3 unsung keys to the Bulls' Game 1 victory over the Cavs


3 unsung keys to the Bulls' Game 1 victory over the Cavs

The Bulls knocked off the Cavaliers, 99-92, in Game 1 to take back home court advantage in their best-of-seven series with the Eastern Conference favorites.

Here are three keys that may have gone unnoticed but led to that crucial victory:

Mike Dunleavy: Mike Dunleavy had to be the most difficult “Where’s Waldo” piece ever, because the Cavaliers couldn’t find him early at all. He came in shooting 55 percent from 3-point range and upped that percentage against a porous Cavs perimeter defense, hitting three of four and scoring 13 of the Bulls’ 27 first-quarter points.

Considering the Bulls had slow starts headed into Game 6 of the Bucks series, there was genuine concern if they could muster the requisite offense to match the expected production of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

[RELATED: Rose rises to the occasion, leads Bulls to Game 1 win]

Dunleavy did it himself, allowing Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose to work themselves into the game against a loose defense and a Cavs team that seemed quite unsure of the overall game plan.

Getting off to that 10-2 start was more than enough to quell every nervous tick in the Bulls’ psyche.

Controlling Tristan Thompson: One of the league’s most devastating offensive rebounders had very little effect on that end, and it wasn’t for lack of opportunities as the Cavaliers shot 42 percent from the field. Tristan Thompson found himself being face-guarded by Taj Gibson or Pau Gasol or Joakim Noah whenever a shot went up, as the Bulls were more than cognizant of the second shots Thompson creates.

He finished with three offensive rebounds but the Cavaliers finished with only 11, negating an advantage that was evident in the regular season when Thompson grabbed 12 offensive rebounds in an overtime win in Chicago in the opening days of the season.

[MORE: Bulls vs. Cavs -- Who's got the edge?]

“He’s probably as good as it gets in terms of going to the boards, and sometimes it requires more than one (guy),” Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s physical. We’ve got to make sure we keep a body on him. Sometimes you do that and he still manages to get to it.”

Clank, clank, clank: The Bulls held the Cavaliers to just 27 percent shooting from 3-point range, as they limited the open shots created by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to a minimum aside from Iman Shumpert. Irving and James shot under 50 percent, and combined to go 1-for-8 from 3-point range themselves. They truly miss Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, as Smith will be back for Game 3 in Chicago. Shumpert hit four of 10 triples, many of them contested and momentum-changing. But the Cavaliers’ other guys couldn’t take advantage of the chances they were given, leading to the Game 1 win.

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen’s celebration for his 21st birthday coincided with another major honor, being selected to the All-Rookie First team.

Markkanen received 76 of 100 possible first-team votes to join Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma on the first team. Mitchell and Simmons were unanimous selections and Tatum was one vote short of joining Mitchell and Simmons.

Markkanen, acquired on draft night in the package of players for Jimmy Butler, showed he was far more advanced than many expected. His 15.2 points per game ranked third among rookies and his 7.5 rebounds were first.

Markkanen was a constant in a topsy-turvy season for the Bulls, scoring 30-plus twice and hitting the 25-point plateau another three times. As a perfect fit in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system, Markkanen had eight games where he hit four triples or more, including a game in New York where he drilled eight 3-pointers against the Knicks.

Only 15 rookies have hit more than 140 triples in NBA history, with Markkanen accomplishing the feat in 68 games—he was joined by Mitchell and Kuzma from this year’s star-studded class.

As the season progressed and Markkanen took hold of the power forward position, the Bulls began maneuvering personnel around him, trading disgruntled forward Nikola Mirotic and making a concerted effort to put Bobby Portis at center to pair Portis with Markkanen as a spread-shooting duo.

As the most impressive rookie the Bulls have employed since Derrick Rose, he’s also the first rookie since Taj Gibson in 2010 to make All-Rookie First Team.

ESPN ranks Derrick Rose No. 36 in its World Fame 100 list


ESPN ranks Derrick Rose No. 36 in its World Fame 100 list

Yes, Derrick Rose Stans. Your boy still has plenty of relevance in the sports world.

ESPN released its third annual ranking of "the biggest names in sports," and the Timberwolves point guard ranked No. 36 on the list. ESPN formed the list based on a formula that took three factors into account:

1. Search score, "which measures how often a name is searched"

2. Endorsement dollars, with sources using ranging from Forbes to ESPN contributors

3. Social media followers, with ESPN taking only the platform in which the player had his or her most followers into account.

Rose's search score wasn't all that impressive, ranking 15 - the average on the top 100 list had a score of 35. But with Bulls fans, NBA fans and now of course Timberwolves fans chiming in on his game, Rose's name came across plenty of timelines and search engines.

Rose's $14 million in endorsements - primarily from that massive Adidas deal - was better than the average $12.6 million of the top 100 athletes.

Rose's top social media page is on Facebook, where he currently has more than 10.7 million likes. This, as ESPN notes, is largely due to the international following Rose and so many other NBA athletes have built up over the years.

In 2016, Rose ranked No. 30 on the list. In 2017 he was No. 33 on the list, so while he isn't trending in the right direction there's no denying his presence in the sports landscape. Love him or hate him, Derrick Rose still matters.

The only NBA players above Rose on the list were LeBron James (No. 2), Kevin Durant (No. 7), Stephen Curry (No. 9), James Harden (No. 24), Kyrie Irving (No. 27), Dwyane Wade (No. 31) and Russell Westbrook (No. 34). NBA players below Rose included Carmelo Anthony, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Isaiah Thomas, and Cameron Payne.

OK, not Cameron Payne. He must have been No. 101.