed, as Robinson was stripped going to the basket, but Butler hustled back on defense to take the ball back for the Bulls and after Boozer rebounded an errant Robinson long ball, Belinelli stepped on the sideline, giving the ball back to the Grizzlies with 12.2 seconds on the clock.
After a timeout, however, Memphis was whistled for a five-second violation on the inbounds pass, giving the Bulls another opportunity and after Robinson drove for an uncontested layup, Grizzlies backup Jerryd Bayless leaked out for a layup of his own, making it 85-82.
Still, the Bulls had a final chance, but after Robinsons game-tying attempt was blocked, the ball ended up in Boozers hands, but the big mans corner three-pointer fell short, as did the team.

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

It'd be a stretch to say that any rookie is having a better or more impactful season than Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. The Sixers are 9-7, and Simmons looks like a 10-year veteran with his decision making, athleticism and all-around feel for the game. He's the frontrunner for MVP, but there are two other rookies vying to catch Simmons and win that title. And they'll face each other tomorrow night in Los Angeles.

Lonzo Ball was the second pick in June's NBA Draft, and fellow Pac-12 freshman standout Lauri Markkanen went five picks later to the Bulls, who had traded up as part of the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players were drafted to rebuilding franchises - the Lakers still working out the kinks in the post-Kobe era, and the Bulls beginning their rebuild after dealing Butler - and were expected to make immediate impacts on their franchises.

Ball's was more pronounced, as the Lakers dealt D'Angelo Russell to the Nets on draft night to free up space at the point for their prized No. 2 pick. Markkanen's came more abruptly, as the 20-year-old was thrust into the starting lineup after Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic's fight put Mirotic in the hospital and Portis on paid leave. However they got there, both players have been impressive in their early NBA careers.

Starting with Markkanen, the Bulls knew the 7-foot stretch forward was a perfect build for the modern NBA. He set freshman 3-point and rebounding records that, since 1992, only some guy named Kevin Durant had reached. After a successful summer in Eurobasket he was set for a large role with the Bulls, and he's succeeded in just about every aspect. His 15.6 points per game are third only to Simmons and the other Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, and his 8.1 rebounds are second to Simmons. And his 2.6 made 3-pointers per game are most among rookies, and well past No. 2 on the list (Utah's Donovan Mitchell, 1.9 per game).

In fact, Markkanen would become the only rookie in NBA history to average at least 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 3-pointers per game. The 2.5 3-pointers would break a rookie record currently held by Damian Lillard (2.3 per game). The closest a rookie has ever come to reaching those marks was Stephen Curry, who averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 3-pointers per game as a rookie. Allen Iverson also met the 4/2 threshold, but that's a far cry from Markkanen's 8/2.5 mark. Paul Pierce's rookie season saw him average 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers.

But that's not all. If he kept those averages up he would be just the fifth player EVER to accomplish those thresholds. The others are James Harden, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Antonie Walker, who naturally did it twice.

So, yeah, Markkanen is having quite a rookie year.

So, too, is Ball. While he's had some real issues with efficiency, slashing .313/.228/.462 and has committed 2.6 turnovers per game, his counting stats have been outstanding. Ball is averaging 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and that puts him in equally impressive company.

Simmons has reached those numbers this season, too, averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists. You may have heard of the other two players, named Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

The two future Hall of Famers averaged these numbers:

Robertson: 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.7 assists (missing averaging a triple-double for the season by 20 assists)

Johnson: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists

Ball is also averaging 0.9 blocks, and no other rookie guard has ever accomplished that. It might not always look pretty for Markkanen and Ball as they feel their way out in the NBA, but just remember watching these two that they're in the midst of making history in the new era of the NBA.

Lauri Markkanen has career-high 26 points in loss to Suns

Lauri Markkanen has career-high 26 points in loss to Suns

Lauri Markkanen continues to impress.

The 20-year-old rookie had a career-high 26 points in the Bulls' 113-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night. He also picked up 13 rebounds.

After the game, in which the Bulls fell to 3-11 on the season, coach Fred Hoiberg had high praise for the Finnish.

"I thought Lauri was phenomenal," Hoiberg said. "But when he is open, we gotta get him the ball. When he's got it rolling like he did tonight, guys were switching and we had him a couple of times with the point guard buried in his back and we didn't get him the ball."

Watch what Hoiberg had to say about the Bulls' tight loss in the video above.