Bulls allow Knicks to live in the paint in third straight loss

Bulls allow Knicks to live in the paint in third straight loss

NEW YORK—Only in New York where the unpronounceable turns into a chant, and seemingly only against the Bulls would it become a rallying cry, as the Bulls restored the Knicks' morale by donating more than a few uncontested dunks.

Whether it was scintillating drives from Derrick Rose or open lanes for Joakim Noah, the Bulls were in such a charitable mood at Madison Square Garden, they provided little resistance in a 104-89 loss Thursday night.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas strolled down the paint for easy dunks and backdoor layups, and the Bulls were more than happy to watch and help out a team mired in drama to go along with a 1-9 stretch.

Rose scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half against a shorthanded Bulls team that has a flu bug ravage its locker room with Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic and Denzel Valentine unavailable—Valentine arrived at the arena throwing up and was sent back to the team hotel.

Dwyane Wade tried to pick up the slack, scoring 22 in 33 minutes but clearly needed an anchor to lean on when there wasn't one to be found. A cold third quarter where the Bulls missed 16 of 20 shots, scoring 14 points, spelled doom in the long run.

"I like scoring, no question about that," Wade said. "But I understand certain guys need shots and I have to be a playmaker. You want to be comfortable in those spots that guys will make shots. It's frustrating. We got good shots, it just wasn't going in."

Rose and Carmelo Anthony (23 points, nine rebounds, six assists) picked apart the Bulls and cruised for most of the way, only exerting energy when the Bulls felt like putting a handful of possessions together to make the score appear interesting.

"A player is always gonna be amped to play against his former team," Wade said. "Jo has had two big games versus us. I'm can't say he's had two big games verus other teams so he definitely raised his level of play. For them, personally, I know it feels good."

Noah, who scored 12 with 15 rebounds, was catching and dunking inside and Kuzminskas, the reserve who was called "Koooo" by the home crowd, scored 19 points in 30 minutes off the bench.

"I give those guys credit," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They both came out, Jo controlled the game on the glass, getting tip ins, got behind our defense, doing the things Jo does. A couple times we got completely off him and he drove right to the basket. We can't have those breakdowns if you want to win."

Both on the periphery of the Eastern Conference playoff race, both without their best all-around players as Kristaps Porzingis was out with a sore Achilles, it was easy to see why neither squad has put together enough consistency to be in the top eight of the East.

The Bulls were going to have to make it work with three performers on the Campbell's soup list, and looked every bit of shorthanded, at times lacking energy and mostly lacking effectiveness as they shot just 19 percent from the 3-point line and shot just 41 percent for the game.

Giving up 17 offensive rebounds and allowing some wide-open breakdowns for easy baskets made it look like the first week of training camp.

"Nope, we had a lot of young guys out there," said Wade when asked if he was surprised at the breakdowns. Continue to try to learn and practice to get better at those things, but I'm not surprised."

Rose had some moments where he probably made the Bulls feel sick, starting with an in-and-out dribble and finish with the left hand at the end of the first half, earning a 3-point play opportunity.

Paul Zipser made a surprise start in place of Doug McDermott, as Hoiberg wanted to come out with a different look and bring some length to the defensive end. He responded by running the floor for a couple layups and hitting a triple in the first half.

Aside from that and an early flash from Jerian Grant, there wasn't much positivity to be documented. Grant (14 points) made his first four shots in his return to New York, but struggled defensively, as did virtually every Bulls guard. 

McDermott's struggles continued, as he followed up his two for 11 performance against the Wizards with a scoreless 0-5 showing. 

"This game is a lot about confidence," Hoiberg said. "The big thing is getting him out there, putting him in position to hit shots. He's too good a shooter to stay in a slump like this. I'm confident he'll get out of it."

Rajon Rondo managed eight assists but there was hardly any flow to be had, as he and Michael Carter-Williams combined to shoot just three for 17 in 39 minutes, making it impossible for the space in Fred Hoiberg's "pace and space" system to work.

And it's clear, for this Bulls team to work, it needs Jimmy Butler because there's too many ills without him to be covered up with just Campbell's Soup.

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

In a five-game span Wendell Carter Jr. saw preseason action against Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Myles Turner. The 19-year-old rookie had his share of expected ups and downs but performed well enough that Fred Hoiberg officially announced him a starter for the team’s season opener tomorrow night.

His reward for all that hard work? A matchup against All-Pro center Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

It’ll be an eye-opening experience for the Duke product, who just a year ago was readying himself for his first season of college basketball and a season-opening matchup against Elon. It’s safe to assume Embiid will pose a few more problems than did Phoenix center Tyler Seibring.

“Joel Embiid was one of my role models growing up,” Embiid said before practice Wednesday. “He was someone I always wanted to pattern my game after. Just to go up against him is a remarkable feeling. He’s a very physical player. He’s a very talented player. I’m going to be able to stack up and see what all I need to work on to last in this league.”

While it’s no easy task against a talent like Embiid, who was named All-NBA Second Team last season, Carter’s most important job will be staying out of foul trouble. Carter piggy-backed an impressive Summer League with a preseason that included averages of 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.1 minutes. But those numbers also included 7.7 fouls per 48 minutes. He racked up 17 fouls in five games, and had at least three in each.

Embiid only went to the line five times in Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the Celtics, but that was primarily against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Al Horford. Embiid won’t face as much resistance against Carter, putting the pressure on the rookie to stay on the floor.

“He’s going to have to navigate that without using his hands,” Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to be all five aware. It’s just not a one-man problem with Embiid. We have to have great awareness of him and try and mix up coverages and hopefully make him take tough shots, knowing that he’s going to hit some of those. You just can’t get deflated when he does.’’

The decision was a mere formality – Bobby Portis will start at power forward – after the frontcourt combination played considerably better in the Bulls’ final two preseason games. Though Jabari Parker was initially slotted in at power forward following Lauri Markkanen’s elbow sprain, Portis’ impressive preseason forced Hoiberg’s hand. Portis averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in just 22.4 minutes.

“It’s all about combinations out there and we felt like Bobby gave us a great start with the way he was playing,” Hoiberg said. “And then we kind of changed things up with that second unit and put the ball in Jabari’s hands, so it was more that in trying to get guys out there with the right combinations.”

Lopez may have an expanded role if Carter gets into foul trouble early, while Parker will be the facilitator on a second unit that doesn’t have much in the way of a point guard. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the frontcourt will play out once Markkanen returns in roughly a month; if Portis and Carter continue playing well, Hoiberg could opt to keep them together on the second unit and put Lopez back in the starting lineup.

But for at least Opening Night – the Bulls also get Andre Drummond and the Pistons on Saturday – it’ll be the seventh overall pick getting his NBA feet wet with a matchup against arguably the best center in basketball. But’s it a role he’s earned, and on a Bulls defense looking for any sort of improvement, Carter is the player who can anchor it.

“His defense is always going to be important for us. He’s the guy that’s the anchor in that starting unit at the rim,” Hoiberg said, “and he’s done a really solid job of making perimeter guys taking contested shots when he gets switched off, or staying vertical at the rim and trying to make a big finish over the top of him, so yeah, again it’s a great challenge, great opportunity for Wendell.”