Rose, Butler lead Bulls to efficient win over Grizzlies


Rose, Butler lead Bulls to efficient win over Grizzlies

The narrative surrounding the Bulls dictates a team that goes nine deep and has more who are capable of playing heavy, productive minutes, giving Fred Hoiberg the best of options if he so chooses.

But Wednesday night displayed who the real Chicago Bulls are, or at least who they should aim to be this season.

Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler leading the charge and everybody else following behind, and Rose told his coach after shootaround he would have a great game.

The guard duo had arguably its most complete and efficient game of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies, combining for 43 points on 41 shots and it led to an 98-85 win at the United Center, a sight for sore eyes, so to speak.

If Hoiberg had any doubt to Rose’s text message vow, Rose hit three field goals in the first four minutes, being more aggressive to start than he’d been in the last game against Philadelphia as a whole.

“You could see it on the first possession. He really went hard to the basket,” Hoiberg said. “I loved his energy. He set the tone right from the start."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Doug McDermott hit big triples in the second half to keep the Grizzlies at bay while Butler and Rose were on the bench, and Aaron Brooks hit one to offset an uneven ballgame.

Rose had silky, under control drives with confident finishes at the rim while Jimmy Butler started off hitting tough shots but decided to make the game easier as the night went on.

Rose finished with 19 and five assists while Butler lead the Bulls with 24, four rebounds and four assists. McDermott hit four triples to score 17 as the Bulls hit nine triples to the Grizzlies’ five, albeit on 26 percent shooting.

“People want me to go out and shoot 25, 30 times,” Rose said. “You have to wait, especially being the point guard. You gotta see who’s hot. We have to find our identity as a team and we’re trying to figure all that out early in the season, too.”

The backcourt took nearly half the shots but it was necessary and welcomed, as they for once, dictated the terms of the evening together and in concert.

“They were absolutely playing off each other, they were taking turns on the ball screens,” Hoiberg said. “We did a better job getting their bigs away from the basket.”

Rose admitted he wants to elevate his level of play and considering he’s had the luxury of the Bulls being one game out of the top spot in the East despite a choppy start.

Sometimes unsure, many times passive, Rose shook himself from his lethargy and illness to produce an impactful game.

“We’ll see. Jimmy’s been playing consistent,” Rose said. “He’s been playing great basketball. I gotta come along. It may become that but we still have to find that identity.”

[RELATED: Chuck interviews the Village People on 70s Night]

Butler and Rose were the catalysts in the third quarter, after the Bulls had a turnover-filled end to the first half where only Butler hit field goals in the last five minutes of the second quarter, allowing the Grizzlies to take a 3-point halftime lead.

Butler had steals for layups while Rose had an impressive stretch where he took control of matters. He cleanly penetrated to the rim before Marc Gasol came over to help, leaving the lane open for Pau Gasol for a layup and 3-point play.

Then Rose beat Mike Conley off the dribble for an easy layup before following it up with a steal off Conley and another layup. By the end of the third, the Bulls held the Grizzlies to just 13 points and only needed to actually finish the ballgame in the way they didn’t finish the first half.

“I think our leadership came from the right people,” said Joakim Noah, who had six rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes.

Pau Gasol didn’t do much scoring but he didn’t force his offense, becoming the 10th Bull to make a field goal early in the third quarter and his 3-point play with a little over three minutes left gave the Bulls an 11-point lead he played solid defense on his brother, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, to just eight points. Wings Courtney Lee and Jeff Green, who seemed to be more featured than Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph as Randolph comes off the bench for a smaller starting unit, could only keep up for so long.

Lee went scoreless in the fourth to finish with 18, and Rose did a good job defending Conley, holding the cagey guard to just eight points on 3 of 13 shooting.

The Bulls are struggling to find an identity while winning but for this night, the identity revealed itself—and the Bulls shouldn’t run from it.

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.