Bulls continue brutally tough homestand with visit from division rival

Bulls continue brutally tough homestand with visit from division rival

After coming oh so close to knocking off one of the better teams in the Western Conference on Wednesday, the Bulls will have to regroup physically and mentally for Friday’s visit from the Indiana Pacers.

Indiana is 5-3 on the young season after beating the Knicks on Wednesday, 107-101. Reserve big man Domantas Sabonis hit all 12 of his field goal attempts on the way to scoring a game high 30 points, while All-Star guard Victor Oladipo scored 11 of his 24 in the 4th quarter.

Oladipo has been battling a case of bronchitis over the last week, but he’s expected to play against the Bulls. After increasing his scoring average by nearly 8 points a game last season, Oladipo has focused on improving his 3 point shooting this year. The former Indiana University star is shooting just over 41% from beyond the arc, while averaging 22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 and a half assists and one and half steals.

Oladipo and Zach LaVine are two of the most explosive shooting guards in the league, so watching that match-up alone should provide plenty of entertainment value.

The Pacers were one of the big surprise teams in the league last season, earning the #5 seed in the East after posting a 48-34 record, and this year they have their eyes on gaining home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

Indiana has a solid starting 5 with Oladipo and veteran point guard Darren Collison in the backcourt, and talented young center Myles Turner, veteran power forward Thaddeus Young and 3 point shooting threat Bojan Bogdanovic up front. GM Kevin Pritchard strengthened the team’s bench by adding Tyreke Evans, Kyle O’Quinn and former Bull Doug McDermott in free agency, but to this point the Pacers are still looking for more consistency at both ends of the court.

The Bulls easily handled Indiana in a preseason game at the United Center, but you can throw that result out now. The Pacers are already looking up at Milwaukee in the Central Division standings and they’ll be focused on taking care of business against the Bulls as they start a weekend back-to-back that includes a home game against Eastern Conference favorite Boston on Saturday.

Here’s what the Bulls have to do for a chance at getting their 3rd win of the season.

1. CONTROL THE BOARDS.  Rebounding continues to be an issue for the Bulls, with Denver’s overtime win on Wednesday the direct result of their work on the offensive glass. Rookie center Wendell Carter Jr. has to keep Turner from getting 2nd chance opportunities for Indiana, while Jabari Parker and Chandler Hutchison need to focus on boxing out the power forward tandem of Young and Sabonis.

2. LIMIT THE “O” FOR OLADIPO.  Oladipo’s improved three point shooting makes him an even tougher cover this season. He loves to push the ball in transition and pull up for threes while the defense is still retreating. Plus, Oladipo is adept at getting to the rim and drawing fouls, so the Bulls’ front court players will need to make the correct reads when Oladipo is on the attack.

3. KNOCK DOWN OPEN 3-POINTERS.  The Bulls’ near upset of Denver on Wednesday was keyed by their 47% shooting from the 3 point line. With Ryan Arcidiacono taking on a bigger role in the half-court offense, the Bulls’ drive and kick game ran at high efficiency against the Nuggets. They’ll need to make upwards of 15 threes for a good chance to beat the Pacers on Friday.

Friday’s game will be NBC Sports Chicago’s first Authentic Fan night of the season at the United Center with special in arena promotions. Also, former Bulls’ star Horace Grant makes his season debut as a guest analyst, joining Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and me for Pre and Post Game coverage from the Atrium.

Bulls Pregame Live gets things started at 6:30, then Neil Funk and Stacey King have the play by play call on NBC Sports Chicago and the MyTeams app at 7. If you’re going to the game, make sure to drop by our set and say hello.

Report: NBA and ESPN planning a televised H-O-R-S-E competition

Report: NBA and ESPN planning a televised H-O-R-S-E competition

The NBA and ESPN are teaming up to plan a televised H-O-R-S-E competition among "several high-profile players," according to reporting by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

It's the latest in a line of creative ideas from the NBA and ESPN to fill the void left by the indefinite suspension of live sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday night, ESPN broadcast the first half of the first round of a players-only NBA 2K20 tournament, to run through April 11.

No details have emerged as it relates to a timeline of events, which players would participate or what the format of the H-O-R-S-E competition would be.

Players would trade trick shots virtually, according to Wojnarowski. Many NBA players undoubtedly have private home gyms or courts from which they could safely compete.

This isn't the first time the NBA has waded into the H-O-R-S-E waters. In 2009 and 2010, H-O-R-S-E was broadcast on TNT as a regular part of All-Star weekend festivities before being cancelled in 2011 (Kevin Durant won the competition both years). And understandably so. This matchup, between Durant and Rajon Rondo, devolved into a standstill 3-point contest narrated by a boisterous Charles Barkley:

That event was a reclamation of a 32-player H-O-R-S-E tournament the league broadcast on CBS during the 1977-78 season, which Paul Westphal won over Rick Barry. Barry made the finals as a replacement for an injured Pete Maravich, who absolutely trounced his way through the tourney. 

At least there was some creativity back then:

Of course, all of the league's past H-O-R-S-E experiments were held in person with fans in attendance. It remains to be seen how they'll look to spice up this iteration of the competition.

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Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan highlight decorated Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan highlight decorated Hall of Fame class

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced its official Class of 2020 on Saturday. And my word is it stacked:

Headlined by Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, this is one of the most star-studded classes in history. Also set to be honored: 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings, three-time NCAA-champion coach Kim Mulkey, five-time Division II National Coach of the Year Barbara Stevens, four-time National Coach of the Year Eddie Sutton, two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich and longtime FIBA executive Patrick Baumann.

There are some Chicago ties in here, too. Garnett famously spent a year of his high school career at Farragut Career Academy on the West Side of Chicago, receiving McDonald's All-American and national player of the year honors in 1995. Catchings won an IHSA Division AA state title as a freshman and Ms. Illinois Basketball as a sophomore in a stint at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire before embarking on her illustrious college and WNBA career.

And Tomjanovich, of course, coached the Houston Rockets teams that won the only two non-Bulls titles from 1991-1998 — teams that current Bulls coach Jim Boylen served as an assistant with

As of this writing, the Class of 2020 is set to be officially enshrined in Springfield, Mass., on Aug. 29.

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