Bulls burned from deep in blowout loss to Clippers


Bulls burned from deep in blowout loss to Clippers

LOS ANGELES—In the NBA, a few things are undefeated: Father Time, a spurned player and the streets of Los Angeles.

With two days in between games on a California weekend, the rain arrived Sunday morning and that’s precisely when the fun ended for the Chicago Bulls.

Only they didn’t know it until Jamal Crawford emphatically slammed the door down on their chances as the Los Angeles Clippers shot and dribbled the Bulls into oblivion with a 120-93 win at the Staples Center, completing the L.A. two-step with a 1-1 record but leaving with a terrible taste.

Having to come with the appropriate mental toughness against an opponent more than capable of blowing you out, the Bulls failed that test yet again.

“We had no grit or toughness,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said in a short, terse postgame news conference. “We were way too lackadaisical with closeouts, we didn’t do a good job stay in front of the ball and they were able to kick it out for open shots.”

The Bulls’ defensive intensity went on vacation after having two days in Los Angeles, particularly on the perimeter as the Clippers torched the Bulls for 17 triples, most of them from JJ Redick, Wes Johnson and Jamal Crawford.

The Bulls have given up 15 triples three times this season alone after giving up just five such games since the 2004-05 season, and this one was seemingly without resistance, as the Clippers scored 69 points in the second half after leading by just four at the half.

Perhaps feeling they should’ve had a lead due to missing more than their share of makeable opportunities, the Bulls let that lethargy carry on after halftime, as their defense gradually evolved from one stage to the next: decent, alarming, to finally, unacceptable.

“It just snowballed,” Hoiberg said. “They got comfortable and our shots weren’t falling, which affected us on the other end. You’ve got to fight through these struggles.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Crawford, who wanted to be a Bull a few seasons ago after having a stint in Chicago as a youth, danced around with the ball at every occasion and scoring on consecutive 3-point plays to break the game open in the fourth as the Bulls were hanging by a thread.

He scored 12 in the fourth after Redick scored 11 in the third, most off long balls.

“We’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing. Loose ball, you gotta get that, rebound, you gotta get that,” Jimmy Butler said. “We lack discipline in a lot of key areas, which is why games turn out the way they do at times.”

They were only close early because Derrick Rose was attacking Chris Paul and getting to the lane at will, scoring 20 on 10 of 17 shooting. Although Jimmy Butler led the Bulls in scoring with 23 points, he was 8 of 22 from the field and couldn’t get it going until late, almost when the game was out of reach.

The Clippers’ bench had its way against the depleted Bulls’ reserves, with Johnson, Crawford and Austin Rivers combining for 53 points. Crawford scored a game-high 26.

“We’re not guarding anybody,” Butler said succinctly. “I think guys play hard but we gotta play on every possession.”

Nobody on the Bulls’ bench scored in double figures, but more than that they were undependable on both sides of the ball, unable to hit open shots and blowing assignments on defense.

“There’s no way our missed shots should’ve affected us on the defensive end,” Rose said. “It’s a learning experience once again, and we’ve got some young guys who we still have to give that confidence (to) if their shots aren’t falling early.”

It led to the Clippers shooting 54 percent and 53 from 3, as they amassed a 27-point lead late in the fourth just to make the score look lopsided.

DeAndre Jordan played over the top of the Bulls defense and grabbed 20 rebounds to go with 17 points, and despite that, the Bulls were within striking distance at halftime and after the third.

Butler’s triple pulled the Bulls to within six with a minute left but the Bulls gave it right back, falling behind by 11 at quarter’s end.

Before the Bulls even touched the ball in the fourth the lead ballooned to 14 on a 3-point play from Crawford and he had more coming, earning another 3-point play with a jumper and foul from E’Twaun Moore.

But it became a laugher from there, leaving the Bulls to regoup with a little over a day before playing in Salt Lake City.

But get them away from L.A., A.S.A.P.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:

Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.