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Bulls clinch home-court in first round with win over Nets

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Bulls clinch home-court in first round with win over Nets

BROOKLYN — It was all coming together for the Bulls, the timing, cohesiveness and muscle memory that comes when a group plays together for a long time during a season.

Except they hadn’t played together except for a few tantalizing stretches and even on this evening against the desperate Brooklyn Nets, they were without Joakim Noah who sat out with tendinitis.

But portions of what makes this team potentially great were on full display in their 113-86 win at the Barclays Center, if you could follow the zipping ball that moved around the floor all night on the way to the Bulls clinching home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which start Saturday.

Leaping touch passes from Jimmy Butler to Nikola Mirotic, when Butler cut to the middle of the floor but had his eyes on the sweet-shooting rookie in the corner the entire time, who obliged the unselfish play with a swish.

[MORE: Mirotic responds to chiding from teammates in Bulls rout]

Or Derrick Rose looking ahead to find a streaking Pau Gasol ahead of the defense—while returning the favor to Butler for a layup when his backcourt mate galloped downcourt as Rose blazed his way through transition defense that looked like driving cones.

The piece that brings it all together lifts everyone and it appears the Bulls are nearing peak efficiency.

“Getting Derrick back is the big thing,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “When you look at what Pau has brought to our team, it's an entirely different dimension, then add it Jimmy and what’s he’s doing, then all the other parts fit well.”

Rose had more moments where he looked like himself from an explosive standpoint, getting to the basket with ease, but his control of the game from the point guard spot was probably just as encouraging, as he had another efficient night with seven assists and just two turnovers to go with his 13 points in 23 minutes.

“I think the real function of the point guard is how the team plays,” Thibodeau said. “I thought he had a good pace, good tempo. He got the ball movement for us. I thought he gave us rhythm into our threes.”

[MORE BULLS: Why playoff seeding matters for Derrick Rose and the Bulls]

Rose’s vision was again a valuable part of his game, as his “point guard IQ” has risen in his various absences.

“I’m seeing the floor better,” Rose admitted. “They’re playing me different almost every game. Tonight they’re forcing me into the big. So Pau was open almost the majority of the pick and rolls.”

It was like that all night for the Bulls, who shot 50 percent from the field and took the life out of a road building yet again—like they did so casually in Miami. Mirotic, who was somewhat a favorite to the crowd that had a lot of red in the seats, nailed three straight triples to end the third quarter, to give the Bulls a 22-point lead.

The rookie scored 26 on six triples in just 24 minutes, while Gasol scored 22 with 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Butler scored 17 and Taj Gibson, starting in Noah’s place, scored 15 with nine rebounds and four blocks.

“You miss people because of injuries,” Rose said. “People getting sick, missing games here and there so we need everybody to be healthy to make this run. Jo sat out tonight getting his knee together. We’re gonna need everybody to make this huge push.”

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Mirotic was the beneficiary of great ball movement, as were most of the Bulls who registered field goals, with an impressive 26-8 assist to turnover ratio on the evening.

As their offense got crisper, the defense got tightened up, even with Noah. The Nets came into the game looking to make amends for a puzzling road loss in Milwaukee Sunday night, attempting to regain the magic that brought them to the thick of playoff contention, but needing some help in the final games to earn a berth.

The Bulls had nothing to offer but advice, taking a 25-point lead after back-to-back feeds from Aaron Brooks to Gasol for dunks a few minutes into the fourth quarter, as Gasol passed the 18,000 point mark for his Hall-of-Fame bound career.

After trading baskets for the second quarter, the Bulls had enough of that, holding the Nets to 15 points in the third, running away with the ballgame and heading into the season finale playing with the type of rhythm that could make springtime in Chicago a long one.

 

Bulls not a part of Anthony Davis-to-the-Lakers trade, but it could have an effect on the draft

Bulls not a part of Anthony Davis-to-the-Lakers trade, but it could have an effect on the draft

Farewell, Lonzo Ball-to-the-Bulls rumors.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday evening that the Los Angeles Lakers have finally acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, and the deal doesn't include a third team.

In exchange for Davis, a six-time All-Star about to enter his prime, the Pelicans recieved Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and three first round picks, including the No. 4 pick in next week's NBA Draft.

There was some speculation - also reported by Woj - that a third team would need to get involved in order to satisfy what Pelicans GM David Griffin was looking for in a package for Davis.

Though the Bulls were never directly connected in reports as a potential third team, it made sense considering they own the No. 7 pick and have a need at point guard.

There was also some speculation - though, again, never concrete news or reports - that Zach LaVine could have been an option in a deal, with the Bulls acquiring the No. 4 pick.

Alas, the Bulls aren't part of the deal. But it still may have an effect on them.

The Pelicans now own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks in next week's draft. They're obviously going to take Duke forward Zion Williamson with the first pick but now have options at No. 4. Whereas the Lakers had been linked to Vanderbilt poing guard Darius Garland, the Pelicans really don't have a need there with Ball and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt.

That, in theory, could bump Garland down to No. 6 and the Phoenix Suns, which would then free up the Bulls to take North Carolina's Coby White at No. 7.

Wojnarowski also reported that teams are still inquiring about the No. 4 pick from the Pelicans. It's unlikely the Bulls would depart with LaVine though maybe they could put together some sort of package to move up from No. 7.

What's more likely is the Bulls keep their assets intact in such a weak draft class and move forward with the best player available on the board at No. 7.

But it's officially Woj Bomb season, so buckle up. As is the case every NBA offseason, anything can and will happen.

NBC Sports Boston's Trade Bot comes up with Kris Dunn-Terry Rozier trade

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USA TODAY

NBC Sports Boston's Trade Bot comes up with Kris Dunn-Terry Rozier trade

The NBA landscape is getting ready to undergo a dramatic makeover this offseason, with the vast number of free agents and the volatility of the 2019 draft class. While the Bulls and Boston Celtics are two teams that could have much different views of success next season, they also could be ideal trade partners. Our partners at NBC Sports Boston laid out an intriguing trade offer that certainly got Celtics fans talking.

The NBC Sports Boston “Trade Bot 3000” came up with a scenario in which Danny Ainge targets Bulls guard Kris Dunn.

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This does not come as a huge shock, as GM Danny Ainge has had a liking for Dunn’s game dating back to the 2016 NBA Draft, when he reportedly almost traded then-Celtic Isaiah Thomas fior a lottery pick to select Dunn. Of course since then things have changed quite a bit, as Dunn has failed to develop into a real threat from the perimeter and his great defensive effort has been dragged down by foul troubles (4.3 fouls per 36 minutes).

NBC Sports Boston’s Trade Bot pointed out that Boston would be receiving the New London, Connecticut native with a full season before he is set to hit restricted free agency (2020-21). Dunn’s team-friendly contract would make sense for a Celtics team that is unlikely to have any functional cap space this offseason. And even in the event that the Celtics do create near max cap space, that would likely mean that guards Terry Rozier and Kyrie Irving are no longer on the roster.

Dunn would be a solid option as a starter or backup guard for a new-look Celtics squad that would be built around feeding Jayson Tatum plenty of looks, much more than the 13.1 field goal attempts per game that he averaged over the 2018-19 season. Dunn’s usage rate dropped a significant amount last season and his offensive rating improved as a result of him using less possessions. I would expect that trend to continue under Brad Stevens, who would find more creative ways to keep Dunn involved on offense.

It is simple to see how the trade would be appealing from the Bulls perspective. Though incredibly similar prospects, Rozier presents a greater threat from the 3-point line as compared to Dunn.

He is by no means a knockdown shooter, but the fact that “Scary Terry” has taken 6.3 attempts from 3-point range per 36 minutes (for his career per Basketball-Reference)  definitely matters.

Defenses will have to account for Rozier when he is on the floor, making him a nice partner for LaVine on the offensive end of the floor. But again, Rozier would not be a savior at the PG position. He has many of the same flaws as Dunn, such as generating a tremendously low amount of free throw attempts. As we all know, a fresh start can do wonders for a young player and a trade of this nature would allow the Bulls to add Rozier, while giving him the true maximum salary that only the Celtics would be able to offer.

To make matters even better for Chicago, the Bulls would be collecting a second round pick as well for swapping a player on a rookie deal for a player who is due for a significant raise. One last interesting nugget on a possible Dunn-for-Rozier trade is that the two guards are actually one day apart age-wise. They are at a similar stage in their careers/development, to the point where it would be tough to say which team won the trade.

Let us know how you would feel about NBC Sports Boston Trade Bot’s Dunn-for-Rozier swap at @BullsTalk!