Bulls

Bulls' defense bludgeons Pistons in workmanlike win

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Bulls' defense bludgeons Pistons in workmanlike win

It wasnt prettysince when was that a prerequisite for this team to win a game?but a combination of suffocating defense and a strong performance from the frontcourt propelled the Bulls to an 83-71 win over the Pistons at the United Center Friday night.

In yet another game in which they were short-handedstarting shooting guard Rip Hamilton was apparently a late scratchthe Bulls used their trademarks, offensive balance and stingy defense, to bludgeon an inferior opponent and their Central Division rival.

A balanced Pistons (18-33) attack, helmed by rookie point guard Brandon Knight (16 points), put the Bulls in an early hole in the opening period.

For the hosts, Carlos Boozer (13 points, 11 rebounds, three assists) was an active force from the outset, finishing with bounce and power, as well as attacking the boards alongside Joakim Noah (19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists).

The typical, unselfish brand of offense the Bulls (42-11) are accustomed to playing quickly made it a close-knit affair, subsequently followed by the deficit being completely erased.

By virtue of solid play from all five startersthe perimeter trio of All-Star Luol Deng (20 points, nine rebounds, five assists) and backcourt partners C.J. Watson (11 points, five assists) and Ronnie Brewer were also strong contributorsthe first quarter ended with the Bulls holding a 28-25 advantage.

The hot shooting of both teams tailed off dramatically in the second stanza, as a combination of good defense and bad offense prevailed. However, the Bulls maintained their lead, as Deng helped hold things together with the Bench Mob and the Pistons struggled to score, with the exception of veteran Tayshaun Prince (14 points, six rebounds).

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau eventually reinserted the bulk of his regulars and Noah provided a spark, aiding the Bulls in holding on to the breathing room they had obtained.

At the intermission, the Bulls were up, 44-35.

Deng excelled after the break, scoring by attacking the basket, but also proving his value as a elite-level defender and all-around talent. Noah also chipped in, giving the Bulls a scoring presence, in addition to his usual work on the glass and defensive end, all of which helped the Bulls keep some distance between themselves and their guests.

But the skilled play of much-improved second-year big man Greg Monroe (14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) helped the Pistons gradually climb back into the contest, something aided by the Bulls issues with ball security.

Still, through three periods of play, the Bulls led, 65-61.

A strong effort from Taj Gibson propelled a Bulls run that yielded a double-digit advantage for the hosts, again putting them comfortably in front of the visitors.

However, the Pistons werent through and with the likes of Knight and versatile backup forward Jonas Jerebko providing a boost of energy, Detroit was once again right on the heels of the home team.

The visitors comeback was aborted, however, as timely plays from Boozer and Noah extended the Bulls lead as the game entered its stretch run and with under a minute remaining, a thunderous Noah dunk over Pistons veteran Jason Maxiell sealed the deal.

With yet another home win under their belt, the Bulls now look ahead to Sundays marquee matchup against the Western Conference-leading Thunder in Oklahoma City.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.