Bulls' comeback attempt comes up short in loss to Blazers


Bulls' comeback attempt comes up short in loss to Blazers

Whenever the Bulls get back as a close-to-full squad, games like Saturday’s hard-played loss to the Portland Trail Blazers won’t haunt them as much as the other giveaways they’ve participated in through the first 58 contests.

They fought adversity, fatigue and bouts of ineffectiveness, and while having their share of opportunities late, they couldn’t get enough done in the fourth quarter of a 103-95 loss at the United Center.

Being without Derrick Rose in addition to Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic, the margin for error was already thin, and they knew it coming in.

“First and foremost you wanna make sure you’re competing and scrapping,” Mike Dunleavy said. “If that doesn’t happen it makes it worse. But once you get to a certain level of losing, there’s a major disappointment.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was obviously disappointed at some of the mistakes that led to the loss, but there’s only so much he can do with what he has at the moment.

“I thought our guys competed and battled tonight and played the right way,” he said. “It showed with our movement with the assists and open shots. Defensively we couldn’t get back in the game, we just couldn’t get that big one (stop) when we needed it.”

[MORE BULLS: Derrick Rose out vs. Blazers, but Jimmy Butler improving]

In some ways it looked a lot like Friday’s loss to the Hawks, but the Bulls woke up late to have a shot at things.

Pau Gasol’s triple-double led them with 20 points, 16 rebounds and 14 assists, but even he had trouble with Blazers center Mason Plumlee, who stymied Gasol on a few drives to the basket.

As the Bulls clawed back, they were sent back by an attribute they lack — athletic shot-blocking in the form of Blazers forward Ed Davis.

When the Bulls attacked the basket, Davis was sending everything back in the Bulls’ faces, with five blocked shots, and the Blazers thwarted two attempts at the rim that could’ve cut the lead to four with under two minutes left.

“Their confidence is high,” Taj Gibson said. “They’re playing shorthanded as well, but they’re playing the right kind of basketball. Everybody wants to win, everybody means well. We have a lot of injuries, but we have enough to win. We have to shorten our mistakes.”

One player who had no such misfortune at the rim or otherwise was Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who has taken the NBA on his own personal revenge tour since not being selected for the All-Star Game despite statistics that look familiar to Derrick Rose’s 2010-11 MVP campaign.

Lillard shut down an early run with a three-point play midway through the fourth, scoring as soon as he re-entered the game. He scored 31 points on 12-for-26 shooting.

“He’s tough. He can shoot it, can drive it, he’s pretty shaky,” Dunleavy said. “The big thing was taking away those 3s, and we did tonight.”

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The Bulls’ inability to handle Lillard was offset by making sure Lillard’s high-scoring backcourt mate C.J. McCollum couldn’t get going, as he missed 11 of his 12 shots, and they limited the Blazers to just 5-for-21 shooting from behind the 3-point line.

After missing his first eight shots, E’Twaun Moore joined the party to hit seven in a row in the third, waking up to score 15 of his 19 in the period. Doug McDermott scored 18 for his best five-game stretch of his career, with double figures in all of them.

“He and Pau have really developed a nice chemistry,” Hoiberg said. “Pau is such a great passer, and Doug can cut and move. Having Mike out there with Doug helps him a lot.”

But by then, the Blazers had their own party going, moving the ball around fluidly and taking a 15-point lead. It was then where the Bulls finally woke up and injected some energy into the building.

Gasol achieved his first triple-double as a Bull midway in the quarter, McDermott continued his surge, and all of a sudden after his corner 3 to end the third, they were within six.

But their early hole and inability to take advantage of the few opportunities presented to them led to their second straight loss, as they’ve slipped to eighth place in the East, just two games over .500.

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

On draft night, there is a decent possibility that the Bulls front office looks at their draft board and collectively decide that they can get a player with No. 7 pick value later in the first round. They could be inclined to feel this way more than in most years due to the 2019 draft class being such a toss up after the top three picks. If the Bulls traded down in the draft, I am assuming they would be netting a valuable future first-round pick, likely with some minimal protections. In this series, we will be looking at prospects the Bulls could take should they trade down in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Rui Hachimura per The Stepien:

71 percent at the rim

44.2 percent on short midrange

47.6 percent on long midrange

52.1 percent on NBA 3s (12/23)

Boylen talked a ton this season about “toughness” being a key tenet of the new Bulls culture moving forward. The idea of that “toughness” didn’t translate on the court heavily, though the Bulls did improve slightly in rebound rate under Boylen.

From the time for Boylen took over, the Bulls ranked 14th in defensive rebound rate and 25th in total rebound rate, up from 16th and 28th respectively under Hoiberg. Those numbers are a bit of smoke-and-mirrors with all the factors at play this past (weird) Bulls season.

But Boylen did have a much heavier focus on generating points inside first, with the team ranking third in the league in points in the paint per game during his tenure. Rui Hachimura fits in extremely well with the idea of the Bulls punishing teams inside with low-post scoring depth, resulting in open looks on the perimeter.

Hachimura stands 6-feet-8-inches tall, 230 lbs., with a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan. He is a very physical player and utilizes his wingspan incredibly well in traffic. Hachimura posted a 17.4 percent defensive rebound rate over his three-years at Gonzaga. I mentioned above how Hachimura embraces contact and his career average of 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes helps showcase his ability to be a wrecking ball in the paint.

He has the potential to excel as a small-ball center with the right personnel surrounding him. The fact that he can grab a defensive board and initiate the fastbreak makes him an even more valuable prospect. But when you consider that lineups with he and Markkanen as the two bigs on the floor would have five capable ball-handlers, the idea of Rui in Chicago becomes even more enticing.

Overall, Hachimura is a great prospect with a solid skill set that should allow him to be a decent scorer from day one, it all just depends on how much of an opportunity he gets.

The Bulls--as John Paxson has reiterated many, many times now--feel comfortable with the starters they have at the two, three, four and five positions, with point guard being their main area of weakness. While the Bulls don’t necessarily need another big, they do need to add productive players who are young. With Boylen’s emphasis on having multiple ball-handlers, driving the ball and points in the paint, Hachimura would be a logical selection, though No. 7 overall could be a bit of a reach for the 21-year old big.

His defense definitely has a long way to go--as with most NBA draft prospects--but Hachimura’s situation is unique since he literally had a language barrier to overcome when he first got to Gonzaga in 2017. The belief right now is that Hachimura is in a comfortable spot right now in terms of both speaking and understanding English, as reporting from Sam Vecine of the The Athletic (LINK is behind a paywall) and others has backed up.

With that being said, the Japanese forward still makes too many mistakes on the defensive end of the floor to be a surefire top 10 pick.

He is at his core an offensive-minded player, and as a result has not exactly developed much in the way of defensive intensity over the years. Hachimura averaged 0.6 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game for his NCAA career.

For comparison’s sake, his steal and block rates are almost identical to Marvin Bagley III during his time at Duke. Bagley had a highly productive rookie season with the Kings--landing a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First-Team--but the Kings defense was still four points worse when he was on the floor per cleaningtheglass.com ($).

Despite having similar measurements to Bagley, I don’t believe that Hachimura posses quite the level of athleticism that Bagley does, making his path to becoming an above average defender that much harder.

Ultimately, if Hachimura’s awesome shooting numbers from NBA 3-point range (41.7 percent) on a small sample size (36 attempts) aren’t smoke-and-mirrors, he will greatly outplay his draft position. Hachimura shot 52.1 percent on his NBA range 3-pointers and also has a career 74.6 percent free throw percentage. Whether he was diving to the rim on pick-and-rolls with Lauri spacing the floor, or playing in a high/low offense with another big on the bench unit, there is a clear path to Hachimura being effective in Chicago. It would just take a ton of patience from the Bulls new-look coaching staff.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues


Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

0:00- Will Perdue drops by to talk hoops. What will the Bulls do this summer to address their point guard need?

7:00- The Bulls need a point guard. Derrick Rose is a free agent. Should they bring him back home?

11:30- Carman says the Bulls should consider trading for Lonzo Ball. Kap yells at him.

16:30- Will talks about this year's playoffs and if anybody will be the Warriors?

20:00- The Bears Top 100 list continues to dominate discussion. Chris makes the case for Jay Cutler to be higher. He gets yelled at.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: