Klay Thompson

Observations from Bulls' blowout loss to Warriors: Curry, Bell, records and a road-weary Markkanen

Observations from Bulls' blowout loss to Warriors: Curry, Bell, records and a road-weary Markkanen

Don’t tug on Curry’s cape: There’s an old saying in the NBA: “Send a limo for (insert player here) to the game tonight. I want to make sure he arrives safely.”

Translation: I’m gonna light him up tonight.

That’s what two-time MVP Stephen Curry did to Kris Dunn in the second quarter Friday, when a slim lead turned into a huge, expected deficit for the Bulls. Curry scored 26 of his game-high 33 points in the quarter, complete with heat checks and celebratory struts that have become commonplace with Curry’s performances.

Whether it was backdoor layups or 30-footers, Curry made Oracle Arena his playground—and Dunn his victim in what could best be described as an old-school baptism Dunn isn’t sure to forget.

Dunn likely set off Curry’s ire with Curry drawing two quick fouls in the first quarter and some aggressive physical defense that is traditionally the book on Curry, if there is such a book.

But when Curry returned in the second quarter, he took advantage of the ultimate green light as All-Star teammates Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were out. He performed his theatrics with relative ease, hitting four of 11 triples and shooting 10 of 18 overall in just 27 minutes of work.

It wasn’t just Curry, as Klay Thompson was even more efficient, scoring 29 on 12 of 17 shootng and hitting five of his nine triples. Nick Young was seven of 12 in 19 minutes for 17 points as the Warriors shot 58 percent and committed just 11 turnovers.

Curry, who can give them away at times, only had two turnovers and it helped lead to an easy win.

“You try to make it a little more difficult,” Dunn said. “He’s a phenomenal shooter, everybody knows that. Once he gets on a roll like that it’s hard but you’ve just got to make it difficult for him.”

Had it been necessary, Curry could’ve gone for a 60-point performance, having 31 at the half. Dunn, enduring a night he won’t sure forget, scored six points with four assists on two of 11 shooting in 25 minutes.

“The turnovers, the lack of awareness,” Hoiberg said. “It is hopefully something he’ll grow from and learn from and find a way to fight through when he’s not playing well. Absolutely. You learn form the good things, learn from the bad things. There’s plenty of bad we can learn from tonight.”

The great ones go through baptisms, especially the point guards considering they’re on an island in this talent-rich stretch of the NBA. Dunn has a chance to be special on defense as he progresses through the years, but if Friday was any lesson, being able to give it back is probably the best remedy—because just taking his medicine can’t feel good.

The Bell rung

Whether it was a bored championship team finding an easy way to motivate itself or wanting to troll the Bulls for sport, the Warriors found an easy storyline to exploit in the insertion of rookie Jordan Bell.

It’s easy to remember the Bulls drafted Bell in the second round for the Warriors in exchange for $3.5 million to go into the Bulls coffers the night they decided to go with a full-scale rebuild.

Bell was rewarded with a start after inconsistent playing time in the absence of Green and made his presence felt from the moment his name was called in the introductions, with a “money sign” as a way to remind the team that drafted him of what it was missing.

"I just wanted to see how cash considerations was playing over there,” he said after the game.

He then proceeded to give the Bulls nightmares all over the floor with his athleticism and shot-blocking, swatting away six shots—including a chasedown block of Denzel Valentine everyone in Oracle Arena could see coming from the moment Valentine started his ground-bound trot downcourt.

It was likely something he’d been envisioning since Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Bell he would be starting two days ago.

“At first I was thinking of things to troll the other team but as I got closer to the game, I was like let me focus on the game,” Bell said. “Then when I saw we won the game, I started trolling a little bit.”

Before the trolling, there was the teasing in the form of production. The eye-popping alley-oop from Zaza Pachulia and even the wild play of fouling Justin Holiday on a corner jumper that almost looked violent.

He was clearly pumped for the opportunity to play against a team that didn’t give him a second thought and his veteran teammates took every opportunity to press his buttons.

“I remember Klay said something, like they don’t want you JB,” he said. “Everybody kept reminding me of it today.”

And it will be a topic of conversation for the immediate future, especially as the Bulls are in the search for young, athletic talent they can build around.

One for the books

The 49-point drubbing was third-worst in franchise history and the Bulls are now the owners of the NBA’s worst record at 3-14, along with having the worst point differential at -12.9 points per game.

The second and third quarters were embarrassing, as the Warriors outscored the Bulls 81-34 in easy fashion. Usually in those occurrences, Hoiberg will make an opening statement to the media about the effort lacking before taking questions.

Friday was no different.

“From Day 1, going back into September, the biggest thing we talked about as a team was fighting through the tough times, handling adversity. Well…we went out and had a great start. Actually had a lead after the first quarter. They go on a run and we’ve seen this before, we put our heads down, we don’t’ fight through it, we start separating and lose trust in each other. That can’t continue to happen. We gotta find a way to battle through the tough times. Quit putting our heads down, find a way to toughen up and stay in the game.”

Hoiberg was asked what kind of effect this can have on a team if these type of beatdowns continue and he didn’t mince words—a shift of sorts from his usual straight-faced demeanor.

“Tonight, they got it going, we didn’t handle it well,” he said. “We stopped getting back. They were getting whatever they wanted. You’ve got to find a way to fight through that. If we don’t learn that soon, we’re going to keep getting our asses kicked.”

Robin Lopez said it’s a collective issue and one that needs to be fixed. Perhaps in a clear moment of self-awareness, Dunn said he can see when the Bulls stop competing.

“You can definitely see it. I think it’s the youth,” Dunn said. “We’re not used to that. In the NBA, people can put up points very quickly. It comes with the territory.”

He’s still a rookie, folks

Lauri Markkanen showed some signs of the west-coast swing getting to him in the fatigue department, struggling in his third straight game Friday.

The Bulls have made it a priority to get Markkanen better shots and cleaner opportunities but they were in short order as he was four of 16 from the field in 27 minutes.

There wasn’t much quality to go around anyways as the Bulls shot 35 percent and fell behind by as many as 49. After scoring 26 with 13 rebounds against Phoenix last Sunday, he’s averaged 10 points on nine of 42 shooting (21 percent).

“Today they didn’t fall in the second half—actually, in the first half either,” Markkanen said. “I’ve just got to work more. I’ve had a couple nights now where I don’t make shots. But I did have good looks, though, they just didn’t fall tonight.”

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Warriors defense. Even though Draymond Green and Kevin Durant will sit tonight, the Warriors defense has more than enough to challenge the prized rookie. The Dubs' team defense is among the best in the NBA, thanks to their physicality, attention to detail and speed. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

Undefeated postseason gone, Warriors now in familiar position

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AP

Undefeated postseason gone, Warriors now in familiar position

CLEVELAND — A long, long time ago Indiana Jones was always griping about snakes.

Snakes. Why did it always have to be snakes?

After Friday night’s loss in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Warriors fans know the same feeling all too well after missing out on a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

As in, 3-1, why did it have to be a 3-1 series lead?

On the verge of being spared from reliving the torment that was the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors failed to close out the annual showdown with LeBron James in tidy fashion. Instead, they had their doors blown off as the Cavaliers rolled to a 137-116 victory in front of a raucous crowd.

The Warriors still have three more chances to complete their championship quest against the Cavaliers, including two at Oracle Arena.

But make no mistake — Warriors fans wanted this one over and they wanted it now.

They wanted to avoid what comes with this loss, the nonstop razzing associated with the possibility of blowing yet another 3-1 series lead.

Instead, they’ll be subjected to three days’ worth of internet memes, jokes and GIFs about how the 2016 team collapsed and blew a 3-1 lead despite the presence of unanimous MVP Steph Curry.

Oh, the horror. 

Look, this isn’t the same scenario as last June.

It’s not even close.

Curry clearly wasn’t himself last postseason after he suffered an MCL sprain in Game 4 of a first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. After a four-game absence, Curry returned to the court. But he never appeared to have the same explosiveness the rest of the way and it was never more evident than in the final minutes of their back-breaking Game 7 loss to the Cavs. Curry is the antithesis of that guy this postseason as he’s slicing and dicing his way across the court once again, leaving opponents in his wake.

Then there’s the little matter of Kevin Durant playing in the same role previously held by Harrison Barnes. This is the very reason Durant spurned Oklahoma City last offseason and joined the Warriors, to offer an-already outstanding offense yet another unstoppable force and putting the final piece for a dynasty in place.

Durant has already proven to be the kind of difference-maker in the series that Barnes wasn’t ready to be in 2016. The 2013-14 MVP did irreparable damage to the Cavaliers’ chances in the final two minutes of the Warriors’ stunning Game 3 comeback victory on Wednesday night. Unlike Barnes, who was allowed to shoot from the outside at will during the 2016 NBA Finals, Durant requires a minimum of one defender in his face at all times. He gives the Warriors an overwhelming additional boost they need and they’ve responded so far with one of the most dominant postseason performances of all time. The Warriors have looked unstoppable throughout the playoffs aside from being dominated by San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard in the first half of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

But that’s where this all bogs down.

Until Friday, the Warriors were on the verge of becoming the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in the postseason. Fans had yet to experience any emotion except for the joyful bliss of victory.

Adversity has been scarce.

And now it has come hissing back in the worst possible way.

The Cavs brought an intensity unlike any they’d put forth in the series so far but eerily reminiscent of last year’s comeback. They made an NBA Finals-record 24 3-pointers and got 71 combined points from Kyrie Irving (40 points) and James.

If that weren’t enough, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green looked out of sorts in a disjointed game marred by foul calls.

The trio combined for 43 points on 14-of-40 shooting.

Sure, no NBA team that has ever faced a 3-0 deficit in the Finals has come back to win the series. But this is almost exactly the same Cavs team that slithered its way back from a 3-1 deficit last year to stun everyone and send the Warriors home empty-handed.

Then came the clever memes. And the GIFs. And every terrible joke in the book.

Your friends reminded you every step of the way, kind of like falling into a snake pit.