What to watch for: Bulls-Pacers a matchup of polar playing styles

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What to watch for: Bulls-Pacers a matchup of polar playing styles

Two struggling squads look to right their respective ships when the Pacers visit the Bulls tonight. The game tips at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here's what to watch for:

Pacers’ last five games (2-3)

  • Jan. 8 — L vs. Heat: 122-108

  • Jan. 6 — W at Hornets: 115-104

  • Jan. 4 — L at Hawks: 116-111

  • Jan. 2 — L vs. Nuggets: 124-116

  • Dec. 31 — W vs. 76ers: 115-97

Storyline(s) to watch

Neither of these teams are playing particularly well, coming into this one. The Pacers enter play losers of six of their last nine and have a 116 defensive rating over that stretch (28th in the NBA). Their last game was a blowout loss to Miami that saw multiple heated exchanges between T.J. Warren and Jimmy Butler.

The Bulls, of course, are in the midst of a season-high five game losing streak, are a season-low (high?) 12 games under .500 and just lost Wendell Carter Jr. for at least a month. These teams linked up in Indiana on Nov. 3, when the Pacers essentially trounced the Bulls 108-95 without Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Oladipo is still out, and Sabonis and starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon are both listed as questionable for tonight. Still, the Pacers are a solid overall team in need of a win, which could spell misfortune for the Bulls. 

Watch closely how the Bulls defense — which is rated 28th in the NBA over the team’s current five-game skid — continues to adjust and hold up without their anchor in Carter. That side of the ball has kept the Bulls in most of their games this season, but this upcoming stretch of schedule is precarious.

Player to watch: Domantas Sabonis

Here’s a comprehensive list of players that have averaged at least 18 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists on at least 52% shooting over a full NBA season:

  • Wilt Chamberlain (1963-64, ’65-69, ’69-71)

  • Jerry Lucas (1968-69)

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1971-76)

  • Bill Walton (1977-78)

  • Charles Barkley (1986-87)

Domantas Sabonis’ averages so far in 2019-20: 18 points, 13.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 52.8% shooting. Is that a cherry-pick? Of course it is! But it’s great company for the fourth-year big, nonetheless, and should give some semblance of how impressive a campaign he’s having (and a well-timed one at that, given that he signed a four-year, $74.9 million extension last offseason):

Sabonis runs the floor hard, crashes the glass, takes and makes an overwhelming amount of midrange jumpers, and capably facilitates from the elbows. He’s a tricky matchup for Lauri Markkanen, especially given his ability to move defenders on the block. The Bulls were fortunate to avoid Sabonis in their last meeting in Indiana, but expect him to wreak havoc tonight if he plays.

Matchup to watch: A clash of styles

There’s an intriguing polarity to this matchup. The Pacers play at the fourth-slowest PACE in the league (99.08 possessions per game), the Bulls the 13th-fastest (101.05). Indiana also takes the second-fewest 3-point attempts per game (while shooting a fifth-best 36.8% on those looks) in the league while the Bulls take the eighth-most (converting an 18th-ranked 35.4%). The Bulls are midrange-averse; the Pacers take 18.3 midrange attempts per game (second in the NBA).

All of that is to say, something has to give. The Bulls are at their best running off of turnovers, but the Pacers cough up the least of those in the league, with only 12.9 per game. And though Indiana doesn’t rank highly in most team rebounding metrics, Sabonis and Myles Turner will pose a whale of a challenge for a shorthanded Bulls frontcourt on the interior and boards.

Whichever team is able to play their game — and each teams’ ‘game’ is staunchly different — is likely to find an edge.

News and nuggets

  • After rolling with a starting frontcourt of Thad Young and Lauri Markkanen against the Pelicans, Daniel Gafford will start alongside Markkanen tonight. The high-flying, deftly mobile Gafford has been the most pleasant surprise on the Bulls this season, but he remains a rookie, and the Bulls' defensive style is both physically and mentally taxing to play. How many minutes Boylen is willing to run him and how he fares against one of the more physically imposing centers in the league in Myles Turner are points to monitor closely.

  • Malcolm Brogdon (back soreness) and Domantas Sabonis (knee soreness) are both currently listed as questionable for tonight. Brogdon was part of the shorthanded Pacers team that beat the Bulls in November, tallying 22 points and 7 assists.

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Posterized presents 'Chicagoland's All-Time Starting Five' plus Q&A with Jason Goff


Posterized presents 'Chicagoland's All-Time Starting Five' plus Q&A with Jason Goff

Over the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago, the "Posterized: The Chicago Experience by Jim Beam" event celebrated the rich history of Chicagoland high school hoops by honoring an all-time starting five, featuring five Chicagoland preps legends, voted on by Chicago sports fans

 Fans had from Feb. 6 to Feb. 10 at 9 pm.. to vote for their top five from a list of names that included Candace Parker, Derrick Rose, and the late Benji Wilson. The final results were revealed on Feb. 14, at the Chicago Sports Museum & Harry Caray's 7th inning stretch restaurant.

The Chicagoland all-time starting five was Derrick Rose (Simeon), Isiah Thomas (St. Joseph), Dwyane Wade (Richards), Anthony Davis (Perspectives Charter), and Antoine Walker (Mount Carmel). I was able to speak with the host of the event about the experience and the final list, NBC Sports Chicago's Jason Goff.


Q: How was your experience at 'Posterized: The Chicago Experience' and what ultimately led to your interest in hosting the event? 

It was a terrific experience. Joy Glover and her team put together a really cool experience for locals and people who aren't from Chicago. All things party, Chicago basketball appreciation; and All-Star weekend rolled into one event. When Joy reached out through a mutual friend, I didn't hesitate. The idea was cool and the execution during the busiest time I've seen in quite a while was excellent. 

Q: Ultimately, do you think the fans got the starting five right? Was there anyone you were shocked didn't make the final cut? 

There are so many names that were on the list that deserve recognition. We're all prisoners of whatever generation of basketball we grew up in. Quinn Buckner, Mark Aguirre, George Mikan, etc. Just to name a few. Also, the women's game could've received a little more gratitude by our voters as well. Candace Parker, Cappie Pondexter; and many others have had just as much success inside and outside of this city as anyone. 

Q: Who in your opinion had the best high school career out of the Chicagoland all-time starting five?

Of the ones named? Probably Derrick Rose. But nobody has done more winning than Quinn Buckner (a member of undefeated Thornridge High School team in 1972).

Q: When it's all said and done, who do you think will have the best NBA career of the Chicagoland all-time starting five?

Unless Anthony Davis wins a few titles, it'd have to be Dwyane Wade with Isiah Thomas as a close second.

Between the five players that make up Posterized's all-time starting five, there are six NBA Championships, an NBA MVP, and 17 All-NBA appearances. Below are some of the accomplishments of this illustrious group:

Isiah Thomas:

High school (St. Joseph-Westchester): State finalist (1979), McDonald's All-American (1979), first-team Parade All-American, USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (1980)

Indiana (NCAA): NCAA champion (1981), NCAA Tourney MVP (1981), two-time All-Big Ten, Consensus First-Team All-American (1981)

NBA (Detroit Pistons): Five-time All-NBA, Two-time NBA Champion (1988-89, 1989-90), 1989-90 Finals MVP, Hall of Famer

Derrick Rose:

Simeon (High school): State finalist (1979), McDonald's All-American (1979), First-Team Parade All-American, USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (1980)

Memphis (NCAA): NCAA runner-up (2008)

NBA (Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons): 2008-09 Rookie of the Year, one-time All-NBA, 2010-11 MVP

Dwyane Wade:

Richards (High school): Led Richards to the Class AA sectional finals in his senior year

Marquette (NCAA): First-team All-American (2003), Conference USA Player of the Year (2003), No. 3 jersey retired by Marquette

NBA (Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers): Eight-time All-NBA, Three-time NBA champion (2005-06, 2011-12, 2012-13), Finals MVP (2005-06)

Antoine Walker:

Mount Carmel (High school): Chicago Tribune 1994 Boys All-State Basketball Team, First-team Parade All-American (1994)

Kentucky (NCAA): SEC Tournament MVP (1995), First-team All-SEC (1996), NCAA Champion (1996)

NBA (Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves): 15,647 career points, 1996-97 All-Rookie, three-time All-Star, 2005-06 NBA Champion

Anthony Davis:

Perspectives (High school): First-team Parade All-American (2011), Jordan Brand Classic co-MVP (2011)

Kentucky (NCAA): 2011-12 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 2012 SEC Player of the Year, Naismith Award, Wooden Award, NCAA Champion (2011-12)

NBA (New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers): 2012-13 All-Rookie, three-time blocks leader, three-time All-Defensive team, three-time All-NBA

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Roommates, brothers, opponents: Coby White, Cam Johnson reunite and show out

Roommates, brothers, opponents: Coby White, Cam Johnson reunite and show out

Cameron Johnson had just been selected by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. At the time, the move was a surprise — Johnson was projected to fall into the middle to late first round, despite averaging 16.9 points and shooting 45.7% from 3 in his last year at North Carolina.

So, elation was a natural response for all close to Johnson. And nobody displayed that elation more authentically — nor more publicly — than Johnson’s teammate, roommate and ‘little brother’ Coby White (who had been picked by the Bulls just four slots earlier). You remember the clip:

That familial bond was grown over many nights bunking together on the road during White’s one and only year at UNC. It all began on a week-long trip to the Bahamas in advance of last season.

“Coming in, I'm the type of dude where if I don't really know you, then I don't talk a lot,” White said. “And then Cam was like ‘Why you so anti(-social)?’ and then it kinda started from there. He became a guy I could always go to if I ever needed something, on or off the court.”

“You know, seniors pair with freshmen, make sure they're everybody they need to be on time,” Johnson, a fifth-year in 2018-19, said. “But he was, like, a mature, easy, no-drama freshman. His composure was at a very high level, his maturity was at a very high level.”

White scoffed at that, saying he got a similar rep (of being ‘mature’) in his first weeks with the Bulls. “I was like nah just trust me,” he said. “And now I'm like that little brother that's annoying them.”

Still, Johnson and White became fast friends over their overlapping year in Chapel Hill. Though it’s been tough to keep in touch amid the rigors of their first NBA seasons, they each agreed competing against each other was a fun change of pace.

“It was great seeing him, I hadn't seen him in a long time, so it was great seeing him,” White said. “We talk here and there, but because we're so busy — it's one of those things, like, you know no matter what we're gonna have each other's backs, we always gonna be there for each other when we need each other.”

“I love that kid, man. I tell you, most of the time when we talk it’s just saying what’s up and just reminding each other that we love each other,” Johnson said. “That’s my guy and I went over and gave him a big hug before I went on the court today.”


What ensued come gametime was special for all. In the contest — a 112-104 Suns victory — White poured in a career-high 33 points and canned seven 3-pointers, shooting 11-for-22 from the field. Johnson notched 11 points and three 3-pointers, and made all of them count.

“It was fun, but I hate him so much,” White said of Johnson, who hit two of his three 3-pointers in the game’s fourth quarter. “I just know whenever he shoots if he gets any type of open look it's going in. So every time he shot it in my head, I'm like mad cause I'm like, he's the one you just can't leave him open. The ball just kept finding him in open space.”

But then, with a smile: “But obviously it's all love. After the game, I talked to him, he told me he was proud of me and whatnot. He's like a big brother to me, so it means a lot.”

There’s just something about these Tar Heels. With Roy Williams at the United Center on Nov. 12, White set a Bulls record for 3-pointers in a quarter with seven in the fourth against the Knicks. Tonight, lined up across from Johnson, he scored the second-most points in Bulls franchise history by a rookie off the bench.

He, Johnson and Bulls fans everywhere, will be counting down the days until the team visits Phoenix on April 5.

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