Bulls

Next step for Bulls on nights like Friday is learning how to close

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USA TODAY

Next step for Bulls on nights like Friday is learning how to close

The good news is the Bulls were competitive against a playoff contender for the first time in three weeks. The bad news is they still have plenty of work to do before they’re able to close out games one they get to the finish line.

There were certainly positives to take from the Bulls’ 106-101 loss to the LA Clippers on Friday night, something that wasn’t the case 48 hours earlier in an embarrassing 20-point loss to the Hawks. The Bulls led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter and held a lead with 2:18 to play.

But the veteran Clippers made just a few more plays than the Bulls, who looked flustered down the stretch and ultimately dropped their 12th game in their last 13 contests.

“Hard fought game against a good team. Give them credit,” Jim Boylen said after the game. “I thought they made more plays than we did and I think they finished off the fourth better than we did.”

Zach LaVine caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of the Bulls’ first 13 points in the period, including two clutch 3-pointers that both gave the Bulls one-point leads midway through. His second triple in the sequence gave the Bulls a 95-94 lead with 3:47 to play.

From there it was a struggle. LaVine missed a pair of shots after that triple and after a Kris Dunn floater gave the Bulls a one-point lead, Lou Williams connected on a triple and was fouled by the Bulls’ point guard. That four-point play gave LA a three-point lead. LaVine answered with a layup in traffic and Williams missed a floater on the ensuing possession.

That gave the Bulls a chance to take the lead inside a minute remaining. Instead, the Bulls played a round of hot potato, with Bobby Portis passing up on a 3-pointer from the top of the key and LaVine passing to Chandler Hutchison in the corner with the shot clock expiring. He airballed a 3-pointer and gave possession back to the Clips.

LA executed again out of a timeout. The Bulls doubled Williams, who found an open Patrick Beverley and finished with a tough floater over Bobby Portis to push the lead to 102-99.

The Bulls’ response was an ugly one. Dunn handed off to LaVine, who pulled up for an errant 3-pointer early in the shot clock. The result was another airball that gave the ball back to the Clippers. Again, Doc Rivers’ team executed, with Williams lobbing up an alley-oop to Montrezl Harrell for the clinching dunk.

From the 3:47 mark to that dunk, the Bulls were 2-for-7 while LA went 4-for-5. Making matters worse was the Bulls failing to capitalize on three Clippers turnovers in that span.

“We’ll watch it and we’ll learn form it and we’ll do what we do, which is teach and coach and explain and walk through and work on having a better result next time we’re in that situation. That’s all we can do and that’s what we’ll do. That’s what we do every day.”

It was still a bright spot in the Bulls’ recent woes. They actually played well much of the evening against a Clippers team playing their fourth road game in the last six days. Five players scored in double figures, including Jabari Parker, and they committed just 11 turnovers as a team.

But endings have been a struggle. The Bulls are actually tied for “clutch” games, which the NBA defines as a game within five points in the final 5 minutes. They’ve played in 24 such games, though their offensive efficiency in those contests ranks 29th, behind only the New Orleans Pelicans. One good sign? The Bulls committed just one turnover in the final 5 minutes; enterting tonight the Bulls were last in turnover percentage in clutch situations, so again there was improvement. Just not enough to stop a Clippers team with All-Star talent in Williams and Tobias Harris, who combined for 60 points.

“When you’re going through a close game like this you’ve just go to find ways to do the little things and get the win, and they did more of that than we did,” Dunn said. “We’re gonna go and watch the film tomorrow and see the things we could have done better to give us the advantage to get the win.”

LaVine has been asked to do plenty this season, and for a majority of the fourth quarter he looked ready to take on that closing role. He scored 13 of the Bulls’ 19 points in the final period, but also missed five of his final six shots when the Bulls were going back and forth down the stretch. Inst

“We made big plays. They just made bigger ones and they got the win. Their dudes made big plays,” LaVine said. “We’re still trying to learn how to win. I don’t know if this game was trying to teach us or not but it was a very winnable game. We made good plays. They just made more.”

Derrick Rose's unforgettable playoff debut

Derrick Rose's unforgettable playoff debut

Derrick Rose had already established himself as the odds-on favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award when the 2009 NBA playoffs opened on April 18th in Boston. The defending champion Celtics were expected to make short work of the Bulls, who earned the #7 seed with a 41-41 record under 1st year coach Vinny Del Negro.

While the game was nationally televised, Kendall Gill, Stacey King and I huddled up in one of our station’s conference rooms to watch the playoff opener and prepare for our post-game coverage on what was then Comcast SportsNet.

What we saw was one of the most electric performances of Rose’s career. He made defensive ace Rajon Rondo look like he was wearing cement sneakers, driving to the basket with that extra gear of speed few players possess.

When it was over, Rose had tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the highest scoring playoff debut in NBA history, finishing with 36 points on 12 of 19 shooting from the field and a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line, leading the Bulls to an upset win over the defending champs, 105-103 in overtime. Rose also dished out 11 assists, showcasing the play-making ability that would make him one of the league’s most feared players.

Afterwards, the soft-spoken Rose downplayed his record-tying performance, saying simply, “I just thought about it like I was playing in a regular game.”

But his coach was more than impressed, Del Negro telling reporters, “He has a quiet confidence about him and he’s only going to get better. If people aren’t familiar with Derrick, then they’re not basketball fans.”

Rondo had a great offensive game for Boston, leading the Celtics with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, but conceded that chasing the warp speed rookie had taken its toll on him physically. “I’ll be fine Monday”, Rondo said afterwards. “Just now, I’m extremely tired.”

While hosting the postgame show that afternoon, I remember being amazed at the confidence the 20 year old Rose showed in dissecting one of the league’s best defenses. His poise under pressure was one of his greatest strengths, and his ability to get to the rim and finish high difficulty shots would make even the most experienced reporter reach for superlatives.

Stacey gained a national following describing the exploits of the humble, high-flying star from Chicago, and his call of Rose’s dunk over Phoenix guard Goran Dragic is still a YouTube classic.

It really was an amazing ride covering Derrick’s 8 years as a member of the Bulls and that playoff game in Boston will always stand out as one of his career highlights. The Bulls went on to lose that 1st round series in 7 classic games, but the rest of the league was put on notice.

Derrick Rose was going to be one of the most exciting young talents the league had ever seen.

Season in Review: Ryan Arcidiacono checks all the boxes in pleasantly surprising season

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USA TODAY

Season in Review: Ryan Arcidiacono checks all the boxes in pleasantly surprising season

Over the next month we'll be recapping each of the Bulls' individual 2018-19 regular seasons.

Previous reviews: Lauri Markkanen | Shaq Harrison

Preseason expectations: Arcidiacono made waves in Summer League by connecting on nearly 48 percent of his 3-point attempts in five games but only played 34 minutes in five preseason games, leading many to believe he would be the odd man out with the Bulls already having Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne. He surprisingly made the team in mid-October, only for the Bulls to sign both Tyler Ulis and Shaq Harrison the following week. And yet Arcidiacono stuck on the 15-man roster, presumably as emergency depth behind Dunn and Payne.

What went right: Relatively speaking, just about everything. Arcidiacono became a focal point when Kris Dunn suffered a sprained MCL in the first week of the season. He took over the starting job from Cam Payne in early November and didn’t relinquish it until Dunn returned. Payne was eventually waived and Arcidiacono assume back-up duties before entering the starting lineup again when Zach LaVine missed five games with a sprained ankle.

Arcidiacono excelled as both a perimeter threat (38 percent from beyond the arc), an exceptional distributor with the first unit (he had nine games of five or more assists as a starter) and provided exceptional energy and hustle that enamored Jim Boylen the entire season. He was a glue guy but also a rather efficient one: his 34.3% assist rate led the team, his 54.8% effective field goal percentage was third behind Otto Porter and Robin Lopez, and he 4.23 assist-to-turnover ratio was third in the NBA. He did just about everything asked of him, played multiple positions and did it end-to-end. He was accountable, too, leading the Bulls with 81 games played; he was a DNP-CD in the third game of the season and played the final 79.

What went wrong: He certainly has his limitations and his lack of size was an issue defensively. He also went through an ice-cold stretch from Nov. 30 to Feb. 22, when he shot 25.6 percent from deep over a 37-game span. He wasn’t a consistent outside threat, though his changing role in that span could have accounted for some of that. But that’s about it. Arcidiacono was reliable, versatile and played with *spirit and soul* from start to finish. His ceiling isn’t all that high, but his floor is.

The Stat: 1.9 on 45.5

Arcidiacono was lights out from beyond the arc to begin the season. From Oct. 18 to Nov. 28, he made 1.9 3-pointers per game at a 45.5 percent clip. The only other players to reach those marks in that span were Steph Curry, Derrick Rose, Danilo Gallinari, Buddy Hield, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Harris and Bryn Forbes. Three of those players (Curry, Hield, Harris) competed in the 3-Point Shootout at All-Star Weekend in Charlotte.

He also shot better than 44 percent from deep over the final 23 games of the season. From Feb. 23 until April 10, he was one of 24 players to do so.

2019-20 Expectations: It’ll be a numbers game for the Bulls and Arcidiacono. His hot stretch to end the season and his consistent effort will make him a target in restricted free agency. It’s no secret the Bulls want him back but they’ve also got Kris Dunn under contract and likely will be addressing the point guard position in the draft or free agency. He could have priced himself out of Chicago.

If he returns, his expectations will be a more consistent outside shot and continued managing of the second unit. His aforementioned ceiling will keep him from adding a bunch to his game, but if he can take care of the ball and hover around 39 percent from deep all year – instead of going 45 percent to 25 percent and back to 45 percent – he’ll be a valuable piece to the bench and the perfect role player.