Steph Curry

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. 

20 crazy (or are they...?) predictions for the NBA season

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USA TODAY

20 crazy (or are they...?) predictions for the NBA season

1. The Golden State Warriors will be better than ever this season and will repeat as NBA champions...but will have big time bumps on the road in the Western Conference.

2. Kevin Durant will be better and win his second Most Valuable Player award, even though Steph Curry is still the arbiter for Golden State’s culture.

3. LeBron James will add to his resume as being one of the top five players ever, if not higher, but won’t catch Michael Jordan for total MVPs (five)...

4. ...and Cleveland had better enjoy him this year, because come July, he’s headed out of Ohio.

5. Speaking of headed out of town, a coach will be fired after a year of leaguewide stability, for an underachieving team in the underachieving Eastern Conference...

6. ...In other words, Fred Hoiberg is safe!

7. The Eastern Conference tank-a-thon will be both ugly and necessary for a couple teams in desperate need of lottery luck, including the Bulls.

8. One of the tank-a-thon teams won’t have the stomach for the losing and will make a panic move, especially when incoming college stars Michael Porter Jr or Marvin Bagley show the slightest signs of struggling.

9. Lonzo Ball will look like a point guard in the mold of Jason Kidd, a guy everyone will flock to play with...and not even LaVar Ball can screw that up.

10. But he’ll try because he won’t shut up...and we’ll never stop listening.

10. Dennis Smith Jr. will be the best incoming rookie, but Ben Simmons will win Rookie of the Year in Philadelphia.

11. Kyrie Irving will formally enter the conversation as one of the league’s best point guards, in part because Brad Stevens will help him become a better facilitator...

12. Irving is (bear with me Chicago’s own Isiah Thomas) the greatest scorer in terms of skill set from the point guard spot in the history of the league

13. For different reasons, Russell Westbrook and James Harden will struggle with their new “helpful” teammates…But will be hell on earth in a seven-game series.

14. Remember this name: Caris Levert from the Brooklyn Nets.

15. Giannis Antetokounmpo was on my top-five MVP ballot last season…he’ll be higher this time around.

16. Jabari Parker will be traded from the Bucks this year, perhaps before he returns from injury…

17. Big names will be on the trading block from the center spot: DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond.

18. Drummond, though, will have a bounceback year in Detroit and improve from the free-throw line.

19. This year will prove the Bulls didn’t get enough in trading Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves (or TimberBulls/TimberTibs)...

20. But Zach LaVine will show he’s more than deserving of a max contract when he returns from injury.