Bulls

Bucks get physical in an attempt to swing series with Bulls

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Bucks get physical in an attempt to swing series with Bulls

Though they wouldn't admit wanting to send a message, the Milwaukee Bucks proved in Game 2 they won't be backing down from the Bulls.

Lacking for physicality in a Game 1 loss, Jason Kidd's youthful group showed off some veteran-like playoff chippyness on more than one occasion, earning four technical fouls in an attempt to shift the pace of the series back to what made them successful in the regular season. It didn't result in a win, as the Bulls topped Milwaukee with a 91-82 victory to take a 2-0 lead, but if anything the Bucks provided themselves a blueprint on how to keep themselves in the series and that playing their own brand of basketball can be successful.

"That's the way they play so it's the way we have to play," Khris Middleton said of the physicality. "We have to play intense and put up a fight."

The first sign of increased intensity came early in the second quarter, when Aaron Brooks attempted to draw a charge in the open court on John Henson. Henson collided with Brooks, who was called for a blocking foul, and stood over the Bulls reserve guard. Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah quickly came to Brooks' defense, and before the two teams eventually were separated Butler and O.J. Mayo had gone face-to-face jawing at each other. Henson, Mayo, Butler and Noah all were assessed technical fouls.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

In the second half Mayo collided with Butler while running down the floor, earning a personal foul in the process. That set the stage for Zaza Pachulia, who with 4 minutes remaining elbowed Nikola Mirotic in the head, earning a technical foul after the Bucks had closed within five points. Two possessions later both players went to the ground after a loose ball, and after Pachulia grabbed possession and passed from the ground he was shoved in the back by Mirotic. The two players had to be separated before both earning technicals, with Pachulia's second resulting in an ejection.

"It's playoff basketball," said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. "You have the same teams going at it. A lot of it is will, determination, how bad do you want it? It's sort of the nature of the business."

In two game the Bucks have attempted to shake the notion that they're just a young team that will be satisfied with the future payoff of gaining playoff experience now. The added physicality that boiled over into scrums stemmed from an attempt to play more of their style: an ugly, offensive struggle. The Bucks aren't going to win the series on talent alone, squaring off against a Bulls team with a former MVP, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and a pair of 2015 All-Stars. It'll take these kinds of games for them to hang with a more talented group, and they know it.

"It was more for us than sending a message. (The Bulls) can take it however they want to, but for us what was missing in Game 1 was intensity and playing hard, especially on the defensive end," said Pachulia. "If you say it was a message that means we were successful."

[MORE: Big fourth quarter from Butler lifts Bulls to 2-0 series lead over Bucks]

They were successful in certain areas. The Bulls committed 15 turnovers, scored 11 points in the first quarter and Game 1 hero Derrick Rose went just 4-for-14 from the field. Milwaukee's continued double-teaming of Pau Gasol and pressuring Derrick Rose on high pick-and-rolls worked once again. In all the Bulls shot 38 percent from the field, and the Bucks were within striking distance before going ice-cold in the final 10 minutes.

"I thought we played a pretty good game, on the road giving ourselves an opportunity to win," Kidd said.

Still, they need more production to complement it. Shooting 35 percent from the field and handing out 13 assists on 32 made field goals is a recipe for failure, regardless of opponent or pace. Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled once again, going 2-for-11 from the field, while the Bucks as a team went silent from beyond the arc, going 4-for-17. After Kidd noted in pregame availaibility that his team needed to be better on the glass, the Bulls grabbed a franchise playoff record 64 rebounds.

In Game 1 the Bucks proved they weren't going to be satisfied with just showing up. Monday night they proved they could be the more physical team and wouldn't back down. But proving capable of winning isn't the same as actually doing it, setting the stage for a Game 3 on Thursday in Milwaukee with a chance to earn a victory. They'll need to play better from an X's and O's standpoint, but they're pleased with where they are mentally after proving their toughness in a gritty road loss.

"Playoff basketball, what do you expect? It’s going to be intense, it’s going to be physical," Mayo said. "We’ve got the team playing hard."

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, See Red Fred joins Big Dave and Matt Peck. The guys talk about some big plays down the stretch by Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine. Plus a great defensive job by Kris Dunn on Paul George. (1:30) See Red Fred states his case for more playing time for Denzel Valentine. (4:00) Plus what's going to happen when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison come back. (8:00) The guys share some concerns about Coby White in the short term. (10:30) See Red Fred tells you about 3 players who have exceeded expectations this year. (13:00) Plus the guys debate whether Zach LaVine should compete in the dunk contest or 3 point competition. (18:00) They discuss the impact that Kris Dunn has had on the defensive end of the floor. (20:30) Plus See Red Fred lays out his blueprint for the Bulls to make the playoffs. (23:30) Plus the guys make a wager regarding the rest of the season. (25:00)
 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders

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Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Just over two hours before tipoff, in his first public comments since Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how Jim Boylen’s teaching and coaching hasn’t always translated from the practice floor and film room to games.

Could the Bulls’ first victory this season over a winning team be a step?

And don’t mention that the Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams in the Bulls’ 109-106 victory, secured on Zach LaVine’s three-point play with 2 seconds to play.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto Porter Jr.) or Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) or (Daniel) Gafford,” Boylen said. “So we can ‘Yeah, but’ it a little bit too.”

Bravado aside, there’s stuff on which the Bulls can build here.

LaVine posted his sixth 30-point game and ended a week filled with closing misses with a game-winner in which he powered through a Montrezl Harrell foul on a nice misdirection play involving Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen tied his season-high with 17 rebounds while posting his third double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine, playing all but two seconds of the fourth, hit a huge tying 3-pointer in the final minute and scored a season-high 16 points. Thad Young tied his season-high with 17 points.

And Dunn was everywhere, relishing the challenge of guarding Paul George down the stretch and winning a crucial battle for a 50-50 ball that led to Valentine’s tying shot.

“That was a huge moment,” Boylen said.

So was Valentine closing a game.

“I just thought we needed some more shooting on the floor,” Boylen said. “We’ve wrestled with defensive lineups, offensive lineups. We try to mingle them a little bit. I just thought we needed someone to make a big shot. And he did.”

Valentine has now scored in double figures off the bench in five of six games.

“I’m very confident in my abilities,” Valentine said. “I was just waiting for the ball to come my way. Zach is our best player. So the ball’s going to be in his hands. But shoot, I’m ready for it. I love those moments. I love to make those shots.”

Dunn, who finished a plus-22, defended George as he missed a good look for a tying 3-pointer. George scored 10 points in just over 7 minutes in the fourth but missed all three attempts following Valentine’s tying shot.

“I love it,” Dunn said of guarding great players. “I know my niche on this team is to guard. And I take pride in that. It feels good to go against a big-time player and be able to get stops towards the end.”

Markkanen actually received credit for the rebound that Dunn kept alive to lead to Valentine’s tying shot, which Dunn said Markkanen teased him about. Dunn finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.

But his two biggest plays didn’t even crash the box score. He won the 50-50 ball to lead to Valentine’s tying shot and then confused the Clippers’ defense by slipping a screen on LaVine’s game-winner.

“I knew Zach was going to get downhill,” Dunn said. “Because once I did it, I saw Paul George look at me.”

LaVine couldn’t believe how much space he had to operate.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “Once I saw the lane open up, I think there were like 5 seconds left. We were trying to get the last shot. But once the lane opened up, I tried to get a one-on-one. He’s a tough dude. I knew I could attack his body.”

LaVine missed game-winning attempts on an isolation 3-pointer against the Warriors and over a double-team against the Raptors. His three-point play offered a dose of redemption for a player who is never afraid to fail.

“You’re not going to be perfect. As much as people are going to show more of the bad than the good, I’ve had a lot of good times in the clutch as well,” LaVine said. “I try to make the right play for us to win. And I did that tonight.”

For one night, matters were more positive. The Bulls closed out a game against a good team and received multiple contributions while doing so.

Heck, Boylen even downplayed Paxson’s vote of confidence.

“We understand what we’re trying to do. We’re in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like,” the coach said. “I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t expect anything less.”