Bulls

LeBron James briefly strolls memory lane but focuses on forming chemistry with Anthony Davis

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USA Today

LeBron James briefly strolls memory lane but focuses on forming chemistry with Anthony Davis

LeBron James’ first United Center appearance came on March 31, 2003 in the EA Sports Roundball Classic, a high school All-Star game.

“My (St. Vincent-St. Mary) head coach Dru Joyce was the head coach of the team and all my high school guys were here in attendance,” James said Tuesday morning following Lakers shootaround. “Just playing here and having the love and appreciation for what Michael (Jordan) did in this building and what he did along his career, it just felt like a surreal moment for myself.”

Tuesday night against the Bulls marks James’ 40th NBA appearance, counting regular season and playoffs. James’ Heat and Cavaliers teams waged some memorable battles with the Bulls over the years, but James said he didn’t have a most memorable game from those rivalries.

For now, James is focused on beating the Bulls---he said transition defense is critical against a “young and athletic” team---and continuing to form chemistry with local product Anthony Davis. The former Perspectives Charter High star is in his first season with the Lakers.

“I think it’s getting better and better as the days go on,” James said. “It’s just like with any relationship, the relationship on the court and relationship with someone off the floor, the more and more time you spend together, if you guys have the same goals in mind, the same drive, it organically happens. We’re the captains and leaders of the team along with Rajon (Rondo) and some other guys as well. It starts with us.”

As Davis fielded a similar question about what it’s like to play with James, the 17-year veteran jokingly kept saying “horrible, horrible” as he sat nearby. Davis smiled.

“It’s just fun,” Davis said. “Obviously, it’s early and we realize we’re a long way from what we can be. But we’re constantly learning each other and trying to get better each game and practice. We’re talking to figure out how we can become better at both ends. He has a great basketball mind. So I’m trying to take everything I can from him and put it to use on the floor.”

Davis said it’s always special to play in his hometown arena, where he once rooted for Derrick Rose.

“The first couple years I didn’t get a chance to play here because of injury,” Davis said of his time with the Pelicans. “The past couple years, I’ve been able to play in front of friends and family. It’s always fun. The times I here, I try to enjoy it. Always wanted to be able to play here. I had a chance at the McDonald’s (high school) All-American game of course. But to play here in an NBA uniform and obviously playing for the Lakers is something huge for me. I’m going to enjoy it now.” 

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Zach LaVine leads Bulls to raucous fourth quarter comeback win over Cavaliers

Zach LaVine leads Bulls to raucous fourth quarter comeback win over Cavaliers

The Bulls went down big, then came up bigger down the stretch. Observations from a 118-116 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers:

This one was… a shootout? (For a bit)

Before this one, I wrote that anything and everything was possible in this game — especially given that both teams entered on the back-end of back-to-backs and had their travel delayed overnight on Friday.

A shootout wasn’t high on the list of most probable outcomes, but that’s what we got, at least early on. Kevin Love and Collin Sexton led the charge for Cleveland. Love notched 21 first half points, scoring with relative ease at all three levels (4-for-6 from three). Sexton’s full array of crisp crossovers and breakneck dribble drives were on display — he had 16 at the break.

As a team, the Cavaliers shot an unholy 12-for-17 from 3-point range (with one of those misses being a last-second heave just before the half), 68.4% from the field and at one point made 14 consecutive field goals in the first half. They won the second quarter 40-25. 

The Bulls shot 54.5%, scored 56 points and forced 12 turnovers, yet all of that amounted in a 73-56 deficit entering the third. The Cavs’ shooting numbers regressed from there, as the Bulls eventually staged a furious rally.

Credit Cleveland for playing with pride and energy in a game they could have phoned in. And credit the Bulls for rebounding from a porous defensive first half in a game they should have dominated from the start.

Lauri Markkanen bounced back

The Bulls ran plays for Markkanen to start all three quarters that he began on the floor (the first, the third and the fourth). In that order: one ended in a turnover, one a made 3-pointer of a pick-and-pop feed from Tomas Satoransky, one a missed 3-pointer on a similar action.

His increased involvement seemed intentional on the heels of a three-game stretch in which Markkanen averaged 8.7 field goal attempts per game. He finished the night with 17 points, scoring seven of those in the fourth, on 7-for-14 shooting in 33 minutes. His 2-for-8 from 3-point range sticks out, but it was encouraging to see him find his offense in other ways (on the break, facing up and off offensive rebounds).

Markkanen gave the Bulls a 112-111 lead, a lead they never surrendered, with a transition layup through contact with just under three minutes left.

A rally ends in victory

The Bulls entered the fourth quarter trailing 102-87 but claimed the lead — 108-107 — by the 4:38 mark with a torrid 21-5 run. Games of this narrative arc are a pattern for the Bulls — only this time, the late rally ended in victory.

Zach LaVine was, again, the hero. He poured in 21 fourth quarter points — finishing the game with 42 on 19-for-31 shooting — and ignited the UC throughout the game’s last 12 minutes with tough bucket after tough bucket of every variety. His last one was an and-one layup that stretched the Bulls’ lead to four with under a minute left that caused a frenzy.

Dunn bounced back after Sexton got loose in the first half and made a litany of key plays. Some that stick out: drawing an offensive foul on Love that set up the possession that initially gave the Bulls the lead, a steal that resulted in a LaVine dunk to retake it a few minutes later and the game-clinching rebound off a Love miss with seconds remaining. He was everywhere. 

The Bulls’ closing lineup consisted of Chandler Hutchison at the presumptive four and Markkanen at center, with Satoransky, LaVine, and Dunn manning the wing. Hutchison only took two shots but played his role — his length and activity were pivotal to the Bulls holding the Cavaliers to 14 fourth-quarter points. It was an encouraging performance for him.

The game swung on a coach’s challenge won by Jim Boylen that took the ‘and-one’ designation off a Love dunk with 20.1 seconds left (the foul, on Markkanen, was ticky-tack). The Bulls forced nine turnovers and held the Cavaliers to 4-for-15 shooting, outscoring them 31-14 in the fourth quarter and 62-43 in the second half. The clamps went on at the right time.

It was an absolute ride, and though against suspect competition, an exhilarating win. Reality calls with Milwaukee in town on Monday.

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Olympic swimmer Ryan Held reps Bulls' Ryan Arcidiacono at TYR Pro Series

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USA Today

Olympic swimmer Ryan Held reps Bulls' Ryan Arcidiacono at TYR Pro Series

When Ryan Arcidiacono saw Olympic swimmer Ryan Held’s latest Twitter post showing his homestate Bulls some love, the guard did a double-take.

“I was like, ‘I wonder if it’s Chandler [Hutchison],’” Arcidiacono said of Held wearing a Bulls No. 15 jersey as he prepared to take the blocks for a race. “And then I saw him bend and I could see my name and I was like, ‘Wow. That’s pretty cool.’”

This is the depth of Held’s fandom. The Springfield, Ill., native is breaking out Arcidiacono jerseys from the journeyman guard’s rookie season. Arcidiacono wears No. 51 now. Hutchison sports No. 15. 

“He’s a Bulls fan,” Arcidiacono said of Held. “I’ve never met him but we’ve exchanged some [direct messages] on Twitter. This last one, I Tweeted back at him and said, ‘Way to represent.’ I also wished him luck.” 

Held, who swam at Springfield’s Sacred-Heart Griffin High, may not need it. The Illinois swimmer of the year in 2014, he qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics and swam a leg on the gold-medal winning 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay team.

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