Bulls

Bulls bounce back with win over 76ers

Bulls bounce back with win over 76ers

This was the response that was expected Friday night after the Bulls' family meeting, only they were so emotionally spent the blowout against the Miami Heat was an afterthought.

But Sunday's contest against the surging Philadelphia 76ers produced the desired result as the game before a critical six-game western swing that could make or break their season.

A 20-point first half lead completely disappeared by the third quarter, but the Bulls regrouped without Taj Gibson to pull away late with an 121-108 win at the United Center, as Gibson missed the game with a left ankle injury.

Jimmy Butler looked like his usual self after Friday night's bizarre one for 13 showing, putting up 28 points with eight rebounds and seven assists with four steals in 38 minutes.

Robin Lopez scored 21 with 10 rebounds in 32 minutes, taking advantage of the 76ers being without Joel Embiid and not playing Chicago native Jahlil Okafor either.

"We came out with great energy," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, a man who looked one step away from the emergency room Friday but seemed to have a little more pep in his step as his team somewhat stabilized things.

"We shared the ball. We played together for the entire game. Even when they went on their runs, which is what they do (because) they played with great effort, we had to go out there and match that."

Rajon Rondo anchored the second unit, getting shots for Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott early, as Mirotic scored 13, McDermott 14 and Paul Zipser had two big baskets late on his way to a 13-point night as the bench showed its worth, helping the Bulls to a 45-25 lead three minutes into the second quarter.

"Rondo is the leader of that group," Dwyane Wade said. "He did a good job quarterbacking those guys. He played with a swagger, they brought it to another level."

Rondo scored a quick five to start the fourth quarter, finishing with eight points, 10 assists and five rebounds in 21 minutes before giving way to a closing unit that featured Zipser with Butler, McDermott, Wade and Lopez.

"He's done a great job of accepting that rile, he's taken pride in it," Hoiberg said. "Niko, Doug and Paul have all benefitted greatly from playing with him and our pace just picks up when Rajon is in the game. He was terrific."

It's no surprise the Bulls are a different team when McDermott and Mirotic are hitting shots, an occurrence that hasn't happened consistently enough this season.

When the 76ers clawed back to tie the game at 79 with four minutes in the third quarter, the Bulls showed some poise in not letting the 76ers take the lead or get a little more than cautiously optimistic.

"We didn't get flustered, like in the last couple of games," Wade said. "We were able to pull away."

With the Bulls hitting eight three-pointers and getting to the line 28 times, they played with the right amount of urgency late to overcome an unexpected performance from 76ers' forward Ersan Ilyasova, who scored 31 in 35 minutes as they were without standout center Embiid.

Embiid didn't make the trip with a knee injury and all five 76ers scored in double figures, including local native Robert Covington, who scored 21 with 12 rebounds in 38 minutes. Point guard T.J. McConnell scored 14 points with 12 assists as the 76ers shot 44 percent from the field, taking an early six-point lead and storming back in the second half when it looked as if they would give the Bulls another home headache.

But luckily for the Bulls, they gave themselves a little relief after a tumultuous week, right before a treacherous one begins.

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

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AP

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.