Bulls

Mixed results in Rose's return

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Mixed results in Rose's return

NEW YORKJudging from his point total in Sunday afternoons loss to the Knicks, Derrick Rose was not only back in the Bulls lineup, but back to his old ways.

However, the box score, which reflected his struggles shooting and handling the ball told a different story.

Now, Rose clearly got more comfortable as the game went on, but while there were flashes of his explosiveness, he didnt display his trademark burst on a regular basis and his turnover issues showed a lack of timing. More significantly, his problems late in the game at the free-throw line which famously plagued him in a late-January loss at Miami, not to mention in the NCAA national-championship game as a freshman in college reared its ugly head.

Free throws, turnovers. Thats the reason why we lost this game. I had a lot of turnovers, just getting back into rhythm. Its just one of those games at the end, missed those free throws. Hopefully next time, if I get the opportunity, Im going to knock them down, a dejected Rose said afterwards. I told them if I was out there and we needed to win the game, I wanted to be in the game and he put me in. I missed those damn free throws and next time, I know Ill for sure hit one of them.

Both Rose and All-Star teammate Luol Deng came up short at the charity stripe with the Bulls needing just one foul shot to make it a two-possession game, resulting in Knicks star Carmelo Anthony hitting a game-tying three-pointer to send the contest into overtime, following Rose missing a game-winning shot attempt at the buzzer. In the extra session, Rose came up short on another opportunity to win the game at the buzzer.

Step-back. Shot a little bit too hard. I think it was on target, but it just went over the rim a little bit too hard and I can live with that. My teammates gave me the ball, they have confidence in me to take those type of shots and this time, I just missed it, he recounted. They swarmed me and I just got the shot off, but it didnt go in.

I just fell into him. I was trying to come off, he was playing me hard, he tripped and I tripped over him. I looked up, the ball was in, just ran to the ball, he continued, when asked about the games final play, on which he initially stumbled when tangled up with a Knicks defender. Oh, its tough. Its definitely tough. When you lose a game, especially for us, its tough. Its going to hurt us, no matter who we lose to. But their team played great, man. Knocking down shots, didnt give up when we went up, had a big lead.

On the bright side, Rose said that he didnt feel any negative aftereffects following the game and understands where he can improve.

I was trying to do too much. Try to let the game come to me. My teammates did a great job of getting us back into the game and second half, I was trying to play a little bit more aggressive, he explained. Trying to take off too fast, ball behind me or trying to be aggressive going to the hole and not cuffing the ball like I normally do, but that comes with time and hopefully next time we play them, turnovers will be down.

Just the tempo of the game. I didnt really get to the lane. When I did get to the lane, missing floaters, missing layups. Shots that I normally hit. I just wasnt hitting them today. I know that will come with time, too, the All-Star point guard continued. I feel good. When I was out there, getting my groove back, my wind was OK. Just playing. It just felt good to be out there.

When asked about the strained right groin that kept him out of action since the last Bulls-Knicks matchup in March, Rose said it wasn't on his mind.

I didnt think of it," he said. "Im not worried about that. My thing is, just try to get better. Defensively, we just werent there today and hopefully next time we play them, well come out with a sense of urgency.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, while displeased with his teams mistakes in general, wasnt overly critical of Roses performance in his first game after missing 12 straight.

About what we expected. Some good, some bad. Handling the ball was a problem, but our whole team, we didnt take care of the ball, he said. Overall, I thought he played very well. Down the stretch, there were some bobbles and not clean, but thatll come quickly for him.

He said he was great. Talked to Fred Tedeschi, the teams trainer during the game. Said he was fine, so he was good, he continued. I talked about that playing Rose in the games stretch run with Fred. Because he was feeling fine, that was real good. We had an idea where we wanted the minutes to be.

Added Carlos Boozer: It was great to have him back. He looked great. He played great. He played a lot of minutes for his first game back and played very well, and it was great to see him back out there. Its just good to have No. 1 back in the lineup.

Chimed in Luol Deng: Ive played with Derrick for years now. Thats not really the problem.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."