Bulls

Andy Reid: One step closer to unemployment?

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Andy Reid: One step closer to unemployment?

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Now the Cincinnati Bengals can focus on that other Pennsylvania team.Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score, an opportunistic defense forced five turnovers and Cincinnati beat the Philadelphia Eagles 34-13 on Thursday night.The Bengals (8-6) took a half-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last playoff spot in the AFC. But their game at Pittsburgh next week is far more important in the standings than this one."We've got nothing to celebrate here," coach Marvin Lewis said. "But we won and we do have some time to get ready for Pittsburgh."The Bengals would clinch their second straight playoff berth with a win over the Steelers if Pittsburgh loses at Dallas this Sunday. A loss to the Steelers, though, likely would ruin Cincinnati's chances because it would lose the tiebreaker."Our goal is to win games. Period. We did that. Doesn't matter how we got there," cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones said. "We can be better. We can be higher. And that's what we take from this game. Listen, we all know we need to play better as a defense next week. Because we have ourselves a big one next week."The Eagles' season was lost a long time ago. They fell to 4-10, losing double-digit games for the first time since 2005, the year after losing the Super Bowl to New England.There were plenty of empty seats at the Linc, where fans are hoping this is Andy Reid's final season as coach. Reid led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, six division titles and five NFC championship games in his first 13 years. But the Eagles will miss the playoffs for the second straight year and owner Jeffrey Lurie already said 8-8 would be "unacceptable.""Five turnovers, 31 points. That says it all," Reid said. "Guys played hard, but you can't have those turnovers. You have to take care of the ball. Guys have to do it. I take full responsibility for them."An interception by Leon Hall set up Dalton's go-ahead 11-yard TD run in the third quarter. Then Wallace Gilberry picked up Bryce Brown's fumble and ran it back 25 yards for another score and an 11-point lead.BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 106 yards, including a 1-yard TD run in the first quarter for Cincinnati. Dalton tossed a 5-yard TD pass to A.J. Green in the fourth to cap a 24-point outburst in a span of 3:23."We realize what's at stake here, and we know we needed to put some football plays together," Lewis said. "We put ourselves at risk tonight, but we made plays when we needed to. We were able to get some things going with the turnovers and that definitely helped. We redirected some things at halftime and got everyone on the same page."The Eagles committed three turnovers on three straight possessions at one point and then fumbled a kickoff when defensive lineman Cedric Thornton let the ball fall through his hands on a short kick.After beating Tampa Bay on a last-second TD last week to snap an eight-game losing streak, the Eagles tried to make it two in a row. Turnovers got in their way again. They've committed an NFL-high 34 and forced just 12 all season.The Eagles snapped a drought of 22 quarters without a turnover by recovering two fumbles in the second. Both led to field goals by Alex Henery, helping Philadelphia to a 13-10 halftime lead.Rookie Nick Foles made his fifth straight start for Michael Vick, who just returned to practice this week after sustaining a concussion on Nov. 11. Foles threw for 182 yards, one TD and one interception.Down 13-10, the Bengals started their rally with a turnover.Hall intercepted Foles' deep pass and returned it 44 yards to the Eagles 40. Foles underthrew Jeremy Maclin, who was a few steps behind Hall."I feel really good anytime I have one of our receivers vertical on a guy," Foles said. "I just have to get the ball out there and make a better throw."Green made an acrobatic catch for an 11-yard gain on third-and-9 a few plays before Dalton ran for the score to put the Bengals up 17-13.Foles, who threw for 381 yards to lead that comeback against the Bucs, hit Riley Cooper on an 11-yard TD pass to cut it to 10-7. Foles connected with Maclin on a 46-yard pass during the drive.The Eagles then forced their first turnover since Nov. 5 against New Orleans. Brandon Graham sacked Dalton, the ball popped loose and Trent Cole recovered at the Bengals 29."We win as a team, we lose as a team," said Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who replaced Juan Castillo after six games. "We lost as a team today."Just two plays in, Maclin fumbled after a 6-yard catch. Carlos Dunlap recovered and the Bengals started at the Eagles 44. Green-Ellis ran 29 yards on first down and scored a few plays later for a 7-0 lead.It got uglier for Philadelphia on the next possession. Mat McBriar punted into his own blocker, Daniel Herron picked it up and ran 3 yards to the Eagles 11. But Graham sacked Dalton and Cincinnati settled for Brown's 24-yard field goal that made it 10-0.The Eagles were again without running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Brent Celek also sat out. Both players also are recovering from concussions. McCoy missed his fourth straight game, but returned to practice this week with Vick.NOTES:Green-Ellis surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for second time in his career. He did it with New England in 2010. ... The Eagles had a season-high six sacks. They have eight in two games since defensive line coach Jim Washburn was fired, and had 20 in first 12 games. ... Bowles confirmed he interviewed for the coaching vacancy at Temple, his alma mater.

Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen fail to produce in crunch time for Bulls

Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen fail to produce in crunch time for Bulls

Coby White’s second straight 3-pointer splashed through the net — a three that, combined with a Ryan Arcidiacono long-ball, capped a 9-0 run to give the Bulls a one-point lead over the Bucks with 6 minutes, 23 seconds to play.

For the second time in five days, the Bulls had an opportunity to knock off the Bucks, an Eastern Conference champion contender.

Then, reality hit. Or the starters returned. At this point, that’s one and the same.

Here’s all you need to know about where the Bulls’ rebuild stands as 'Year Three' fell to a 4-10 start following the Bucks’ 115-101 victory: Coach Jim Boylen admitted he considered riding a bench unit down the stretch over one that featured Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.

“They have a guy that they can go to that can get them a bucket, which is what good teams have,” Boylen said, referring to the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo. “I’ve been on those teams. We’re figuring out who that guy is and we’re learning to play that way. We’re not there yet.”

Boylen then supported his beleaguered core players, because that’s what he’s paid to do. But the sobering reality of the Bulls’ current fortunes didn’t just play out in LaVine’s stat line of 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting, or Markkanen’s 9 points on 2-for-12.

It played out when Boylen indeed returned to LaVine and Markkanen with 5:04 remaining, and the Bucks leading 103-99. From that point, the Bulls didn’t score another field goal.

Markkanen sank two free throws but missed a driving layup and 13-foot jumper. LaVine committed a turnover, missed a layup and a 3-pointer.

Game, set and match.

“They got the MVP over there. He did his thing. And we didn’t,” LaVine said. “It’s going to be tough when your leading players, me and Lauri, don’t perform at our level. You can understand that. You’re missing a lot of points and a lot of plays. We understand we have to pick it up.”

What’s that they say? Recognition is the first step towards recovery. The Bulls have to hope so, especially after Markkanen admitted his slump is affecting him mentally.

“It’s frustrating knowing I’ve never had this kind of stretch of not even not hitting 3s but missing layups and dunks,” he said. “I have to keep my head up knowing that you work too hard for this not to turn around. Keep working and I know it’s going to turn around.

“I noticed myself kind of thinking too much at the half. I tried to switch it up and make the plays for the team. That’s how you get out of your own head. I have to stay aggressive. Create contact and then finish every shot. Not getting out of it too early or anything like that. I’ve done my film study. Put the work in and I know it’s going to turn around.”

At one point, Markkanen actually missed two dunk attempts on the same possession. Following the second, he rolled his eyes toward the United Center roof as if to say, 'What’s next?'

Markkanen is shooting 36.2 percent overall and 26.8 percent from 3-point range. He missed all four three-pointers he attempted versus the Bucks.

“Just try to get an easy bucket and lay it in. But having two 7-footers there, I know it’s going to be blocked so I tried to go up quick and end up missing it,” Markkanen said of the dunk sequence. “It was frustrating. I know I can play better. It’s not going to be like this forever. I don’t know what else to say.”

Antetokounmpo made 13 field goals, equaling the total of five Bulls starters. How do you say 'ouch' in Greek?

“What I’m going to do is I’m going to support those two guys. I’m going to coach them like I always have. I’m going to show it to them on film and we’re going to work on it in practice. We’re going to get them to understand that we believe in them, we value them and that we need to do better,” Boylen said. “It’s all part of this process. We’re slugging uphill right now. We gotta keep slugging. That’s all I can say.”

Boylen said he returned to LaVine and Markkanen because he still believes in them. He has to say that and he has to believe that. The rebuild is structured for them to shine.

It’s not currently happening.

“I’m still developing two young guys,” Boylen said. “Zach missed a year-and-a-half. Lauri was hurt last year. He has basically played two years. I’m going to keep developing them to come in and learn how to win games. I believe in both of them. I believe they’re important to what we’re doing.”

Raising LaVine’s absence to an ACL injury and subsequent rehab is a curious approach from Boylen given that LaVine has been fully healthy and rehabbed for quite some time. But again, he has been placed in a position where he has to protect their play and lack of production in big moments.

The Bulls are a long way away from respectability at this point.

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Three observations: Bulls come up short against Bucks — again

Three observations: Bulls come up short against Bucks — again

For the second time in less than a week, the Bulls played the Bucks close, but came up just short — this time falling 115-101 at the United Center. Three observations from a soul-crushing loss:

Daniel Gafford: Free man

If I dumped all the expletives I have written in my notebook about Daniel Gafford from this game, you’d never read another article under this byline.

So, while I catch my breath, here are the hits:

 

 

 

Gafford ended the game a -4 in 20 minutes, but it’s hard to overstate the impact he had on a particularly electric Bulls bench in this one. He was every bit the gumptious, brick-bodied big that Jim Boylen billed him as, and so much more. Every second without the ball in his hands on offense, his feet were moving — setting screens and leveraging rebounding position. In the air, every shot, pass or lob within five feet of him seemed to find his hands, and then — rather violently — the bottom of the net.

At one point, en route to his team-leading 16 first-half points, a fan behind me exclaimed: “Him and Giannis are going at it!” In reference to… Daniel Gafford. What a night.

Gafford ended his stellar breakout performance with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and approximately 2.716 million hearts stolen, on 10-of-12 shooting.

The three-guard lineup provides a spark

At the very beginning of the season, Boylen’s utilizing of a three-guard lineup (Kris Dunn-Coby White-Ryan Arcidiacono) was widely panned. Tonight, that group — with contributions from Thaddeus Young and a combination of Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford at the center spot — proved their mettle. 

In the first half, that lineup catalyzed a 20-8 run that pulled the Bulls from down nine with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter to up two with 8:05 to go in the second. In the fourth quarter, a torrid stretch by Arcidiacono and White vaulted the Bulls from down 98-90 to up 99-98 in a matter of 66 seconds, sending the UC in a frenzy not seen in quite a while.

The Bucks pulled away from that point on, but this lineup showed something tonight — so much so that Boylen closed with White and Arcidiacono both on the floor along with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. (Stunningly absent was Tomas Satoransky, who logged only 18 minutes tonight after coming out of the gate aggressive, offensively.)

Arcidiacono was on every loose ball in sight. White was a blur in transition and coming off screens and dribble handoffs. Combined, they shot 7-of-11 from long distance. Maybe Boylen is on to something.

Bulls melt down the stretch

The Bucks finished the game on a 17-2 run after that aforementioned White-Arcidiacono blitz. For most of the game, the Bulls were able to hang around despite being out-shot from three and on the wrong end of a 35-14 free throw disparity, but their energy waned late in the game. Despite miraculously out-rebounding the Bucks 50-48, out-scoring them in the paint 50-46 and competing defensively throughout, the Bulls couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch (they failed to score a field goal in the final six minutes), and it ultimately cost them.

The blame is shared in this one. Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine combined to shoot 6-of-28 from the floor (only 0-of-4 in the fourth) and were largely outplayed by the bench unit. 

In a performance reminiscent of last Thursday’s in Milwaukee, the Bulls appeared to everything necessary to win on Monday. But they didn’t. Now, with a record of 4-10, the heat is on.

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