Bulls

Bulls' consistency, Derrick Rose leads to win over surging Jazz

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Bulls' consistency, Derrick Rose leads to win over surging Jazz

Coming home reeling and having doubts about the season do more than creep in as they began a four-game homestand, the Bulls haven’t gotten any healthier but they are halfway to stabilizing their house.

The Utah Jazz is locked into a battle for the eighth seed, just like the Chicago Bulls but it was the Bulls who led wire to wire for an 92-85 win at the United Center Saturday, even as change swirls all around them.

It was an old-fashioned win from days of yonder, with Derrick Rose masterfully controlling the tempo and the offense, with Taj Gibson literally willing the defense to one of its better performances of the season.

His voice was one heard on the floor and the locker room as he got on guys at halftime for blowing a few defensive assignments at the end of the second quarter, and although the Bulls held the Jazz to 40, he wasn’t satisfied.

“He jumped at the locker room at halftime and really got on guys,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s is taking more of a leader role with Pau (Gasol) being out.”

Rose had it going early, playing 31 minutes and scoring 22 with four assists and three rebounds. Gibson had to deal with Derrick Favors’ throwing his muscle around, contained him late, holding Favors to just six rebounds overall and seven points in the second half.

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“None of y’all business man,” said Gibson with a smile. “Some things don’t have to be said. I said what I said at halftime. We gotta move forward. We challenged each other. Great teams and players respond well when guys get after them. We responded.”

Gibson scored 15 and grabbed 10 rebounds, including hitting a jumper with 1:45 to restore a double-digit lead when the Jazz seemed to threaten, having entering the night winning four in a row.

“For the last two games, we’ve jumped out to double-digit leads,” Hoiberg said. “It had to be the urgency with what is at stake right now.”

Overall, the Bulls held the Jazz to 41 percent shooting and 30 from three, their best output since giving up just 83 points to the Cleveland Cavaliers nearly two months ago.

“Guys are starting to understand there’s a lot at stake,” said Doug McDermott, admittedly one of Gibson’s targets at halftime. “He got on us during a couple timeouts and in the locker room. It is a good message for us.”

And they did it with yet another first five, as Hoiberg had to adjust to the mammoth frontline of the Jazz.

It was the team’s 20th starting lineup, as Cristiano Felicio was the 14th Bull to be announced as a starter this season and he responded like a serviceable pro. He moved his feet well, defended without fouling and was competent on offense as a screen setter, moving constantly and occupying Gobert enough to where the shot-blocking center didn’t have much room to intimidate.

Speaking of Gobert, his night was punctuated by having 5-foot-9 Aaron Brooks block his shot at the rim—much to his dismay of the Jazz bench and the satisfaction of the United Center crowd.

They had plenty of cheer about early, as the Bulls started 7-7 from the field as they got Felicio a jumper and took advantage of every weak moment to grab a 15-6 lead. It was a lead they didn’t give back, as they shot 49 percent from the field. Jimmy Butler scored 13 on six of 14 shooting, adding six assists and five rebounds and Nikola Mirotic scored 15, including a crucial block late and a corner triple in the fourth when the Bulls’ offense went into prevent mode, not forcing the issue and slowing things down to nurse the lead.

[MORE BULLS: Pau Gasol (knee) likely to return next week]

“We’re doing what has given us success,” Hoiberg said. “That extra pass and ball movement has been very successful for us. In the fourth they picked up their pressure a bit.”

But their defense led the way. They allowed just 28 points to the midway spot of the second quarter. Favors still scored plenty on the smallish Bulls, just enough to keep them within striking distance at the half with 17 points.

“Derrick was really good and engaged getting to the ball, I thought his defense has been much better the last two games,” Hoiberg said. “With a team like Utah who executes their stuff so well, you need to find a way to disrupt them.”

Rose, meanwhile, hit both of his 3-point attempts and six of nine overall, carrying the load while Butler couldn’t find his offense.

“Derrick did a good job of controlling the game,” Hoiberg said. “He continues to take smart shots. The rhythm on his 3’s have been great. He’s stepping up.”

Luckily, Gordon Hayward wasn’t in Bulls-killer mode like he was in their overtime meeting in Salt Lake City. Battling an injury that had him questionable in the pregame, he made just four of 13 shots for nine points.

The Jazz were picked up by Shelvin Mack scoring 15 with eight assists, and impressive guard Rodney Hood scored 14 but missed seven of his 10 3-point attempts.

It had its pretty moments, as the ball movement flowed to 24 assists with just 12 turnovers, but the win was workman-like.

It was professional.

It reminded you of the Chicago Bulls you used to know.

29 Days to Opening Night: The teams afraid of a Zach LaVine poster

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USA TODAY

29 Days to Opening Night: The teams afraid of a Zach LaVine poster

 

We’d like to apologize to Jakarr Sampson if he clicked on this link. Though Zach LaVine was not exactly the model of efficiency in his first season with the Bulls, he certainly had a flair for the dramatic. And that included some ridiculous dunks, some of which came at the expense of opponents.

LaVine finished with 13 dunks in 24 games, a number that is sure to increase with a clean bill of health and a full offseason to prepare for the season ahead. The $78 million man will be showing up on SportsCenter’s Top 10 in no time.

Revisiting the Bulls-Timberwolves draft day Jimmy Butler-deal after his latest trade demand

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USA TODAY

Revisiting the Bulls-Timberwolves draft day Jimmy Butler-deal after his latest trade demand

The Bulls made waves when they traded Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft day in 2017. The general consensus was that the Bulls were absolutely robbed in the trade, and it was hard to disagree with that idea with the Bulls sending away a three-time All-Star for a package of players who "could" be great. But after Butler’s latest trade demand, the idea of the Bulls losing that trade seems laughable. A host of factors that couldn’t be foreseen contributed to this, but it does not make it any less true.

Zach LaVine was coming off an ACL injury when the Bulls acquired him, with no telling of when (or if) he would revert back to the high-flying, high-scoring guard he once was. And in 24 games of action, he showed impressive flashes, nowhere near enough to say that he was a franchise player, but the belief that he can become a primary scorer netted him a four-year, $78 million commitment from the Bulls. This was another move that many deemed unnecessary. But it would have been hard—especially from a PR standpoint—to let the centerpiece of the Butler trade walk. Now, with the salary cap projected to rise yet again, LaVine’s contract will pale in comparison to the approximately, four-year, $140 million extension Butler would get with a new team.

Thibodeau was all-too-happy to get rid of Kris Dunn, and though the point guard did have historically bad shooting in his rookie season, his playmaking and defensive intensity were something to build off of.

For the Bulls, Dunn was essentially a lottery ticket, and has definitely shown growth in his lone year under Fred Hoiberg. The Minnesota point guard situation is fine for now. But if Butler is indeed to leave town, Thibodeau will be hard pressed to find a player on his roster who can matchup with bigger 2-guards, something Dunn can do in spots.

Andrew Wiggins was supposed to pick up some defensive intensity from Butler, but one season playing with Butler will not be enough to transform Wiggins as a player. And the extra insurance that the No. 16 pick in the draft was supposed to provide the Timberwolves is also up in the air. Justin Patton was chosen at No. 16, but never made it on the floor for the T’Wolves, suffering a foot injury and spending most of his time in the G League with the Iowa Wolves. He is theoretically, a big who can stretch the floor and score with efficiency inside. Markkanen shot 36 percent from the 3-point line and 67 percent at the rim, making him the almost fully-realized version of the inside-outside power forward who would complement Towns. It doesn’t take very long to see how keeping Markkanen at No. 7 would have given the Timberwolves perhaps the brightest core of young talent in the league with Markkanen, Wiggins, Dunn, LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns.

What hurts most for Timberwolves fans is that not only would that core have been talented, but it would’ve been a clear-cut fit, something the Bulls don’t have at this stage, even with such an impressive array of youngsters.

It is now tough to say that the Bulls didn’t outright “win” this trade. Part of the reason Butler was traded from Chicago in the first place was the idea that he couldn’t be the go-to guy on a championship team, and that his (personal) title window wouldn’t line up with what the Bulls front office had in mind.

The draft day reaction to the Butler trade was looking at the transaction in the present, one team signifying that they were starting over, while another team was entering its “golden years”, looking to end a historic playoff drought. But with Butler unhappy on a (albeit underachieving, but still) playoff team in the loaded Western Conference, it is hard to see a situation in which he wouldn’t have done the same thing with the Bulls.

The Bulls front-office saw a ticking time-bomb, and so they moved on to avoid being stuck with a roster constructed around Butler, caught between competing and rebuilding. And now the Timberwolves have inherited what the Chicago brass feared most.