Bulls

Rising to the occasion: Rose wills Bulls to win

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Rising to the occasion: Rose wills Bulls to win

Saturday, April 16, 2011Posted: 2:55 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

It couldnt happen, could it? After an incredible regular season, the top-seeded Bulls couldnt lose the first game of their opening-round series to upstart Indiana?
Pregame Prediction: Bulls should cruise past Pacers

No, but only by the skin of their teeth. For the majority of the game, that answer was in doubt, but led by an amazing performance by likely MVP Derrick Rose, Chicago closed Game 1 with a 16-1 run to win a thriller, 104-99, Saturday afternoon at the United Center.

We didnt play well, didnt play our best, but at the end, we did what we had to do to pull out the win, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. We got the win, which is the most important thing.

We know were going to have to play a lot better in Game 2.

Countered Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel: Im very proud of the effort of our club tonight; very disappointed in the loss. Ive got a great deal of belief in this team. Im not surprised that we almost won this game; should have won this game. Weve been playing about as well as anybody in the NBA the last few weeks and this is going to be a series.

Our guys know we should have won this game. We can play with this team. We can play with any team in the NBA.

One of the few issues of the Bulls successful regular seasonslow startsmanifested itself, as Indiana utilized turnovers to score early transition baskets to complement their effective offensive rebounding, resulting in a 10-4 start for the visitors.

Led by Joakim Noahs (10 points, 11 rebounds) offensive rebounding, Chicago quickly worked its way back into the contest, as the center's uncanny zeal was back in effect from the games outset.

Rose (39 points, 19-for-21 free-throw shooting, six assists, six rebounds) also made his presence felt, but despite his efforts and Carlos Boozers (12 points, six rebounds) early low-post success, the Bulls still trailed their guests.

Pacers to use 'Rose plan' against Bulls

Solid team defense and the scoring of offensive catalysts Darren Collison (17 points, nine assists, six rebounds) and center Roy Hibbert (11 points, eight rebounds) were keys for the Pacers, who ended the opening period with a 27-23 advantage.

Chicagos second unit, the Bench Mob, typically sets a certain tone when it comes to energy, but that aspect was lacking in the beginning of the second quarter, as Indianas reserves instead rose to the occasion and widened the deficit. Turnover issues, shoddy marksmanship and inconsistent defensive rebounding persisted for the Bulls and with foul trouble saddling Boozerhe picked up his third foul early in the periodthings werent looking up for the home team.

Though Rose consistently got to the basket to either finish or draw fouls, Chicago simply couldnt make up the necessary ground, not with Collison matching Rose as a scorer and contributions from the likes of feisty second-year power forward Tyler Hansborough (22 points), in comparison to sporadic efforts from Roses supporting cast.

Largely by virtue of their 50 percent first-half shooting from the floor (and 5-for-8 three-point shooting, compared to 2-for-7 from deep and 42.9-percent shooting from the floor for the Bulls), Indiana went into halftime with a 55-51 lead.

Pacers leading scorer Danny Granger (24 points, six rebounds, three assists) came out firing after the break, knocking down a pair of three-pointers and scoring another bucket in the post, giving the visitors a double-digit advantage in the early portion of the third quarter. More significantly, the Bulls simply couldnt buy a basketoutside of Rose, who had his hands full with Collison on the other endand their disappointing performance was reflected by the lull in the usually upbeat United Center audience.

Hansbrough continued to be productive for Indiana, at least until he took a shot from Kurt Thomas and was laid out on the floor, motionless, before he was taken into the arenas tunnel. There, he appeared to be woozy and needed assistance from team personnel, but he returned to the contest in the fourth quarter.

I just got elbowed, said Hansbrough, who noted that he didnt lose consciousness and reportedly had tests performed before he returned to action. I dont think it was anything intentionalits just the way it happenedand got the breath knocked out of me.

But even with the crowd getting behind them late in the period, the Bulls couldnt sustain any positive momentum and trailed through three quarters, 79-71.

It was bombs away to start the final stanza, as both squads contributed to a barrage of three-pointers to start the period. Although Granger did his part to help the Pacers cling to a slowly-decreasing lead, his small-forward counterpart, Luol Deng (18 points, 10 rebounds), finally came alive for the Bulls, scoring in his typically versatile fashion to add to Chicagos push.

After Hansbroughs return, the hyperactive North Carolina alum delivered a hard foul on Rose, causing Dengironically, a Duke productto engage him verbally, earning him a technical foul and the support of the crowd, which he exhorted in the aftermath of the near-skirmish.

Instead of motivating the Bulls, however, the incident seemed to get Hansbrough going, as he picked up where he left off and knocked down three consecutive jumpers, then made a steal and finished off the play with a fast-break dunk, plus a foul, for a traditional three-point play.

Just when it seemed like the Bulls were dead in the water, Noah, the teams inspirational leader, refused to let them sink, making back-to-back playsfirst, one of his patented tip-ins after keeping an offensive rebound alive, then running the floor for a fast-break dunkto bring Chicago within four points, 98-94, with 2:27 to go.

POSTER SHOP: Stacey King recaps his favorite dunks from the 2010-11 season

On Chicagos next possession, Rose drove to the rim, hit a twisting layup and completed a three-point play to bring the Bulls within two points before tying the contest at 99 apiece with a spinning floater in the lane.

Derrick Rose was too much down the stretch, said Vogel. I look at 39 points and Im shocked that I see 39 because I thought that we did a good job most of the night on him. The kids out of this world. Hes got Allen Iversons speed, Jason Kidds vision, Chauncey Billups shooting and Michael Jordans athleticism. How do you guard that? We did a good job on him. He was too much.

Suddenly, the Bulls defense was back at an elite level, racking up defensive stops against their young opposition. With the Pacers defense almost solely focused on stopping Roses penetration, the Windy City native again got into the lane, then kicked it out to sharpshooter Kyle Korver (13 points, 4-for-4 three-point shooting) who nailed a three-pointer with 48.4 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls their first lead, 102-99.

Derrick made a great read. My man helps, hes going to kick it out to me. If he doesnt help, hes going to drive the middle of the lane, Korver explained. Toward the end of the fourth quarter, he was like, Im looking for you, Im looking for you, and I kept telling him, Im ready, Im ready. He made a great play.

Rose added: Kyle is a knockdown shooter. Thats why hes on the court with me at the end of the game. If you help too muchleave him openthats like a layup to him and Im just reading the court. Ive been in that position numerous times and me driving kind of gets everybody coming in the paint, and he was wide open.

On the Bulls next trip, they didnt initially convert, but the irrepressible Noah kept the ball alive and it wound up in the hands of Rose, who was fouled.

With an MVP chant in the background, the All-Star point guard calmly drained a pair of free throws with 14.8 seconds left on the clock, concluding a 16-1 run to end the game. On their final possession, the shell-shocked Pacers were unable to threaten their hosts, as Noah repeatedly denied their attempts around the rim, much to the delight of Bulls fans.

I was just trying to win a game and tonight, it was just me making shots and making plays. Whatever it takes for us to win, Im willing to do, said a relaxed Rose afterwards. Right now, life is pretty good.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

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ESPN

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.