Bulls

Cutler sharp in return from concussion

949009.png

Cutler sharp in return from concussion

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall saw the drive in Jay Cutler earlier this week.
He was fiery, his sense of urgency the most Ive seen all year, Marshall said of the Bears starting quarterback. His ball had a lot of zip on it all week. He wanted it perfect in practice. He was ready to go, he was fired up.
Indeed, after missing last week with a concussion, Cuter was showing the moxie. His passes were sharp, his release quicker as the game continued. And then there was that one big hit, that lick after which you waited to see how long it would take Cutler to get up.
Fortunately, it wasnt long.
And after passing the necessary tests off the field entering Sundays game, Cutler passed them all on it, too, completing 23 of 31 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown in the Bears 28-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
On a day when the Bears needed the best from their quarterback, they got it. Cutler got protection from his offensive line, which took some big injury hits, adjusted when necessary and got the Bears up early. Save one interception a high pass off Brandon Marshalls fingertips that Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield caught Cutler had a strong outing.
He does a great job of controlling the clock, putting us in the right situations, Bears tackle Jonathan Scott said. He made some great audibles when we saw some interesting defensive fronts. I cant say enough. It was just a great performance.
Cutler had to take one big hit on the day, when Minnesotas Jared Allen leveled him from behind near the end of the first half. But Cutler got up without issue. The quarterback had to pass the necessary protocol to be cleared for Sundays game, but Cutler said he wasnt worried.
I felt confident about it, said Cutler, whos now 27-10 in his last 37 starts with the Bears. It was just a matter of going through the motions and talking to the doctors. I had a good week of practice. Guys really had to dial in to mentally prepare.
So did Cutler, which apparently wasnt a problem. It helped that the Bears had a solid run game to compliment, and take pressure off, Cutler. And even on the run...well, Cutlers usually fine there, too.
We had (Cutler) off his mark a few times and he was running around and Jay can make some throws when hes scrambling, Allen said. You just have to get him on the ground.
Fortunately for the Bears, Cutler wasnt on the ground much. He was too busy frustrating the Vikings.
Every team doesnt have a guy like we do at quarterback, Bears coach Lovie Smith said. When plays break down, weve got a guy who can scramble and make a play, can complete any throw you ask him to. And its just the confidence that comes with having your guy, your quarterback. No matter how its looking, guys have confidence that with Jay leading us, we can come back.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

pod.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.