Bulls crawl out of slump with ugly win over Pacers

Bulls crawl out of slump with ugly win over Pacers

When you lose six out of seven, style points isn’t what you’re looking for.

Scoring 100 points isn’t what you’re looking for.

Heck, shooting 40 percent isn’t what you’re looking for.

For the Bulls, they weren’t really in the conversation for any of those benchmarks but in a situation where they needed to stop the bleeding, the Indiana Pacers played foil for a night as the Bulls momentarily ended the misery with a 90-85 win at the United Center.

It was sealed by a defensive stop with Jimmy Butler forcing a 3-point airball from Paul George, Nikola Mirotic shutting off a shot for former teammate Aaron Brooks and Dwyane Wade doing his best Peanut Tillman impression for a cross-court interception and dunk with 1.2 seconds left to complete the scoring.

“Just reading it, I played free safety on it, baited them a little bit,” said Wade, who led the Bulls with 21 in 32 minutes in his best showing on the back end of a back-to-back this season. “I kinda played possum and he lofted it up there and I was able to steal it and close the game.”

Speaking of misery, Nikola Mirotic was the main driving force, scoring in double figures for the fifth straight game, putting up 21 off the bench, including a redemption-like shot-clock buzzer-beating long two with 21.2 seconds left against suffocating defense, putting the Bulls up 88-85 — one possession after George nailed a triple in his face.

Pounding his chest afterward in a rare show of emotion, it let on to how much pressure he’s been feeling to perform.

“I was really emotional. It was important for me. It was a great shot, the game was there,” Mirotic said. “I was expressing myself a bit. I know you guys aren’t used to that. My head is down, not too much emotion. But today I was feeling good from the beginning. So why not?”

His play was necessary as the Bulls’ offense stalled again in the second half after an energetic first half, an expected response after two bad losses on the road around Christmas Day.

Reeling after a 12-point third quarter, Mirotic hit a couple critical baskets when the Bulls went extended stretches without scoring a basket, in a game where they shot just 38.6 percent from the field.

Butler was three of 12 for 16 points, going nine of 12 from the foul line. Jerian Grant hit big shots off the bench to score 10 and Taj Gibson chipped in 10 in 22 minutes.

“I’m playing simple basketball, I need to keep building from this point,” Mirotic said. “I know my weaknesses, I know my strengths."

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Speaking of misery, it’s probably Fred Hoiberg when he’s trying to explain the fourth quarter dropoff in terms of production as the Bulls suffered from it in spurts but scored 27, although the porous third quarter meant the bar was set low and thus hard to surpass.

Not playing Rajon Rondo was a solution for Hoiberg, a tough one considering how well Rondo played early in the game when the Bulls jumped out to a 16-point lead in the first half but the offense soon stalled thereafter, allowing the Pacers to crawl back into it.

“It was just the flow of the game,” Hoiberg said about sitting Rondo. “Dwyane was out there making a lot of great plays and we put (Michael) Carter-Williams in for his defense. It was great to have him out there.”

On one possession, Rondo grabbed three offensive rebounds and setting up open shots before Mirotic finally hit a corner three, with Rondo nearly outrebounding the Pacers by himself in the first quarter.

But even with the lead, the Bulls were barely over 40 percent and it came back to nearly haunt them dearly later.

They went seven minutes without a field goal for the Bulls until Wade’s glassing floater found the net while being fouled in the first minute of the fourth, completing a 3-point play. He hit another one soon after, giving the Bulls some level of breathing room that wouldn’t last.

A couple Myles Turner baskets cut the Bulls’ lead to 80-78, but they weren’t much of a threat inside, going to the line 10 times compared to the Bulls’ 28 free-throw attempts, and shooting better from the Bulls, albeit at a 42 percent clip.

Brooks almost stole the game for the Pacers off the bench with 19 points and seven assists, hitting three of the Pacers’ nine triples. He, along with Al Jefferson provided enough firepower off the bench to keep them in it, Jefferson early and Brooks late.

Speaking of misery, it was how Butler defended George, the All-Star whom Butler is most compared to, along with Kawhi Leonard. After Leonard paced the Spurs to a Christmas Day win, Butler took his likely frustration from both ends out on his Olympic teammate, holding George to six for 14 shooting and getting a critical steal on George followed by calling timeout with 1:36 left.

“You will not find a tougher back to back assignment in the league than Leonard last night and Paul George tonight,” Hoiberg said. “He spent so much energy on the defensive end of the floor. He takes a lot of pride in his defense, you could tell, and he was getting tired.”

But the Bulls played with enough verve and poise to stop the bleeding — by any means necessary.

NBA Board of Governors pass new, stricter anti-tampering rules


NBA Board of Governors pass new, stricter anti-tampering rules

After much discussion over whether or not the NBA should impose harsher penalties on teams for breaking the anti-tampering rules, an official decision has been made. The NBA Board of Governors passed a much more strict set of rules that will force teams to be compliant with the anti-tampering rules.

Among the new measures, the league will be selecting five teams per year that will undergo a "random audit", the maximum amount for a fine related to tampering has been raised to $10 million and team officials are required to save communications with agents for one full year.

The league will also retain the right to take the communication devices of owners if it is deemed necessary in investigations, though it has been stated that it is not something that Adam Silver wants to rely on moving forward. 

Though concrete details have not been released, possible punishments for tampering will reportedly include taking away draft picks, the voiding of contracts and more.

This is all in an attempt to create a more "even playing field" amid the belief that small-market teams are at a disadvantage when it comes to player movement. The new rules sound great but there is already fear among NBA GMs when it comes to how their privacy will be affected with this being a clear area of focus for the league. 

Along with the new, harsher tampering penalties, the league also announced that they have changed the language regarding traveling calls to "address the uncertainty around traveling." Another new rule announced was that teams are now required to announce their starting lineups at least 30 minutes before tipoff as opposed to 10 minutes, in an effort to "increase transparency for teams, media and fans." Teams will still be allowed to change their lineups up to the last minute if a player gets hurt in pregame warmups. 

All of the new anti-tampering rules approved by the league on Friday were a response to this wild NBA offseason we just experienced. There were many deals agreed to right at the start of free agency, such as the Bulls with Thaddeus Young, and the timing of those deals had many owners wanting the league to make tampering a greater focus. To a greater extent, moves like Anthony Davis forcing his way to the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard orchestrating he and Paul George's move to the Clippers are what got this package of anti-tampering measures passed.

Adam Silver has picked up a reputation as an NBA Commissioner who is very willing to listen to new ideas and make changes, and Friday's events support that reputation as he and the league continue to look for the best ways to get NBA teams to be in compliance with the anti-tampering rules. 

Is Ryan Arcidiacono trying to become the fourth Jonas Brother?


Is Ryan Arcidiacono trying to become the fourth Jonas Brother?

The Jonas Brothers are in Chicago for concerts that are taking place on Thursday and Friday night, and they have enjoyed quite a week. This week the trio has enjoyed a nice golf outing at Village Links in Glen Ellyn, had some quality BBQ at Bub City and even got the amazing opportunity to play a touch football game at Soldier Field. But one particular Bulls guard is looking to add another fun experience to their Chicago trip.

The Bulls organization welcomed the Jonas Brothers to the city with a set of custom jerseys for the trio and their significant others and that's when Ryan Arcidiacono chimed in with his offer. 

Since the Jonas Brothers have already got to play some football on the actual Soldier Field grass, Arci figured they might as well keep the Chicago sports-themed fun going and shoot some hoops with him. 

Now, Arcidiacono didn't make it clear whether or not he was offering for the Jonas Brother to get some shots up with him at the United Center, where their shows take place on Thursday and Friday night. But, either way, his time is running out as they will be moving on to Jackson County, MO for their next stop on tour on September 21.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.