Bulls end three-game western swing with win over Trail Blazers


Bulls end three-game western swing with win over Trail Blazers

The fourth quarter at the Moda Center is generally known as “Lillard Time” because Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has created more than his share of magical moments in that building with his exploits.

But the Chicago Bulls had no plans on being on that next highlight package, going back to their gritty defensive ways to shut him down early and late en route to a 93-88 win Tuesday, concluding their three-game western swing at 2-1.

Lillard didn’t get the last shot, as his emerging backcourt mate C.J. McCollum did, catching Joakim Noah on a switch, as a 3-pointer would’ve tied the game and likely sent it to overtime.

But McCollum leaned into Noah and didn’t get a quality look, instead looking for help from officials that never came, tossing up a half-hearted miss that concluded matters and sealed one of the Bulls’ more impressive defensive showings of the season.

And it started with Derrick Rose’s defense on Lillard, as Rose returned from missing the last two games with a left ankle injury. Rose had his moments offensively, finishing with 17 points and six assists in 34 minutes, and was a game-high +11 while on the floor.

“I thought he was good. We tried to give him rest when he could,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He was expending a lot of energy, did a terrific defensively. Lillard is one of the toughest guards in this league and he had to stay attached to him at all times, so I thought Derrick had great awareness on that end of the floor.”

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Lillard nearly had a triple double with the numbers were mostly hollow as he struggled to go one of nine in the fourth and four of 20 overall with 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

McCollum, who’s emerged as a capable sidekick to Lillard since the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews, scored 18 on seven of 17 shooting, but the duo was nearly 10 points below their nightly averages.

“Anybody I play against I try to give them a tough time,” Rose said. “Let them know it’s going to be a long night and try to contest all of their shots. He’s a great, great player.”

It was necessary because their offense, one that helped build a double-digit lead multiple times throughout the evening, faltered down the stretch in a usual disappearing act.

Rose hit his first 3-point attempt early in the first and a couple bank shot jumpers he’s become so adept at. Early in the fourth he went on a quick spurt to put the Bulls back up by 10 with eight minutes left before they came roaring back.

But holding the Blazers to just 35 percent shooting and forcing 15 turnovers made up for getting beat up on the glass 55-44, and helped prevent a late-game disaster when it appeared the Bulls were going to lose their composure.

Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into it when Plumlee threw his shoulder into Butler on a screen late in the fourth, prompting Butler to lock his legs on Plumlee in one motion and the two locked heads but no blows were thrown.

A technical was assessed to Butler and a flagrant one was given to Plumlee.

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said.

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Derrick Rose jersey]

They thought to fully restore order when Pau Gasol drove for a layup on Plumlee to give the Bulls a five-point lead with 1:45 left, but after Rose got a layup blocked, Plumlee drove it end to end with no one bothering to stop the ball, making it a two-point game with 1:14 remaining.

Gasol struggled from the field, making just five of 15 shots but hit a fadeaway jumper with the shot clock running out for one of the Bulls’ five fourth-quarter field goals.

Noah, who got the last stop, had an offensive game for the first time in awhile after going scoreless against Golden State, making his first jumper of the season and scoring seven points with six rebounds and three assists—none of which was a chief reason he was on the floor for the final possession, but likely added to his confidence nonetheless.

“We got stops when we needed them most and that’s what you have to do when your offense isn’t clicking,” Hoiberg said. “We missed some good ones and when that ball got on the other side of the floor it didn’t get side to side nearly enough, so again, we gotta keep working on getting better down the stretch.”

Butler made key free throws after the Blazers’ final gasps came up short, completing an efficient 22-point night that lead all scorers, adding four assists and four steals.

It wasn’t the first time they’ve used defense as a calling card but they exorcised a few demons in a building they hadn’t won at since the 2007 season, giving them good feelings on the way back home.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls


Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.