Bulls

Rose's buzzer-beating triple gives Bulls 2-1 series lead

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Rose's buzzer-beating triple gives Bulls 2-1 series lead

If you didn’t see the 3-pointer from Derrick Rose flow like a missile into the rim off the glass, the roaring approval of the United Center let you know the Bulls pulled off an improbable win to take a 2-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 99-96 final.

Rose took the inbounds pass with three seconds left and the game tied at 96, caught Tristan Thompson on a switch and sent the Chicago crowd home with something they haven’t seen in ages, as he flipped the narrative on himself and this Bulls team — putting up a 30-point game with one day’s rest, calmly lifting this franchise to within two games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“It was a broken play, I was supposed to get the ball in the corner,” Rose said. “When I ran to the corner I wasn’t open so I ran toward the ball. Mike (Dunleavy) threw me the ball, I drove right.”

Dunleavy’s angle gave him the perfect view, as 47 minutes and 57 seconds came down to three seconds, as the Bulls had to improvise on the broken play to make a way out of no way—especially when they gave themselves a heart attack by not fouling on the previous play.

[SHOP: Buy a Derrick Rose jersey]

After J.R. Smith tied the game with 10 seconds left with a triple off a pass from LeBron James, this one seemed destined for overtime but Rose’s shot into the Chicago sky ended the night in 48 minutes—a hard-fought one that could’ve gone the other way and squandered homecourt advantage the Bulls stole in Game 1.

“In some situations you like to do that and these guys are getting pretty good that if they catch facing the basket and you wrap them up, we actually lost a game like that. But in certain situations we definitely want to foul.”

James struggled again from the field, although his stat line of 27 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds looks great, he had to fight Jimmy Butler for everything, often finding the league’s Most Improved Player making his case for Defensive Player of the Year with the yeoman’s work he did on James.

Butler forced James into seven turnovers, with five steals to go with his 20 points and eight rebounds. Butler's late layup with 33.9 seconds left gave the Bulls a 94-93 lead before he forced James into a missed layup on the ensuing possession.

[WATCH: Rose's game-winning three-pointer over Thompson sends Bulls home winners]

“The two of them in the backcourt played great. We had a lot of guys step up,” Thibodeau said. “(James) reads the game extremely well. He’s seen every possible defense and he shows a lot of patience.”

Taking the all-important swing game lived up to its name, as the momentum swung all night, and kept swinging, even after Pau Gasol exited in the second half due to a left hamstring strain.

James had to make the bulk of offensive decisions because Kyrie Irving was hampered by a right foot injury that limited him to just 11 points and zero assists in 38 minutes. The return of Smith (14 points) after a two-game suspension and Matthew Dellavedova (10 points in 15 minute) helped keep the Cavs from being completely anemic offensively, as they shot 39 percent.

The Bulls fought back from their own ineptitude on offense, shooting 27 percent in the first quarter and 35 for the first half, scratching and clawing behind Rose and bench production from Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson, two of the unsung heroes on the night. Mirotic scored 12 with eight rebounds, giving the Cavaliers fits and forcing them to put James on him while Gibson helped the Bulls to a 54-39 rebounding edge on the glass with nine points and nine boards.

[MORE: Cavs can live with Rose's game-winning shot]

“They played well during the season together,” Thibodeau said. “Niko can space the floor for you. Taj gives you rebounding. They complement each other well.”

The Bulls began to shake out of a slow first half behind Rose as soon as halftime ended. Rose first three possessions, going straight to the basket.

“I just wanted him to read the game,” Thibodeau said. “When he does that, getting it up the floor quickly and getting us to play with pace. That doesn’t mean to the rim all the time but when you generate speed and you get hit, that’s my understanding of how fouls get called. He forced them to make calls tonight.”

Only taking one jumper, Rose’s activity buoyed the Bulls, as he was determined to get to the rim with 10 points in the period, a testy one for both sides as they began to realize neither will back down, leading to some testy exchanges and technical fouls.

But they were lifted early by Joakim Noah’s energy, as he heard the calls for his benching and responded with a fervor only he can bring.

Many presumed Mirotic’s playing time must come at the expense of Joakim Noah’s defensive awareness, but Thibodeau managed to coax the most from both at the same time.

Noah’s activity and Mirotic’s shooting was just what the United Center crowd needed to see—before Rose truly sent them on a high at the buzzer.

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.”

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.