Bulls

Bucks stun flat Bulls, send series back to Milwaukee

jimmybutlerbullsinsider.png

Bucks stun flat Bulls, send series back to Milwaukee

Joakim Noah walked up the sideline, yelling to himself as he headed to the bench, unable to figure out why the Milwaukee Bucks were methodically pulling away in a game that on paper should’ve been an easy win for the Bulls.

But as the Bucks have gained more and more confidence throughout this series, Game 5’s 94-88 decision was only shocking if you took into account things that wouldn’t faze either side.

The Bulls returning home to the United Center, a place the Bucks don’t feel intimidated by. Or the news about the Cleveland Cavaliers losing Kevin Love and J.R. Smith for the conference semifinals.

What mattered is the Bucks’ fearlessness and length and growing confidence, illustrated by the Bulls’ panic—or weary legs, according to their counterparts-- in the fourth quarter compared to the Bucks’ coolness.

Again jumping out to a 9-0 lead on the Bulls, stunning a crowd that was ready to look ahead and celebrate, forcing the Bulls to play from behind essentially all night, squashing a Bulls’ confident gameplan that didn’t revolve around “turn the ball over 28 times”.

[MORE BULLS: Kevin Love out for second round, Smith to miss two games]

They cut that in half with just 13. But unfortunately, the open shots they hit in Game 4 were nowhere to be found in Game 5, as they shot 34 percent from the field, punctuated by their horrid 7-for-30 performance in the fourth quarter, when they were desperately trying to string possessions together.

“We didn’t make shots,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It was turnovers last game; We got the turnovers down. But then we couldn’t make our threes. It’s a make of miss league. When you don’t make it, it’s not going to look good.”

It was an ugly performance from there, as they shot four of 22 from 3-point range, as the Bucks were content with Derrick Rose launch seven of them without success, part of a five for 20 evening.

Rose was met with a wall of Bucks’ defenders all evening, as he didn’t commit the fatal error at the buzzer—he just made a bevy of them all night (six turnovers) and struggled with his shot.

His partner in “MVP” chants, Jimmy Butler, didn’t fare much better, shooting five for 21, compiling a nice stat line of 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, but he knew that was misleading.

[WATCH: Bulls know they need to learn from their mistakes]

"I’m supposed to be the primetime defensive guy and I haven’t guarded a soul,” Butler said. “I’m worried about offense too much."

Pau Gasol had his first primetime game of the series, with 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists but didn’t have much help. Bench scorers Aaron Brooks and Nikola Mirotic didn’t impact the game, negated by the Bucks’ length and size the Bulls haven’t been able to reasonably counter.

Khris Middleton again quietly had a forceful night, scoring 21 on 16 shots, one of the few Bucks who shot well as they mustered only 18 points in the fourth, shooting 39 percent but remarkably kept the Bulls at bay. The Bulls planned to leave Zaza Pachulia open and he made them pay, hitting a couple circus midrange shots that quelled Bulls’ runs, and OJ Mayo incited the wrath of the Bulls’ crowd and the players, getting into a couple scrums that could’ve redirected the Bulls’ focus.

After Butler and Noah scored inside with 8:32 left to cut the Bucks’ lead to three, they were expected to fold.

But they regrouped, quickly pushed the lead back to 86-77 a minute later after Noah missed two point-blank layups and survived another Bull run a few minutes later, turning them back with their relentless defense led by Giannis Antetokoumnpo and John Henson’s shot blocking until the Bulls had nothing left.

[SHOP: Get the latest Bulls gear here]

“Just growing. Growing up,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “Going through these games in the regular season (was) a dress rehearsal.”

And now they’re no longer naïve or fearful, able to absorb the emotion the Bulls inconsistently dished out while staying consistent.

Michael Carter-Williams looked Rose right in the face, repeatedly taking any and everybody to the basket for his 22 points, to go along with his nine assists, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Not even an ankle sprain that left him questionable in the third quarter was going to stop him, as he returned, completing a night where all 10 of his field goals were in the Bulls’ paint.

 “He hit a lot of tough shots,” Rose said. “Shots that he hit, I tried not to foul, I put my arms up and he kept banking them. It’s the first game he hit that many shots. Tough shots but he made them, so I’ll make an adjustment next time.”

They knew they were going home no matter what after Game 5, they just made the decision to take the Bulls back to Milwaukee with them for what should be a raucous Game 6 Wednesday night.

Bulls react to Kobe Bryant's stunning death with emotion, eloquence

Bulls react to Kobe Bryant's stunning death with emotion, eloquence

The tears streaming down Jim Boylen’s face said all you needed to know about the Bulls’ reaction to the stunning death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other victims in a Sunday helicopter crash that has rocked the NBA community.

Like Bryant, Boylen has daughters who love basketball. Like Bryant, Boylen is uber competitive and serious about his job.

But he’s a father and a human being first.

“Obviously, a very emotional, tearful day in our building. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kobe Bryant’s family, the other families that are involved in the accident,” Boylen said. “These things hit your team and the league on different levels. There’s the rookie out of high school breaking into the starting lineup, one of the hardest workers ever and becoming an All-Star and a champion and a Hall of Fame player. And then there’s the second half of your life where you earn respect from the basketball community and you’re a husband and a father and a mentor for the rest of the league. Difficult day.

“And if you have children like many of us do, it’s painful.”

The Bulls discussed the tragedy after a Monday morning shootaround to prepare for a game against the Spurs that everyone acknowledged would be difficult to play. The United Center has projected images of Bryant, smiling in his Lakers uniform, since Sunday night and fans have started a makeshift shrine outside the building.

The Bulls will have a moment of silence to honor Bryant, and Thad Young, who will wear Bryant’s “Zoom Kobe 4 ‘Prelude’” shoe, said it’s likely they’ll take a 24-second violation to honor one of the numbers Bryant wore.

“Kobe has always inspired me — and not just me but other guys around this league, from young to older guys,” Young said. “He's always been very inspiring to each and every one of us just because of what be brought to the game and his life outside of the game. He was pretty much an open book. You know, he let us see how he treated his wife and kids. He let us see the behind the scenes of how he lived his life.

“We thank him for that. He showed us how to continue to walk this Earth and be upstanding citizens and he showed us how to be not just a person to walk this earth but to be a loving husband, father and family member.”

LaVine, who wears No. 8 in part to honor Bryant, acknowledged the difficulty of playing Monday night but said it’s the best way to honor the future Hall of Famer’s legacy.

“It’s going to be really sad, but I think it’s something that he would have wanted — for people to get back into the game and play,” LaVine said. “I feel like that’s how he would approach it. So I’m going to go out there and play the way I do, play my heart out. Obviously, everybody is going to have a heavy heart. But we still have a job to do. It’s terrible you have to play under those circumstances, but I feel like it’s something he would want as well.’’

LaVine grew up idolizing Bryant.

“He inspired a whole generation of kids pretty much. They wanted to be like him. It’s like kids in the 80s and 90s wanted to be like Mike. We wanted to be like Kobe,” LaVine said. “Growing up and seeing the different highlights of his hard work, I feel like that’s one of the biggest things that was instilled in me was his hard work. I try to bring that to my game. And his passion for the game, how ruthless he was as a competitor. But it’s more than that as a basketball player. He was a father. There were more families on there. It’s just terrible what happened, man. It’s just such a loss in so many different ways.”

LaVine proudly detailed one anecdote from his rookie season when he scored 28 points off the bench in a Timberwolves road victory at Staples Center on Nov. 28, 2014.

“I just remember Kobe was guarding me in the fourth quarter, and obviously I knew growing up and idolizing him that he always guarded the best player [late],” LaVine said. “I had a really good game so he was guarding me, and we were standing at the free-throw line and he tapped me on the butt and said, ‘You know, keep going.’ It was almost shocking to me that I was in that situation as a 19-year-old. It was like, ‘This is a dude I idolized, he’s guarding me.’ It was just surreal.”

LaVine also recalled how he fouled him to send him to the free-throw line that gave Bryant the points to pass Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. But LaVine’s takeaways from Bryant were as much professional as personal.

“I try and take his hard work,” LaVine said. “He was somebody that after games, I heard so many different stories from former players that have coached me where if he had a bad game he would stay all night. Or during the summertimes, he wouldn’t take time off.

“Obviously, everybody is different. But I just try and take that mindset of working hard and being in the gym and his mindset of coming in to just kill every game. That was his mindset. There will never be another Kobe Bryant. There’s only one person like that ever. He touched so many lives in the way he affected basketball, and beyond that as well.’’

Young also acknowledged Bryant’s competitiveness.

“He's just always been a clear-cut assassin. There's a reason they call him the Black Mamba. He's one of those guys that's very ferocious, very competitive, do whatever it takes to win, even if it means dunking on his grandmother,” the veteran forward said. “But at the end of the day, he's one of the greatest to ever do it, one of the realest to ever do it. He's put this league on his back. He's helped make the league to what it is today. He's helped inspire and lead the way for guys like me and younger guys to come into this league and be able to do a lot and be able to continue to grind.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Kobe Bryant to be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020

kobe_farewell.jpg
USA TODAY

Kobe Bryant to be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020 was already set up to be a special one, with some of the greatest names in the sport, names like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, set to get in. But now that class takes on an even greater significance as Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that Kobe Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, will be inducted into the  Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Basketball Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo stated that the 2020 class is expected to be one of the "most epic" classes in the history of the sport.

Along with Bryant, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020 is expected to include some of his fiercest rivals. The list of players that could be inducted in 2020 includes the aforementioned all-time great San Antonio Spurs forward Duncan (played a total of 30 playoff games against Bryant), Pistons legends Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups (defeated Bryant and the Lakers in 2004 NBA Finals), and Shawn Marion, whose Suns teams were a huge threat to the Lakers dynasty throughout the 2000s.

The full Hall of Fame class will be revealed in April. In departing from the usual selection process, Colangelo maintained that "Kobe will be honored the way he should be."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.