Toothless, lifeless Bulls dominated by Pacers

Toothless, lifeless Bulls dominated by Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS — The Bulls had the look of confusion on defense, again.

They failed to get back after misses and allowed wide-open 3-point shots, again.

Too many times they tried getting in the passing lane and compromised their defense for guard penetration or easy opportunities, again.

So it should be no surprise, again, to see the Bulls lose their third straight game, this time at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, a team they beat at home one week ago by a decisive margin.

The payback was served cold at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a 111-94 Pacers win, making it three straight defeats for the Bulls, bringing them back to a .500 mark after they were one of the biggest surprises in the NBA with a 3-0 mark.

Not even Paul George’s ejection late in the third quarter would be nearly enough to spark a team playing in quicksand on the second day of a back-to-back, coming off the heels of Friday’s emotion-filled loss to the New York Knicks.

“I thought tonight we looked like a tired basketball team right out of the gate,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They opened up with a 16-point lead and that’s a tough hole to dig yourself out of.”

George lightly booted a ball into the stands after being called for a foul against Jimmy Butler near the basket stanchion. The ball found its way to the face of an unsuspecting fan with less than two minutes left in the third quarter with George immediately walking over to the fan to apologize. The two hugged and exchanged pleasantries but the damage was done as the officials sent George to the locker room with two technical fouls.

[RELATED: All-Star Paul George ejected against Bulls for kicking ball and hitting fan]

Before that even took place, Saturday looked like an instant replay of Friday in terms of the slow start. The turnovers piled up along with the defensive miscues that are either gameplan mistakes or a matter of effort, although it’s probably more of the former than latter.

Switching on defense seems to throw them out of whack, leading to too many opportunities for other teams to exploit. The Pacers racked up 31 points and had a 17-point lead as they shot 58 percent.

“I think we do. Some guys switch who aren’t supposed to switch,” Butler said. “That’s not in the gameplan, I can tell you that. I know who’s supposed to switching and who’s not supposed to be switching.”

A bigger issue has been the lack of execution on offense, which could possibly lead to the ineffectiveness on the other end. In the first three games, the Bulls jumped on their opponents early. Now, the tables have turned and it puts the responsibility squarely on the starters.

“We do have to play better, start better,” said Dwyane Wade, who missed his first eight shots after a 35-point night Friday. “The starters have to do a better job, the onus is on us individually. Once you get down like that versus teams in this league, it’s hard. You give guys confidence and it’s a wrap.”

Wade finished with four points in 21 minutes. Butler and Bobby Portis scored 16 each, although Portis’ production came essentially in garbage time.

Butler believes he has to take more of an aggressive role to prevent the Bulls from taking the first punch. He had his hands full with George, who made all four of his shots in the first for 10 points — most of them in transition.

“It comes to me leading the charge when it comes to coming out with the right energy, making sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do on both ends,” Butler said. “I can’t come out lackadaisical.

“I don’t think I’ve started out as aggressive as I should. I should be the most aggressive one coming out the gate. That’s what I was the first two games.”

The damage was done with the Bulls playing catch up the rest of the way, not making the Pacers sweat even when George was tossed after scoring 13. And the player who took his place on the floor continued having a banner night. CJ Miles hit a couple more triples before the end of the quarter, and hit a couple more for good measure, giving himself 20 points on the night.

Second-year center Myles Turner scored 16 and former Bull Aaron Brooks scored 10 off the bench.

“It starts with turning the ball over,” Hoiberg said. “It’s going out there and imposing your will as that ball is thrown up for the opening tip and we’re obviously capable of doing it.”

Jeff Teague had a miserable night when the two met a week ago, and he made up for it in spades, dominating his matchup with Rajon Rondo. Teague helped control the pace, as the Pacers hit 11 triples and shot over 50 percent for the entire night.

The ball movement wasn’t as prevalent as even Friday night against the Knicks, as the turnovers kept coming from everywhere and the smoothness with which the Bulls played has disappeared.

“It’s kind of what happens when you get down, it’s a will game that we play,” Wade said. “It’s the nature of us, to will it. When you’re moving the ball it becomes contagious and when you’re down early on, you wanna make the play instead of trusting the game. We’re all guilty of that, not just this team but other teams I’ve been on. The ball stops. The blueprint’s there, we just gotta get to it.”

In the first 10 minutes of the game, the Bulls committed seven turnovers and were never really competitive throughout, missing on defensive gambles and showing very little in the way of actual fundamentals.

If last Saturday was the best played game of the Fred Hoiberg era, chalk this one up amongst the look of last season as the Bulls go back to the drawing board, back at .500.

Is Steve Kerr trolling the Bulls?


Is Steve Kerr trolling the Bulls?

With Kevin Durant (ankle) and Draymond Green (rest) out, the Golden State Warriors had two starting forward positions open for Friday's game against the Bulls.

One of the two starters replacing them? Jordan Bell. Does his name ring one, too?

Selected by the Bulls with the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Bell was eventually traded to the Warriors in exchange for cash considerations.

The Oregon product hasn't played much this season for the defending champs, averaging just 3.2 points and 8.3 minutes in 12 games, but he will make his first career start against ... his "former" team. Coincidence?

Warriors coach Steve Kerr (jokingly) explains why he's giving the 22-year-old rookie the nod in the lineup.

Prior to the game, Bell also had this to say about his trade:

Buckle up, Bulls fans. Lauri Markkanen vs. Jordan Bell Part II is coming your way too.

Could star-crossed Derrick Rose be ready to call it quits?


Could star-crossed Derrick Rose be ready to call it quits?

I'll never forget watching the reaction of Derrick Rose after he found out his hometown Bulls had won the rights to draft first overall in the 2008 lottery. Rose was smiling from ear to ear as he imagined the possibilities of leading the team he rooted for growing up back to greatness. And, the fact the Bulls faced such long odds to win the top pick made the news even sweeter for the soft-spoken teenager from Simeon high school.

Rose took the NBA by storm, turning in the kind of highlight reel plays Bulls fans hadn't seen since the Jordan era. He was named Rookie of the Year and matched a record set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by scoring 36 points in his very first playoff game against the Celtics. The future couldn't look brighter for Chicago's hometown hero.

Rose really took off in his first season playing for Tom Thibodeau, averaging 25 points a game while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62-20 record, in the process becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history. The Bulls lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it appeared only a matter of time before Rose brought NBA championship to the city of Chicago.

But then came that fateful Saturday afternoon in April of 2012 when Rose ruptured his left ACL playing the meaningless final minutes of the Bulls' playoff opening win over Philadelphia. The Bulls would go on to lose that series while Rose headed off to a long and frightening rehab. The wunderkind suddenly robbed of his amazing gifts with one fateful misstep.

Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season, drawing criticism from many fans and some media members who expected Rose to return after the mid-season All-Star break. Eleven games into the 2013-14 season, Rose was hurt again, this time with a season-ending right meniscus tear. Forget the flashy Adidas marketing campaign about Rose coming back better than ever, we would never see the explosive league MVP again.

Only Rose, his family and his trusted friends know the extent of the frustration that Derrick went through as he tried to prove to all the doubters he could still be one of the league's best players. Rose grew more combative with the media when questioned about trying to reshape his game given the new physical limitations. He would have one more knee surgery while a member of the Bulls, missing about six weeks in the 2014-15 season following another right meniscus tear.

Rose had one more heroic moment in a Bulls' uniform, banking in a three-point heave to give the Bulls a 2-1 series lead over LeBron James and the Cavs in the 2015 playoffs, but Cleveland would go on to sweep the next three games of the series, ending Rose's last chance to lead his hometown team to a championship.

Rose was traded to the Knicks in June of 2016 after the Bulls failed to make the playoffs, but after having a productive 2016-17 campaign in New York, Rose would suffer yet another knee injury, leading to another summer of rehab and doubt.

After talking openly with reporters about getting a shot at signing another max contract in September of 2015, two years before he would hit free agency, Rose could only land a veteran's minimum deal to hop on board with LeBron and the Cavs this season. He played fairly well in seven games, averaging 14.3 points on 47 percent shooting from the field, but then an injury sidelined him again, this time an ankle sprain.

Which brings us to Friday's bombshell that Rose was leaving the team to "re-evaluate his future in the NBA." Would the self-described "hooper" actually pull the plug on his NBA career at the age of 29? It seems like all the years of injuries, rehab and reduced effectiveness have taken a substantial physical and emotional toll.

In Rose's mind, he's still one of the league's elite players and should be held in the same regard as LeBron, KD, Steph, Russ and James Harden. Problem is, his body has already betrayed him, and the stat sheets that continually show more turnovers than assists are becoming too difficult to ignore.

Maybe some time away from the daily grind will convince Derrick he still loves the game and wants to get back with the Cavs to play whatever role is needed for a team with an excellent chance to get back to the Finals next June. Or maybe being with his son and family members during the holiday season will convince him that the cycle of injury and rehab is something he just doesn't want to endure anymore, even at the price of giving up the $80 million remaining on his shoe contract with Adidas.

Cavs coach Ty Lue says he's confident Rose will return to the team after some time away, and LeBron has been vocal in his support of Rose trying to re-establish his identity with a championship contender. My best guess is Rose will play again for the Cavs this season, but whether he wants to continue down the road of many injured stars, moving from city to city on minimum contracts, just might not be worth it anymore.