Bulls cut down big Celtics lead but give one away in Boston


Bulls cut down big Celtics lead but give one away in Boston

BOSTON — In the playoffs, stealing games on the road is crucial to winning a series and advancing, but sometimes you have to steal some in the first 82.

After the Bulls submitted to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night at the first hint of adversity, they finally began to dig themselves out of their man-made hole against the aggressive and dictating Boston Celtics.

They methodically charged back and the game was well within reach, but they couldn’t take advantage of a reeling squad running out of gas, losing 110-101 at TD Garden.

More pointedly, the Bulls ran out of good players and good opportunities, as they couldn’t cut into a three-point lead late in the fourth after trailing by as many as 16.

Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose were the only guys wearing black who could say they were productive from the jump, and for spurts, so was Pau Gasol. Gasol scored 18 with 11 rebounds but had crucial turnovers in the first half when it appeared the Celtics would run away with matters.

The Celtics lead by 15 at the half, shooting 50 percent and forcing 13 turnovers as the Bulls looked nonchalant, to say the least.

“They were too comfortable, that was the thing tonight,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They were too comfortable, hitting shots, got second-chance opportunities and we turned the ball over.”

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Rose continued his aggressiveness, with 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Butler, a gametime decision with flu-like symptoms, showed few signs of illness with 28 and a season-high 14 rebounds.

“I wouldn’t say (we have) no help,” Rose said. “It’s about being on the same page. All the hustle plays, it’s effort. Loose balls, rebounding, all that takes effort. We’re not taking that effort to be a championship team.”

The production and effort stopped there as the Celtics had Avery Bradley score 20, Isaiah Thomas score 22 with five rebounds, Jared Sullinger put up 18 with 12 rebounds and five assists and a host of other players wearing green do something, anything that contributed to a win.

Fred Hoiberg, though, had no options. He showed increased faith in Nikola Mirotic, but when the Bulls had a chance to take a lead with 4:39 left, a Rose bounce pass was mishandled by Mirotic and went out of bounds. A layup could’ve put more fear into a collapsing Celtics squad.

Mirotic was 1-for-7, Doug McDermott took one shot in 22 minutes and Tony Snell took one in 16 minutes.

“It’s tough. I feel for em, when you’re struggling it’s the worst feeling in the world,” Hoiberg said. “I thought the one who turned things around for us was Bobby (Portis). Sprinting into the ball screen, making contact and we were getting downhill and into the rim. That’s when we got it going. We missed great opportunities. Cut that thing to one and led to two key turnovers.“

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Their 20 turnovers were a problem, and so was their porous 3-point shooting as they again came up virtually empty from deep after being one of the most proficient teams from distance earlier this season.

They hit just three of 13 from deep, while shooting 43 percent for the game.

Their defense, one that has yielded 105 points per game this month, was on track for another Golden State-esque performance on that end, giving up 90 points through three quarters before showing a little resistance to start the fourth.

“The fire that we had in that comeback is what we need to have,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve had moments where we have it. But man we have a lot of moments where we haven’t. When they get a 10-point lead, put your head down then it grows to 15 instead of bucking up, finding a way to get back in the game. Then again, dig yourself a hole, takes too much energy to climb out of it. Then you’re in a dogfight.”

But getting stops was foreign to the Bulls, as well as finishing possessions on the occasion they forced a miss. Giving up long offensive rebounds felt like death by a thousand cuts when they cut the sizeable lead to a workable margin. The Celtics finished with 16 offensive rebounds, many of them while the Bulls tried in vain to make them sweat.

Rose, perhaps annoyed by something this morning, showed out in the third. He scored 16 as his jumper was on and his first step was cat-quick, even against Bradley, one of the best on-ball defenders the league has from the perimeter.

Butler took to the glass to help out when it was clear the Bulls didn’t have the legs to box out and go for the ball.

But in the end they didn’t have enough and walk eyes wide open into a hornet’s nest in Cleveland against a riled-up rival after letting one get away.

Bulls Talk Podcast: White shines in preseason finale vs Hawks


Bulls Talk Podcast: White shines in preseason finale vs Hawks

On this edition of Bulls Outsiders, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and Dave Watson react to the Bulls preseason finale, a 111-93 win over the Hawks.

0:25 - Young Hawks vs young Bulls and increased expectations for Bulls

1:35 - On the Bulls bench performance

2:10 - On Coby White’s 29 point effort

4:00 - On White and Dunn together on the 2nd unit

6:25 - On Denzel Valentine not being part of the rotation

7:20 - Viewer comment on Dunn playing the Marcus Smart role

7:45 - Question on if White will eventually start, impact of Satoransky on LaVine

9:22 - What’s White’s best role?

10:00 - The Outsiders on talking hoops with Jim Boylen

11:05 - Small concerns over Markkanen’s preseason

12:33 - More viewer comments including where Hutchison fits when healthy

15:25 - is Matt on the Big Red Bus? (tm See Red Fred)

16:40 - Viewer question about Coby leading the team in scoring; why LaVine is the star

19:35 - The LaVine midrange ‘controversy’

21:35 - Viewer question on best case scenario for Bulls win total

23:30 - See Red Fred repeats his mantra

26:20 - Excitement for the season opener

27:00 - On Luol Deng retiring as a Bull

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

Bulls have makings of a real team as game week begins

Bulls have makings of a real team as game week begins

The next time the Bulls take the floor – Wednesday night in Charlotte – they’ll be playing for keeps, looking to make good on their verbalized goal of making the postseason for the first time in three seasons. They’re lofty goals for a team that won just 22 games a season ago, but they put the finishing touches on a promising preseason in their 111-93 victory over the Atlanta Hawks that has them feeling confident in what’s ahead.

True, it came against a Hawks team playing a rare back-to-back (with both games on the road) and one that was resting John Collins, but the Bulls once again shared the ball, played with urgency and continued their 2019 style in a game they led the final 38 minutes.

Coach Jim Boylen treated the game as a dress rehearsal for the season opener against the Hornets in six days, solidifying his 10-man rotation and getting significant contributions from both units. With star power in Zach LaVine and (hopefully) Lauri Markkanen, a supporting cast that’s buying in and a few promising youngsters, the next stage of the Bulls rebuild is shaping up nicely.

“I thought each guy had moments,” Boylen said after the game. “I thought we did a good job of getting the ball to the open people or the hot man…That’s what good teams do. They find the guy that’s got it rolling. They keep it rolling as long as they can. And then we pick each other up when maybe a group or section of the game where we’re struggling. I’m happy for that.”

It once again began with Zach LaVine, who finished a terrific preseason with 23 points on 11 shots in just 25 minutes. He was a model of efficiency – he didn’t attempt a midrange shot – and finished his four-game preseason stretch with 93 points in 96 minutes, shooting 32 of 54 (59.2%) and making 14 of 25 3-point attempts (56.0%). Every completed rebuild needs a player like how LaVine is playing right now. It should be an All-Star season for the 25-year-old.

Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter were quiet in the preseason but there’s not much to read in to about their performances. Wendell Carter Jr. shook off a couple injury scares and put together his best performance of his limited preseason, finishing with 8 points and 8 rebounds and drawing some praise from Boylen for his off-ball intangibles. He should be full-go in five days when the Bulls begin playing for keeps.

Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky did exactly what they’ve done their entire careers: They were quiet but effective, with the latter forming a solid tandem with any frontcourt player he appeared with, and the latter grabbing the starting point-guard reins.

The second unit remains a question mark, but it will enter the regular season with some serious momentum. Despite being officially demoted to the second unit just days earlier, Kris Dunn again drew praise from Boylen for his effort and energy that sparked the Bulls in the second quarter.

“I thought Kris Dunn’s energy off the bench changed the game,” Boylen said. “He got us going. His effort, his energy, his focus was great. Some nights we’re gonna be in mud, we’re gonna be a little sluggish. And he’s been practicing really hard and I was really proud of what he did in that moment to kind of get us going. I’m happy for him.”

Dunn may be able to stay on the floor thanks to the scoring prowess that rookie Coby White is showing. The seventh overall pick scored a game-high 29 points and made 6 of 8 3-pointers. That 3-for-30 effort in the Las Vegas Summer League feels like forever ago, and for a bench that lacks much scoring, White’s ability to do just that becomes even more significant. His last three preseason games: 23.6 points in 25.3 minutes. He had just one assist, but the Bulls will take that scoring and shooting right now.

Boylen called his stretch of triples in the third quarter “as good as we’ve seen in this building in a while.”

Luke Kornet has won the backup job over Daniel Gafford, while Ryan Arcidiacono (and presumably Chandler Hutchison when he returns from a hamstring injury) is ahead of Denzel Valentine, who Boylen said needs to “stay ready” despite not being in the 10-man rotation. The bench is the Bulls’ weakest spot, but even Boylen admitted they’re starting to get a little rhythm together.

The caveat, of course, is that it was just preseason. Everything changes when the games start counting. On the one hand, the Bulls’ first five opponents include one projected playoff team (Toronto), On the other hand, four of those first five games are on the road. What worked in preseason isn’t guaranteed to work in the regular season. But for what the Bulls could have proved in the preseason – that they’re forming a team with specific roles and players buying into them – they did to a T, and it should make for a promising Year 3 of a rebuild.

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