Big Ten

Frustration continues to mount for Bulls

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Frustration continues to mount for Bulls

From hearing how theyre not the same team from the past two seasons without Derrick Rose and the Bench Mob, and no consistency in the principles that put them in title conversations during that stretch, the Bulls' 6-7 start can be summed up in one obvious word -- frustration.

Those issues seemed to all culminate in their 93-92 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, as they watched a 27-point third-quarter lead evaporate courtesy of Milwaukees reserves, who closed the game by outscoring the Bulls 42-12 over the final 14:50 of play.

Im stunned, just on the simple fact that when you have a 27-point lead, and the way that we defend, you never expect a team to make a run like that, especially to play harder than us in the fourth, said Richard Hamilton, who scored a season-high 30 points, also his most as a Bull.

You have a team down, you have to keep them down, he continued. We kind of gave them a little bit of confidence at the end of the third quarter. Once they got rolling, we couldnt stop them.

For two-and-a-half quarters, the Bulls appeared on their way to their 10th straight win over Central Division foes, but whether due to fatigue, lack of focus or a combination of both they fell apart.

We didnt look like the same team, Kirk Hinrich said. It seemed like we just kind of got away from everything we were doing to get the lead. Obviously, youre going to make mistakes out there, but we kind of compounded them, and they capitalized on them."

The rotation has been in question as well as the collective production of the reserve unit and thats sure to continue as no starter played less than 38 minutes in the loss, with Luol Deng playing a game-high 47.

While it is unfair to compare given that statistic, the Bucks reserves outscored the Bulls 56-10.

The loss is the fourth in five games for the Bulls.

While its still early in the season, the standard they have come to expect from themselves makes the way theyre losing the more disappointing.

The loss counts the same as the six that came before it and with 69 games remaining, they wont dwell on this, given coach Thibodeaus penchant on not looking back. But unless they find some answers, more frustrating losses will continue to pile up. Even when they looked their best, it only took a desperate group of reserves to make them look average.

You never have a game won until the final horn goes off, said a frustrated Thibodeau. In this league, if youre not a 48-minute team, youre asking for trouble. As soon as you start feeling good about yourself, youre going to get knocked on your expletive and thats what happened.

You have to play 48 minutes in this league, and we still have a long way to go in that area.

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

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USA TODAY

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

While Saturday's trip to the Twin Cities featured some more of the same for the Fighting Illini, it marked important step in Lovie Smith's rebuilding project.

Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, a Marian Catholic product, saw action for the first time in his collegiate career, Smith busting out a new option at the game's most important position. Thomas threw a nasty pick six, but he did lead Illinois in rushing in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota.

Thomas only made four throws, completing two of them and landing a third in the hands of a Minnesota defender, but his play injected a bit of excitement into what's looking like another dreadful season of Illinois football, with Smith's team falling to 2-5 through the first seven games of his second season at the helm of the program. Thomas mostly starred with his feet Saturday, rushing for a team-high 79 yards in the defeat.

His first appearance came following the first of the Illinois' defense's three takeaways. Thomas ran for a nine-yard gain on his first carry, and the Illini tied the game with a touchdown on the next play. Thomas was interchanged with starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. from there on out.

While the Illini defense kept the Gophers at bay for much of the day thanks to those three takeaways, P.J. Fleck's team had no trouble racking up rushing yardage, finishing with a whopping 292 rushing yards. Minnesota engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter exclusively running the ball to break a 10-all tie and go up 17-10.

Thomas threw a pick six on the very next play from scrimmage, sending the Gophers up 24-10 to effectively seal the deal. George led an Illinois touchdown drive on the next possession, but the Illini couldn't make up the suddenly big gap in the limited amount of time.

Illinois finished with only 282 yards of offense. George was 18-for-23 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ra'Von Bonner carried the ball 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The defeat dropped the Illini to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. One of just two teams without a Big Ten win (Indiana is the other), Illinois faces off against a top-10 Wisconsin team next weekend.

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bobby Portis publicly issued an apology to Nikola Mirotic for the punch that broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion earlier this week.

Portis was suspended eight games by the NBA while Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks after he goes through concussion protocol, following an incident in Tuesday’s practice where the tensions boiled over between the two power forwards.

“I'm wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” said Portis outside the Bulls locker room at the United Center, hours before the home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”

Sticking to clear talking points, repeatedly saying “we were competing” as a way to describe the incident, it was a more toned down version of Portis. Portis is usually colorful and engaging when talking to the media.

Saturday, he was muted, almost robotic in a sense. And he didn’t want to go into the incident in detail, one that many sources have said was instigated by Mirotic as the two were going back and forth physically during several possessions.

The play before, things intensified, causing assistant coach Randy Brown to step in and break things up. The next time downcourt, Mirotic apparently charged at Portis and Portis responded with one punch that sent Mirotic to the floor.

Gently choosing his words, Portis said, “We were competing and kinda went back and forth and things happened.”

When asked if he was shoved, Portis reiterated the two were competing although numerous accounts say Mirotic did push him leading up to the direct incident.

“Yes I was surprised by my own action,” Portis said. “That's not who I was, as I first stated. I'm a competitor at the end of the day but I never meant to hurt my teammate.”

Portis and Mirotic have not yet spoken, although Portis said he’s called and texted Mirotic with no response. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.

“Not concerned with that at this point,” Portis said. “At this point I’m just trying to publicly apologize to Niko and my teammates, and that I’m real sincere about the situation.”

Portis will be allowed to practice during his suspension, having returned Friday and Portis believes things can be mended with he and his teammate.

“Going forward I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I'm pretty sure we can. We just have to repair this relationship.”

Justin Holiday said the issue will have to be addressed head on as opposed to being swept under the rug or letting the element of time naturally heal things. Whether that conversation is initiated by teammates or the coaching staff or front office, as long as both are wearing a Bulls uniform, it will be necessary.

“It hasn’t been arranged, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk it out,” Portis said. “And I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. I’m pretty sure we can get past this.”