Bulls

Bulls: Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler explode after Bulls' collapse to Hawks

Bulls: Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler explode after Bulls' collapse to Hawks

The tension and frustration was evident as Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler emerged from the showers after an inexcusable collapse against the Atlanta Hawks.

They were 3 minutes away from getting back over that elusive .500 mark, three minutes away from sending the Chicago hopefuls home with some good feelings as the two stars combined for 73 points as Butler scored 40 and Wade notched 30 for the third time in four games.

But 90 seconds turned those Cinderella dreams into a terrible, ugly pumpkin.

The Atlanta Hawks continued their mystifying mastery of the Bulls with a 119-114 win at the United Center, their sixth straight win, courtesy of a 19-4 run over the final minutes.

It was capitalized after the Hawks took a 114-112 lead, leaving the Bulls with two great options coming out of the timeout: Wade, who was hot. And Butler, who was scorching.

The two literally played horse to extend a 95-91 lead to 110-100 with an array of jumpers, 3-point plays and even a four-point play from Butler, sending the Hawks scrambling for a timeout with 3 minutes left before they regrouped to tie the game, then take the lead.

Apparently the memo didn't make it to Nikola Mirotic, who fearlessly took a triple after Wade kicked it to him on a baseline drive, firing up an errant triple that looked terrible from the moment it left his hands.

"I understand that if you've got an open shot take it," Butler said. "But at a point in the game like that, no offense but you gotta get the ball to your best players. That's just how the game goes. Let it come down on my shoulders or D-Wade's shoulders. Let us be the reason why."

Wade's frustration was felt before Butler spoke to the media, sounding very much like the veteran player who's utterly disgusted and shocked at the state of affairs.

"I don't know what happened, but you continue to be in these kinds of situations and lose games like this, you really don't care enough," Wade said. "You don't care enough. It's got to mean that much to you to want to win. And it doesn't. So I don't know. I don't know happened. I don't know how you fix it. It just doesn't mean enough for guys around here to want to win ball games.

"It pisses me off, but I can't be frustrated and I can't care too much for these guys. They got to care for themselves. We got to do better."

Wade has been the sage, encouraging and experienced star but he brought fire and brimstone after the game, probably as frustrated with Wednesday's result as he is with the season to date.

Count this loss to the Hawks as probably the most upsetting, but it can be added to a ledger of several—especially as the Bulls find themselves right in the middle of an Eastern Conference muck they seem unable to emerge from, mired in mediocrity.

"I heard what D-(Wade) was over there saying, yeah," Butler said. "Mother------- just got to care if we win or lose. At the end of the day, do whatever it takes to help the team win. You play your role to the tee. Be a star in your role, man." "That's how you win in this league, man. You have to embrace what this team, what this organization needs for you to do on either end of the floor. On top of everything else, just play every possession like it's your last. We don't play hard all the time. It's very disappointing whenever we don't play hard."

It has Wade questioning his teammates' desire to win as opposed to showing up and collecting a check every two weeks. It's a storm that's been brewing and finally, Mount Wade exploded.

"I wish I could say that everyone in here is going to go home and not eat tonight," Wade said. "I can't say that. I wish I could, but I don't know that they care enough. Games are supposed to hurt. You're not supposed to sleep, you're not supposed to want to talk to anybody. These games are supposed to hurt. I don't know if that is in guys in this locker room."

His challenge was certainly strategic, as he's hoping to stir some kind of lasting emotion from his teammates in a critical hour.

"Hopefully they can prove me wrong, but I will challenge them to see if losses like this hurt," Wade said. "We can play bad, we can miss shots, but we're having too many of these lapses. We're having too many of these losses. This just can't be acceptable if you want to do anything besides have an NBA jersey on and make some money. That's all we're doing right now."

It didn't, although it shouldn't have come down to that possession anyways, if all parties are being honest. Three triples in succession from Paul Millsap, Dennis Scroeder and Tim Hardaway Jr cut the Bulls lead to one and as has been proven all year, when adversity hits the Bulls, it's rare they stand together to fight with savvy and verve.

Schroeder scored 24 with nine assists while Millsap scored 21 and Dwight Howard added 16 with 12 rebounds, including a late dunk when the Bulls' defense again became confused with Hawks' penetration.

The Hawks shot 52 percent and 57 from three with 29 assists on their 43 field goals.

Giving up 41 points in the fourth, 17 triples overall and several backbreaking breakdowns on defense added to the calculated statements from Wade and later, Butler.

The Bulls' schedule gets tougher as the next month approaches with a west-coast swing coming up, a period that could be make or break with the All-Star break and trade deadline not terribly far away.

Who knows it was pointed squarely at Mirotic, whom the Bulls have previously invested so much in but has consistently underwhelmed, or Doug McDermott or Bobby Portis or anyone who could help the Bulls elevate themselves with just a little bit of help.

"You guys see our lineup. There's a lot of shuffling around," Wade said. "Coach don't feel he can count on that many guys right now. That can't be.

"There are guys in this league who people don't think can play. But once they get in certain situations, once they get certain confidence, they can play. It's not about talent.

"We got young guys. Sometimes you're just happy to be here. Once the years start going by, you find yourself in your 30s and stuff like that and start looking back and wishing you did more, I don't know. I've always been a person who tries to seize the moment because tomorrow is not promised to anyone in this game. You're one wrong move away from never playing again. It has to mean that much to you."

The leaders of the Bulls have spoken, and make no mistake, their calculated message was tinged with uncontrollable emotion they could no longer hold in.

"It's not hard to figure out. But at the end of the day if you can't look at yourself in the mirror and realize it yourself, no matter how many people tell you, it ain't resonating and you don't give a damn anyway," Butler said.

Gauntlet laid.

Zach LaVine is “tired of people talking sh*t about my defense” and working towards becoming an NBA All-Star

Zach LaVine is “tired of people talking sh*t about my defense” and working towards becoming an NBA All-Star

Zach LaVine is fed up with being underestimated and he’s going to do something about it. The Bulls guard has been having a strong pre-season so far but is looking to improve his skills as a two-way player.

“I’m just tired of people talking shit about my defense,” LaVine said. “I’ve always been a good on-ball defender. But there’s no reason I can be this good offensively and not be that on the defensive end.”

“I’m taking more pride in it,” he continued. “I’m pretty sure it’ll show. I’ll make sure of that.”

If you think LaVine sounds confident, he has good reason to be. Last season LaVine was one of only ten players to average at least 23 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, making him stand out as an elite player in the company of MVPs and All-Stars. LaVine’s personal triumphs, however, were overshadowed by the Bulls abysmal 22-60 record last season.

So far, this preseason LaVine has been looking better on defense, averaging 1.3 steals per game through three preseason games. Any improvements on defense will greatly help LaVine’s All-Star case.

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3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

The Bulls recorded their first win of the preseason with Sunday night’s 105-91 win over the Raptors. Here are three takeaways:

We got a peek at Jim Boylen's regular-season rotation

We had a clue that Boylen was going to go with Tomas Satoransky as his starter after he chose to sit him with the starters in the Bulls third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers. Sunday confirmed this idea. Boylen stated before the game that he would be starting to roll out his regular season rotations, and we saw "Sato" start next to the regular Bulls starting group of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and the returning Wendell Carter Jr.

On top of seeing the starting group, we got to see Thaddeus Young in his probable role as the sixth man, coming in for Carter to provide the Bulls with more of a small look where Markkanen acts as the center.

Markkanen was particularly effective on the glass against the smaller Raptors frontline sans Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam. Lauri collected a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds. 

Giving an even greater effort on the glass will push Markkanen closer to All-Star status and it is not out of the question as we have seen him raise his rebounding average every season. Games like Sunday night's show that all of the muscle Markkanen added this offseason is going to pay dividends in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and beyond, which will allow the Bulls to play smaller more often to get dynamic scorers like Coby White on the floor.

White came in as a substitute for Porter, giving the Bulls another small-ball lineup in which LaVine acts as the small forward next to him and Satoransky.

Satoransky was great, finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes. Sato pushed the pace but also could sense the right time to pull the ball back out and run a play in the halfcourt.

In general, the Bulls trotted out more three-guard lineups in this game, and the size of big guards like Satoransky and Kris Dunn help the Bulls blur the lines between wing and guard, mitigating some of the risks involved with not having a traditional wing on the floor.

On the flip side, the perimeter skills of a big man like Young allow the Bulls to play bigger lineups in which Young plays small forward next to two big men. In Sunday night's win over the Raptors, Young finished the game second on the Bulls in rebounds (7) and assists (3), while being in the right spot more times than not on D. 

With stretch-five Luke Kornet (2-of-7 from 3-point line vs Raptors), the gritty, playmaking Ryan Arcidiacono (3 assists, no turnovers), and rookie Daniel Gafford rounding out the rest of the new Bulls' Bench Mob," Boylen will have the ability to play many different ways, affording us a fair chance to see what he is made of as an NBA head coach. He is already passing his first test of showing that he is open to change, with the Bulls shooting 49 3-pointers on Sunday night, keeping their promise of being more aggressive from deep.

The Zach LaVine All-Star push starts now 

Overall, Zach LaVine has not been shy about already being at an All-Star level of play, you just have to ask him.

LaVine came into Sunday night's game sixth in the league in preseason scoring, averaging 22.0 points per game through two contests, and he kept up that scoring onslaught in a big way. He finished Sunday's win over the Raptors with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in just 24 minutes of action. He finished the night with four turnovers as well, and while you would like to see the assist-to-turnover ratio improve, high turnover totals are just the name of the game for high-usage stars.

Besides, Boylen and Co. likely would rather see LaVine collect some turnovers trying to make the extra pass—something the Bulls have committed to hard this preseason—rather than trying to iso and make a play for himself.

Notably, the LaVine-Markkanen pick-and-roll that figures to be a staple of the Bulls offense for a long time again made an appearance in this game, looking crisp at moments as defenses struggle with scrambling to Markkanen at the 3-point line or worrying more about LaVine's oftentimes dominant drives to the rim.

While it is encouraging to see LaVine score effortlessly, that is not a new development for Bulls fans. The true mark of improvement for LaVine will be his defense and playmaking, both of which looked good on Sunday night.

LaVine racked up two steals and showed an improved awareness and aggressiveness when prowling the passing lanes. What makes defense so huge for LaVine, besides the fact that his effort-level sets the tone for the team, is that he so often turns opponent turnovers into points in transition for Chicago.

The Bulls had 14 fastbreak points and 17 points off of turnovers in their win over the Raptors, with LaVine's efforts playing a large hand in the win. 

Coby White continues to score in bunches 

It has been stated many times how Coby White was more of a shooting guard in high school and only transitioned into being more a lead guard at North Carolina. And those natural scoring instincts have shown up time and time again in the NBA preseason, especially in transition. 

If you get White going towards the rim with a head of steam in transition, he will make it to the basket before the 24-second shot clock hits the 19-second mark, a remarkable display of his blazing speed.

Of course, everything is to be taken with a grain of salt in the NBA preseason, as we are often seeing White (and others) face off against a team's backups or even worse, players that won't even make an NBA roster. But what White has done well should play in the regular season, too. He scored 18 points on 37.5% shooting from the field, including hitting 4 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. White was 2-2 from the free throw line and finished with one assist and no turnovers. 

It looks like it will be a while before we see Coby White look like an NBA-level floor general but he is already playing like an uber-confident, spark plug shooting guard.

The Bulls can utilize White's scoring in the regular season knowing that even if his court vision isn't where they want it to be, his shoot-first mentality and propensity to keep the ball moving should result in lower turnover totals than your usual score-first point guard.