Bulls

Bulls: Another alarming loss leaves Hoiberg in foul mood

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Bulls: Another alarming loss leaves Hoiberg in foul mood

Fred Hoiberg was in no mood to discuss the minutia of the Bulls’ puzzling overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a game that had “trap!” written all over it, a game Hoiberg was curious about in terms of seeing how his team would respond after Thursday’s exhilarating win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There wasn’t much to say considering the Bulls went scoreless in overtime for the first time in their 50-year history and after the 6:33 mark of the fourth quarter, missed 19 of their last 20 shots in their 102-93 loss at the United Center.

He could’ve pointed to getting outrebounded 58-50, or the 19 turnovers, or giving up seven 3-pointers to a team that doesn’t like shooting them.

It wasn’t an eye-popping loss like earlier in the week against Charlotte, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone associated with the Bulls to say the team put forth the necessary concentration Saturday afternoon.

The smooth veneer worn by Hoiberg looked more like a sneer when he met with the media, equally puzzled and frustrated in having to explain what everybody has seen twice in a very young season.

[MORE: Bulls starting five an evolving matter for Hoiberg]

“We get 82 opportunities to put on a jersey to go out and play for your team,” Hoiberg said.

In two of the seven, the efforts have been alarming, particularly against teams not expected to be in the playoff hunt come April.

“I can’t understand how we play with as much energy as we did the other night and then show up the next night just expecting to win the game,” Hoiberg said. “It’s tough to fathom how that can happen.”

Some would point to last season as the start of a trend, leading Derrick Rose to say the time to be alarmed is “right now”.

“It’s all about effort. At some point we’ll get tired of getting our asses whupped. One day,” Rose said. “It’s all about bringing that championship caliber effort. We gotta stay more consistent, we have to stay more together while we’re out there.”

Instead it was the young Timberwolves who played with cohesiveness, taking every opportunity the Bulls gave them from start to finish and played with remarkable poise down the stretch while the Bulls seemingly self-destructed.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Rose, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic built a house of bricks with bad shooting and tentative play, and the game very well could’ve ended in regulation until Pau Gasol tipped in an errant Mirotic miss with 21 seconds left to tie the game at 93, setting up overtime.

Rose shot 3-for-13, Butler was 4-for-15 which included missing all of his seven 3-point attempts and Mirotic struggled again, getting in foul trouble and missed seven of eight shots in 17 minutes.

His last three games, Mirotic has totaled 11 points with 12 rebounds on just 4-for-24 shooting. For the night, the Bulls shot 36 percent, but in the second half and overtime, shot 26 percent (14 for 54).

“We got off to a fine start, but then we missed four layups out there,” Hoiberg said. “We need to manufacture some good looks and get the ball moving.”

But they weren’t equipped for the final five minutes, going scoreless and not even getting good shots, as Karl-Anthony Towns rebounded from early foul trouble to score 17 points and 13 rebounds, including a thunderous swat of a Rose layup in overtime, and Andrew Wiggins led all scorers with 31 points, including four 3-pointers.

Wiggins’ spin and dunk with 55.5 seconds left tied the game at 91, and Prince’s running hook with 27 seconds left gave them a lead before Gasol’s timely tip-in.

Wiggins was wearing Butler and the Bulls out early, with 22 in the first half before cooling off late, but the Bulls weren’t able to run away and hide in the fourth, leading by six after a Tony Snell corner triple.

The Timberwolves kept coming, despite shooting just 41 percent from the field, were able to play sound defense to stay in it to scrap themselves into an overtime affair.

[RELATED: A more aggressive Derrick Rose benefiting Bulls]

Many of the Bulls warning signs were abound.

Missed rotations defensively.

Coming up empty after easy opportunities were squandered.

And those darned turnovers, after a one-game reprieve, reappearing like a rash that refused to go away.

“I wish I knew why that happens,” Hoiberg said. “I would like to think when I played this game a million years ago, one thing I did was break through a wall every time I stepped on that floor. We have to fix it.”

Rose echoed his coach’s sentiments, believing part of the problem is a matter of familiarity but also being troubled by the sporadic efforts.

“Coach is doing a good job of putting us in different groups and lineups,” Rose said.  “This is the worst you’ll see us play and hopefully in a couple days you’ll see the difference.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

David Haugh, Jordan Cornette, Shae Peppler join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Mark Schanowski joins SportsTalk Live to discuss Kris Dunn’s sprained MCL, Fred Hoiberg’s tough luck and Zach LaVine postgame criticisms of the coaching. Plus they’ll discuss another 0-3 team- LeBron’s Lakers.

20:00 – The panel discusses Mitchell Trubisky’s performance vs. the Patriots. Jordan makes the case that the media is giving the former No. 2 pick a pass.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

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USA TODAY

Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

Through the opening week of the NBA season, Hornets' All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and former Bull Niko Mirotic share the league scoring lead, averaging 33 points per game.

Bulls' fans have seen these hot stretches from Niko before, and chances are he'll start moving down to the mid to high-teens before long. But Walker is a big-time scorer who's quietly emerged as one of the most consistently productive point guards in a league loaded with stars at that position. He's averaged over 20 points and 5 assists in each of the last three seasons, making the Eastern Conference All-Star team twice.

Last season, Walker lit up the Bulls for 47 points in an overtime loss at the United Center in November, making some of the most difficult shots you can imagine to keep his team in the game. He seems to be as this best when facing the Bulls and you can bet Fred Hoiberg and his staff will pull out all the stops to try to slow him down, especially with defensive ace Kris Dunn out 4-6 weeks after suffering a sprained left MCL in his season debut on Monday.

The Hornets made some personnel changes since last season. The one-year experiment with Dwight Howard at center is over. Howard put up solid numbers for Charlotte a year ago, but didn't make much difference in the win-loss column, so he's moved on to Washington in his NBA odyssey. Cody Zeller is now the starting center, backed up by Bismack Biyombo and former Benet Academy and University of Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky.

Charlotte tried to improve the athleticism on their roster by selecting Malik Monk and Miles Bridges in the first rounds of the last two drafts. Monk is getting more playing time this season, averaging 13.5 points in the Hornets' first four games. Bridges is averaging just under 16 minutes a game as a backup to starting forwards Marvin Williams and Nic Batum. Just like he did at Michigan State, Bridges is providing those highlight reel putback dunks, but it remains to be seen whether he'll develop a consistent enough outside shot to be a quality starter in the NBA.

The well-traveled Jeremy Lamb is now starting in the backcourt with Walker, and the Hornets brought in long-time Spurs' point guard Tony Parker to add some much needed experience and veteran savvy off the bench. Given the current state of the Eastern Conference (post-LeBron), it's not out of the question for this group to contend for one of the final playoff spots.

Here's what the Bulls need to do for a shot at their first win of the season. This also applies to the rematch in Charlotte on Friday.

1. CORRAL KEMBA. For whatever reason, seeing that Bulls' logo turns Walker into an almost unstoppable scoring machine. Walker is adept at working off his big men, either in straight pick and rolls or cutting through the post on give-and-go plays. He's one of the league's most creative scorers, and doesn't require much room to get his shot off. The Bulls' bigs will have to provide help on Walker whenever he comes off screens to keep him from taking over the game.

2. PUT THE BALL IN ZACH'S HANDS. Whether he's playing shooting guard or point guard, Zach LaVine needs to be the primary facilitator with Dunn sidelined. LaVine scored 34 points against Dallas Monday night on just 15 shots, which led to him questioning some of the offensive sets that were run in the 2nd half. LaVine told reporters on Tuesday that he smoothed things over with his head coach, explaining his comments were the result of the frustration he was feeling after a third-straight loss to open the season. Still, LaVine is on a major hot streak, joining Bulls' all-time greats Michael Jordan and Bob Love as the only players to start the year with three straight games scoring at least 30 points. The Bulls will need to ride that hot hand for as far as LaVine can carry them.

3. DEFEND THE 3-POINT LINE. You knew I would eventually get to this, right? Dallas made 15 of 47 3-point attempts on Monday after the Pistons knocked down 18 of 40 in a two-point win last Saturday. The Hornets have all kinds of capable 3-point shooters in Walker, Lamb, Monk, Batum and Williams (they're shooting .397 as a team on 3's), so guarding the arc will be crucial for the Bulls to have a chance at their first win.

Don’t forget you can catch Wednesday's game on NBC Sports Chicago and the new MyTeams by NBC sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 pm when Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and Kelly Crull join me for Bulls Pregame Live from the United Center Atrium. Neil Funk and Stacey King have the play-by-play call at 7 pm, then stay tuned after the final buzzer for Bulls Postgame Live and the always entertaining Bulls Outsiders.