Bulls' errors spoil valiant effort in San Antonio


Bulls' errors spoil valiant effort in San Antonio

It happens so quick and yet, it doesn’t feel devastating even though it’ll show on the boxscore that the San Antonio Spurs win every game by a margin unmatched in NBA history.

The Bulls were every bit the Spurs’ equal Thursday night but overall couldn’t match their execution, falling 109-101 at the AT&T Center.

Every time it seemed the Bulls were ready to grab some momentum, something worked against them.

Trailing by five late in the third, they had a chance to cut it to two but Nikola Mirotic missed a wide-open triple from the corner, followed by Kawhi Leonard having one bounce softly off the rim then back in again, pushing the lead to eight. It seemed to be that way all night for the Bulls, fighting uphill against a buzzsaw and against their own limitations.

They hit five more triples than the Spurs, made 12 of 13 free throws and outrebounded them by a 50-40 margin, but their own worst energy came back to bite them, with 21 turnovers leading to 16 Spurs points.

“That was the game,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Played well for the most part except for the turnovers. You can’t give a team like that, especially in their home building, extra opportunities.”

The Bulls leave San Antonio feeling they let yet another winnable game get away.

“It was a game for the taking,” said Taj Gibson, whose missed dunk led to Hoiberg getting the first technical foul of his career late in the fourth quarter, both believing he’d been hacked on the way up.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“We turned the ball over a lot, a little myself. There’s plays you wish you could take back. We had great looks, the energy was good. We just came up short.”

By the time Danny Green snuck behind E’Twaun Moore for a follow-up dunk with 4:09 left to put the Spurs up 10 and re-establish some breathing room, it seemed fait accompli the Bulls’ effort in ending the Spurs’ 30-0 home start would be for naught.

“They’re so experienced, so talented and they just know the game,” Derrick Rose said.

Moore had a standout game, hitting four triples, most of them when the Bulls were teetering in the first three quarters and the threat of being out of the building was high.

Moore finished with 20, starting in place of Jimmy Butler, but they sure could’ve used Butler on the Spurs’ best player.

Derrick Rose was guarded by Kawhi Leonard, the premier perimeter defender the NBA has to offer. And without Jimmy Butler, not only was Leonard free to roam offensively but to hassle Rose on the other end.

Leonard led the Spurs with 29 points and seven rebounds to go along with two steals and two blocks. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 with 10 rebounds in 33 minutes and Tony Parker, who kept Rose’s head spinning all night with constant activity, scored 20 in his return from injury.

Rose, along with Moore and Justin Holliday (12 points), played exceptionally well in spurts to keep the Bulls in it. He scored a quick seven in the first four minutes to start the third quarter and the Bulls made the Spurs sweat.

The Spurs had moments where shots rolled in and out, which Rose pointed out succinctly.

“They missed a lot of wide open shots, too, so that was our reason to hang in the game a little bit longer,” he said.

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Rose scored 21 points with six assists, and only committed one turnover in 36 minutes.

“I wouldn’t say one play away,” Rose said. “A couple plays away. We had plays where we didn’t box out, (they) pitched it back out for open shots. We had plays where they got all the way to the lane.”

But he was one of the few who was unfazed by the Spurs’ perfect position defense.

They didn’t make many mistakes but when they did, the beauty of the Spurs was revealed.  Although the giveaways didn’t come in spurts, they didn’t have to because the Spurs capitalized, seemingly every time.

The Bulls had their turnovers and to boot, could only force eight out of the Spurs, limiting their chances for easy opportunities.

“That’s that great experienced teams do,” Hoiberg said. “They’ve won 30, 40 games in a row at home. You shoot yourself in the foot giving up so many easy opportunities.”

Then the other aspect of this team is when Gregg Popovich sits down and allows his team to run its offense to perfection.

Flawless cuts to the basket. Precise picks. And most of all, perfect passes.

The Spurs tallied 29 assists on their 44 field goals, with Parker dishing out 12 helpers.

Hoiberg won’t complain about effort, as they fell to a superior team in a perfect atmosphere in a building that hasn’t seen a loss in over a year.

But it didn’t stop the Bulls from sliding back into ninth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, with the Miami Heat meeting them in Chicago Friday.

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.