Bulls bounce back with big win over Magic

Bulls bounce back with big win over Magic

If it’s one thing this Bulls team should learn or will learn, it’s that good to great defense will cover and cure a lot of ills, as their worst offensive quarter of Monday’s 112-80 win over the Orlando Magic was obscured by a defensive masterpiece of sorts in the same 12 minutes.

They responded to their first big of adversity this season with a resounding “A”, holding the Magic to 19 percent shooting in the third quarter, allowing just 11 points and outscoring the Magic by 16.

Forcing turnovers has been the only hallmark of this team defensively, but for the first time they forced an offensively-awkward Magic team into misses—especially after the first few minutes looked like an instant replay of the last three games, where defense was optional.

They changed that narrative for a night, as the Magic shot just 39 percent while trailing by as many as 39 points.

“That’s where it’s going to start for us,” Jimmy Butler said. “We scored the ball decently. But whenever we’re guarding, it makes the game a lot easier. We want to continue to play like that.”

They harassed the young and new Magic team to 15 turnovers, leading to plenty of open court opportunities and overall crisp offensive play that was missing in Indiana Saturday night.

“A totally different mindset than we had starting the game and the entire game at Indiana,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “The big message at halftime was to be the aggressor going out and I thought our guys responded to that.”

Butler scored 20 with seven assists, five rebounds and four steals while Dwyane Wade and Taj Gibson each scored 16, as the Bulls shot 47 percent.

Gibson hasn’t spent any summers with Hakeem Olajuwon or Kevin McHale but his post work against new Magic addition Serge Ibaka probably led some to believe he acquired a new skill set over the summer.

He put Ibaka in the spin cycle for most of the night in the post, faking and wheeling around for easy layups and duck-ins while Ibaka, a pretty good defender, was left in the dust.

It signified a more definitive and aggressive Bulls team for most of the night. They went to the foul line far more (31 attempts to six) and outrebounded the Magic by a decent margin of 56-39.

“If you draw the defender and make the simple play, you take advantage of the numbers on the back end,” Hoiberg said. “When we attack the basket like we’re doing, trying to drive and close out and draw contact, you get yourself to the free throw line.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

That mindset was on both ends, as it’s clear the Bulls are playing in peaks and valleys early on.

“It takes awhile to get consistent. Some teams get it, some teams don’t,” Wade said. “You don’t have to win every game at home, but most at home and go .500 on the road. That will get you to 48-to-50 victories.”

He didn’t want to look too far ahead, being so early in the season but it’s clear if the defensive intensity can carry—especially on the road—then he believes a 50 win-season is possible.

In one sequence, Wade switched out and knocked it away from Evan Fournier, leading to a fast break and Butler layup.

Butler then stole the inbounds pass, saved it from going out of bounds and the hustle resulted in a Rondo short jumper.

In the end, the sequence didn’t mean much in the outcome, but with the Bulls only up by six, it turned things in the Bulls’ favor when past history suggests it was very possible.

“Be aggressive, attacking the rim,” Butler said. “We protected our home court, you don’t want to lose at the United Center.”

It was part of a 23-3 run that ended matters, as the Bulls took a 25-point lead headed into the fourth quarter.

Hoiberg made a shrewd move early in pulling Rajon Rondo after the Magic scored 20 points in the first five minutes, with Magic guard Elfrid Payton giving the Bulls fits with his penetration and feeding to Nikola Vucevic for easy jumpers.

“The message was to pick it up, start guarding, make it uncomfortable,” Hoiberg said. “We denied some passes, that threw off some timing. That’s what it was about, all about getting out and making them uncomfortable. We did a much better job.”

Isaiah Canaan was inserted after a Payton end-to-end layup and the fun ended for the Magic there. A 19-2 run ensued to finish the quarter, as Hoiberg also gave second-year forward Bobby Portis a look late in the first quarter to add more energy.

“We didn’t guard a soul in the first four or six minutes,” Butler said. “After that, we started doing our job.”

Wade scored 12 in the first half and Butler 11 as the Bulls still couldn’t fully put the Magic away, allowing them to stay within nine at the half by shooting 55 percent.

Then the third quarter began and the faucet was shut off, leading to the Bulls stopping the bleeding, dishing out some pain of their own.

Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

As the Bulls played out the string last season, fielding glorified G League lineups, meaningful days still existed.

April 3 was one of them.

Not only did the Bulls scratch out a fun, one-point road victory over the Wizards, executive vice president John Paxson, coach Jim Boylen and general manager Gar Forman met with Otto Porter Jr. and his longtime strength coach from his alma mater of Georgetown.

That meeting mapped out Porter’s offseason plan and began the strong communication that continued Friday when Boylen and Porter met to discuss the organization’s approach for a proper workload for the crucial veteran. Following Sunday’s practice at the Advocate Center, Boylen for the first time publicly disclosed the Bulls’ plan to play Porter in the neighborhood of 30 minutes and approach back-to-back games on a case-by-case basis.

“We will manage him appropriately,” Boylen said. “He will not play over 30 minutes in anything we do to get going here. We’ll manage him on the off days in a real respectful way. Obviously, he’s a big piece. He’s our starting 3, a big wing. And we need him.”

The Bulls have a set of back-to-back games in this first week of the regular season, with their home opener against the defending NBA champion Raptors coming Saturday following a game at the Grizzlies Friday.

“We’ll see how he feels,” Boylen said. “It might be a situation where we manage him the first night in order to play him the second night. Or manage him the first night and the second night he feels maybe a night he doesn’t play. But we have a plan. It’s rough because it’s depending on how he feels.”

Right now, Porter feels good.

“Preseason has been great, making sure my body is healthy, making sure I get my reps in, making sure as a team we’re ready to go,” Porter said following practice. “I’ll hold it down for us until we get Chandler (Hutchison) back. That’s going to be always my job.

“But we got a lot of guards that can play the three too. We got a lot of guys that can play multiple positions. If somebody goes down, the next man always got to step up and replace – not replace but do more – and I feel like everybody is going to do more.”

Hutchison has yet to play with a hamstring injury. Shaq Harrison missed all five preseason games but is available for Wednesday’s opener in Charlotte, N.C.

Boylen said there are many options to keep Porter fresh even with Hutchison injured and Denzel Valentine currently out of the rotation, including Harrison or Tomas Satoransky at backup small forward and three-guard lineups. The Bulls also utilize big lineups with Thad Young at small forward.

“You’ve seen what we’ve done. We’ve had Coby (White), Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) and (Kris) Dunn out there together. Playing small and fast is good. You can also put ‘Sato’ out there with that group,” Boylen said. “There may be opportunities where we go big depending on the situation of the game. We’ve practiced those lineups and scenarios.”

Porter played a huge role in the Bulls’ brief surge last February after arriving from the Wizards in a trade. He has battled nagging injuries in the past, including knee, shoulder and neck issues. Porter also underwent minor surgery on his left leg that knocked him out of the April 2018 playoffs to address a blood buildup around a contusion.

“Every season, there are ups and downs and teams go through it,” Porter said. “Right now, it’s a matter of depth and we want to start out fresh. You start out fresh, you’re already ahead of the game.”

Porter is encouraged by the Bulls’ offense during the preseason, including an increased emphasis on 3-point attempts.

“Right now, we might not be shooting a high percentage. But in the regular season, that number is definitely going to increase drastically because we’re practicing hard, making our open shots and just getting open looks,” Porter said. “We know what this offense can do for us.”

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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