Bulls

Bulls comeback falls short against Pacers

Bulls comeback falls short against Pacers

A rumor, a benching, a lethargic start and rousing comeback all took place in a matter of hours at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, all involving the Chicago Bulls in their second game in five days against the Indiana Pacers.

But it started with bricks and ended that way in a 111-101 loss Friday afternoon, as they were seemingly doomed by an early start that made one think if they knew what time the game began and were surely doomed when their inability to execute came back to haunt them.

“We had open threes that didn’t knock down tonight but I’m proud of the way our guys competed and fought their way back in it to tie the game,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Couldn’t just quite get over the hump.”

After coming back from a 14-point deficit, the Bulls tied the game at 95 midway through the fourth quarter, seemingly with enough momentum to complete it—on the heels of Fred Hoiberg benching Rajon Rondo for the second half after a minus-20 showing in 10 minutes of first half run.

A fourth quarter surge started with Cristiano Felicio getting a follow-up dunk and foul and a dunk from a pick-and-roll from Dwyane Wade. After Nikola Mirotic finally hit an open jumper, the Bulls found themselves trailing by five with 9:02 left—plenty of time to complete the comeback but perhaps not enough energy.

“It’s something where you gotta take it personally,” Hoiberg said. “About a week ago, it was us getting out to good starts. You spend so much energy getting out of it, you don’t have enough to finish.”

Perhaps if the Bulls found a way to keep feeding Doug McDermott on the offensive end, they could’ve stayed afloat as he went without a shot in the second half after going four for five in the first 24 minutes.

But McDermott also blew plenty of coverages defensively, drawing the frustration of his teammates and coaches in the moment.

“We better know what it takes to win games. We gotta be more focused in on our personnel,” said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 25 points. “We gotta be more focused on what this and that player is gonna do. We can’t take for granted we have good players who can score. Nowadays teams can score 120 points, we gotta lock in on the defensive end. We gotta rebound, it’s the little things we’re not doing that are changing it for the worst.”

When asked if the Bulls are becoming too comfortable falling behind only to have to make late comebacks, Butler couldn’t deny the evidence that’s been on display for several weeks.

“I don’t wanna say that’s what it is. (But) that’s what it’s trending to right now,” he said. “Is it fun for us? I don’t think so but we love to put ourselves in those situations. I can’t put my finger on it. The team that runs and wins the first quarter usually wins the game.”

The Pacers hit their first seven shots and took a 24-10 lead before Paul George finished the night off with some big buckets on his way to 32 points, a game-high.

“Poor start, poor finish. I think everyone wants to win,” Butler said. “We gotta play better in the beginning and down the stretch. We didn’t get stops, from miscues on defense. PG hit tough shots, that’s what he does.”

Missing shots is apparently what the Bulls do.

Mirotic went three for 14, including missing nine of his 11 3-point attempts as the Bulls shot six for 23 from long-range, playing from behind the entire night and never taking the lead.

Wade scored 20 with five assists, but the Bulls shot just 42 percent and surrendered way too many easy baskets to the Pacers as their rivals built a double-digit lead early.

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After the Bulls’ comeback, George slithered around the Bulls defense for a layup to put the Pacers up 102-99, after hitting three free throws from a foul on Butler with the game tied.

George, who was fined after saying the NBA favors other teams against the Pacers in the wake of the Pacers’ close loss to the Bulls Monday, went to the foul line nine times.

The Pacers nearly equaled the Bulls in free-throw attempts (31-30, Bulls) and shot 48 percent as Jeff Teague sliced the Bulls’ defense for 17 assists—partially a reason why Hoiberg could’ve pulled Rondo for the second half.

Thad Young scored 17 and Myles Turner scored 15 as the Bulls again found themselves playing behind the 8-ball—something they seem way too familiar with as this season progresses.

 

Season in Review: Otto Porter shoots the lights out in small sample size

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Season in Review: Otto Porter shoots the lights out in small sample size

Over the next month we'll be recapping each of the Bulls' individual 2018-19 regular seasons.

Previous reviews: Lauri Markkanen | Shaq Harrison | Ryan Arcidiacono

Midseason expectations: Otto Porter Jr. arrived in Chicago the same night the Bulls posted a 126.3 offensive rating in a 125-120 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Maybe that was foreshadowing for how the offense would look two days later when Porter made his Bulls debut. That was the expectation, at least, that Porter would infuse life into a stagnant Bulls offense, space the floor and give the Bulls some versatility on the defensive end. Given the Bulls were 12-42 when Porter arrived, the expectation was that he’d gain some chemistry with Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen heading into the 2019-2020 season when he’d have an entire offseason to figure out a defined role.

What went right: How about 49 percent from beyond the arc? Again, it was a small sample size, but Porter connected on 39 of his 80 3-point attempts in 15 games with the Bulls. Perhaps a change of scenery and leaving that nightmare of a John Wall-less Wizards offense, was exactly what he needed. Past his lights-out shooting, Porter showed a knack for distributing that he rarely showed in Washington.

Consider that Porter had 40 assists in 15 games with the Bulls, half of the 80 assists he had with the Wizards in 41 games. He had a career-high eight assists for the Bulls in a March game against the Pistons, three more than his high in Washington last season. Porter is never going to initiate offense but playing well in pick-and-roll action and keeping the ball moving around the perimeter only adds to his value.

What went wrong: Pegged as two-way player when he arrived in Chicago, Porter didn’t do all that much on the defensive end. The Bulls were 1.1 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Porter sat than when he played. It’s a small sample size, and the Bulls defense was a mess regardless of who was or wasn’t on the floor, but it’s hard to pick out any real significant defensive plays that Porter made in his 15 games.

The Stat: 111.5

We’ll disclaim here that it was just a 17-game sample size, but that’s still more than 20 percent of the season. In the 17 games between Porter’s acquisition and when he was shut down for the remainder of the season, the Bulls’ 111.5 offensive rating was ninth best in the NBA, better than teams such as the Warriors, Hawks, Sixers and Nuggets.

What’s more, their turnover percentage (13.3%, 13th), effective field goal percentage (53.0%, 11th) and offensive rebound percentage (26.1%, 15th) were all top half of the league. It was their best stretch of the season, and it was no coincidence that it came while Porter was in the lineup and healthy. Small-ish sample size? Yes. Still promising? Yes.

2019-20 Expectations: A lot. No, the Bulls didn’t give Porter that massive contract. But it’s going to stick with him as long as the Bulls are paying him. Expectations are clear: Continue to be an elite 3-point shooter and move the ball – whether it be around the perimeter or in pick-and-roll action – once the defense shifts.

Speaking of defense, Porter will be tasked with changing the narrative in Chicago. The Bulls need to improve their defense if they’re going to have any change of competing for a playoff spot and much of that responsibility will fall on Porter. He’ll routinely be guarding the opponent’s best wing and will need to hide Zach LaVine at times. It’s a tall order, but it comes with the territory while making $27 million per year.

Report: Bulls possibly interested in adding Jrue Holiday?

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Report: Bulls possibly interested in adding Jrue Holiday?

According to a story by Sporting News NBA writer Sean Deveney, the Bulls may be looking for help in the form of one of the NBA’s better two-way players.

In the post, Deveney goes over the most salient points made by brand new New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin. This included the fact that Griffin stated that Pels head coach Alvin Gentry will be back and that Jrue Holiday is considered “a franchise building block”.

This could be a bit of gamesmanship from Griffin, hoping to drive up the asking price for an All-Star caliber player such as Holiday.

But Deveney suggests that New Orleans may indeed be serious about their efforts to keep building with Holiday on the roster. Deveney stated, “if the Pelicans don't trade Holiday, it will set up the team for an attempt at a fast turnaround rather than a long, slogging rebuild......It will also frustrate teams looking for a versatile point guard in his prime, hoping that Holiday would be on the block.”

Phoenix was mentioned as the “top contender” for Holiday’s services should he be made available, as the Suns are one of the few teams with an obvious hole at PG. Along with the Suns, Chicago and Orlando were the other teams listed as having interest in Holiday. The Magic completed a low-risk trade during the 2018-19 season that landed them 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, so they may not be inclined to give up solid assets in a deal.

As far as the Bulls are concerned, any serious inquires on Holiday are likely to come after the May 14 NBA Draft lottery.

Depending on where the Bulls lottery pick ends up, the Pelicans could be much more inclined to make a deal with the Chicago front office. The Pelicans ended the season tied with Memphis and Dallas for the 7th spot in the draft lottery odds, and their specific organizational goals could make moving up in the draft order worth losing a valuable player like Jrue Holiday. And for the Bulls, nabbing a player like Holiday helps build onto the positive team culture that Jim Boylen wants to establish and gives the Bulls a perfect guard to pair in the backcourt with Zach LaVine.