Bulls

Bulls collapse in final minutes against Jazz

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Bulls collapse in final minutes against Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY — Only the Bulls.

These Bulls would be the ones to turn a pretty gutsy effort on the road in a building that hasn’t been good to them in years and riddle it with last-minute mistakes and mishaps, spoiling what could’ve been a bounce-back win against the Utah Jazz.

Instead, they’ve lost their second in a row in as many nights, falling 105-96 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, squandering a 3-point lead in regulation when it looked like they would have a thrilling win.

Gordon Hayward emerged from having a bad three quarters to finish with 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, but the Bulls will find plenty of reasons to kick themselves for literally throwing away a win they desperately needed.

They’ve now lost nine of 13, and since the start of December, the Bulls are 16-16.

“A tough way to lose that one. Felt we gave that one away,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We had our chances, they made the plays, they made the necessary plays to win. We missed some shots, we missed some free throws.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The Bulls played through adversity for the better part of 48 minutes, when they held slim leads and took what they thought was a decisive lead with 18.5 seconds left on a Derrick Rose triple, but they didn’t account for the adversity they brought upon themselves.

They kept the Jazz players out of the lane after allowing a freeway of easy opportunities early, going on an 18-2 run at the end of the first half and seemingly took control until the fourth when the Bulls looked to choke the life from the Salt Lake City crowd.

But from there, things went haywire—or Hayward, one could say. After missing one of two free throws, the ball went off Taj Gibson, getting the Jazz up for a tie and Hayward delivered, driving unimpeded to the basket for a layup.

It was the start of the destruction, and it was many of the Bulls’ main players who didn’t come through. Butler scored 26 with six assists and seven rebounds, but will wonder about his missed free throws in overtime that could’ve made the deficit more manageable.

“Just being careless with the ball, not doing what we were supposed to do,” Butler said. “That’s how we’ve been playing lately. That’s the way it’s been going. The same outcome is what we’ve gotten every time.”

Rose, who scored 14 with three assists on a 6-for-21 night, had a couple turnovers late and let Raul Neto have a career-high 14 points on him, including a couple baskets late in regulation. They never fully got engaged in overtime, perhaps stinging from the shock of their inability to put the game away in the first 48.

Then they looked like candidates for “First 48”, bringing very little to the extra session.

[MORE: NBA Buzz: Trying to solve the Pau Puzzle with Bulls]

Plenty of chance situations went against the Bulls. A tipped rebound here, a review that determined an inbounds pass went off Butler’s fingertips and general things that go against a club when its struggling.

“We trust those guys in that situation,” said Hoiberg, referring to Butler and Rose. “Too casual, too casual on the turnovers in overtime.”

“They were still playing hard,” said Rose of the Jazz. “The turnovers and everything, they were forcing them. Blocking shots, getting to the lane. Their inside presence was always there the entire game.”

Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, two young bigs with athleticism, length and girth, gave the Bulls issues all night. Favors had four blocked shots to go with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Gobert had 16 and 12 rebounds in 43 minutes.

Pau Gasol scored 19 with eight rebounds but had his hands full with Gobert, and fouled out in overtime as proof of such a difficult go of it.

And more than anything, the Bulls, a supposed veteran team that shouldn’t get rattled in instances like these, got rattled.

And it showed.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.