Bulls

Bulls fall flat against charged-up Paul George, Pacers

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Bulls fall flat against charged-up Paul George, Pacers

All the recipes for disaster were present for a fat and full post-Thanksgiving performance for the Chicago Bulls, especially against a red-hot Indiana Pacers team hell-bent on revenge from a last-second loss last week in Chicago.

Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose struggled throughout, they gave the ball away as if it were bad turkey being passed around the family table and their inside advantage was nowhere to be found.

The Bulls showed some fight in terms of effort, but the cohesiveness wasn’t to be had - at least not consistently - as they fell 104-92 at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.

“We couldn’t get anything going on either end of the court,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Coming out of the game, we turned the ball over, I think, nine times in the first quarter.”

[RELATED - Derrick Rose on his play against Pacers: 'I played like (bleep)']

As for the Bulls’ supposed advantage on the interior playing a smaller, quicker bunch, this statement from Hoiberg was a mouthful:

“We allowed them too many second chance opportunities,” he said. But he wasn’t referring to the eight offensive rebounds, per se. The 15 turnovers leading to a 21-5 edge in fast break scoring has a way of making a coach look at uncontested layups as second-chance.

“It wasn’t very good tonight, that’s what we stressed going into this game, was getting back (on defense),” Hoiberg said. “The turnovers fueled a lot of those transition points.”

Paul George repeatedly attacked Butler in a way he didn’t in their last meeting, when Butler blocked a 15-footer with seconds remaining that could’ve won it for the Pacers.

And George attacked virtually everybody else who stood in his way as well. He didn’t get 40 as he did a few nights ago but he hit timely shots, especially after Rose, Butler and Kirk Hinrich found their footing with triples early in the fourth, at one point cutting the lead to 76-69 with 10:17 remaining.

“We got to the line four times in a row but we gotta execute when it’s big plays when we have the momentum and make it go our way,” Rose said.

They didn’t execute, as Rose shot 4-of-16 and Butler made 4-of-10 shots from the field, and George made them pay.

George finished with 33 points and eight rebounds, continuing his resurgent play after missing nearly all of last season with a foot injury while the Bulls looked like their footing was stuck in the turkey dressing.

Shooting 34 percent, getting very few offensive rebounds and not creating anything easy was not the kind of night the Bulls fans who made the trek to Indy hoped to see.

“We just got outplayed in all aspects of the game. That’s it,” Butler said. “Can’t blame it on anything else. The easy buckets they got. We weren’t guarding. We started bad from the jump and it stayed that way.”

It’s hard to win, if not impossible under such circumstances. At one point, Tony Snell had the same amount of baskets (two) early in the second half as Rose and Butler combined.

Yes, that Tony Snell.

Nikola Mirotic was the only Bull in double figures through three quarters, scoring 23 of his 25 points to momentarily break out of his slump but the Bulls shot just 31 percent through 36 minutes, but surprisingly were within nine.

However, once George hit a corner triple to give the Pacers a 92-78 lead with 5:08, it was all she wrote. The Bulls resorted to fouling Pacers big man Ian Mahinmi, a 21-percent free throw shooter, intentionally in the attempt to cut into the lead.

It only proved to be a temporarily elixir, because offensive execution was elusive and the turnovers came in second and third helpings, negating a hard-played game.

Taking plenty of jump shots, the Bulls are again showing a level of discomfort with this new offensive system, leaving one to wonder how much longer it will take before Hoiberg’s patience runs thin.

“It’s up and down, to tell you the truth,” said Butler of the team’s offense. “Our execution, sometimes it’s piss poor, other times it’s really good. It depends on the night.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The only positive was that it wasn’t a complete shellacking because it sure looked like the Bulls deserved it.

“It just happens some nights. Should it? No. But it happens some nights,” Butler said.

But after taking an early punch buoyed by their nine first-half turnovers leading to 16 Pacers points, they methodically crawled back in it after a 17-point deficit. C.J. Miles took advantage of his matchup with Mirotic early, hitting three triples, including a four-point play that gave the Pacers 39-24 lead.

It was followed by George Hill’s short jumper to give them their widest margin and the Bulls played from behind all night, something they didn’t have to do out west.

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

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USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.

 

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

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USA TODAY

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

Former Miami Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. is reported to be nearing a deal with the Bulls. In an interview with The Athletic, it was stated: "Walton, 23, says he knows where he’ll play next season. An agreement is in place, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, is requiring him to sit on the news until next week. All Walton can put out publicly is this: 'Long story short, I’m good. I’m going to a great situation. All I can say.' "

And while it is not yet known if the potential contract will be a two-way deal or not, Walton would provide an intriguing lottery ticket for the Bulls. 

The team mostly ignored looking for a backup point guard on the market. There is obviously a belief in the organization that Cameron Payne will have some internal growth, making him the best option. And the trade of Jerian Grant for essentially nothing, shows even more that Payne is there guy. Retaining Ryan Arcidiacono is a nice move considering the hustle that he showed last season at both the G League and NBA level, but it still leaves the Bulls thin in terms of established backup PGs behind Kris Dunn. And that is where Walton comes into play. 

Walton was a four-year player at the University of Michigan, where he played in some big-time games and showed immense leadership potential. But in terms of strictly on the court skills, there is one thing that he does extremely well: space the floor. 

In his four years at Michigan, Walton took a total of 581 3-point attempts, and knocked them down at a 40.1 percent rate. His elite shooting is enough to make him a legitimate rotation player for Fred Hoiberg. And while Payne still may develop into a better player, his outside shooting is his calling card despite never being elite at that skill at the NBA level. And in fact, when you compare he and Walton’s stats from college, the G League and the NBA, it becomes apparent who is the better shooter right now.

3-point percentage at NCAA level: Payne- 35.9 percent, Walton- 40.1 percent
3-point percentage at G League level: Payne- 33.8 percent, Walton- 37.7 percent
3-point percentage at NBA level: Payne- 34 percent, Walton- 41.2 percent

Now obviously, there is a “small sample size alert” for the NBA level, as Walton has only taken 17 3-pointers at the NBA level in his limited time with the Miami Heat. But these numbers show that even dating back to their freshman years of college, Walton has been the more efficient shooter from 3-point range.

Cameron Payne has the edge when it comes to playmaking, and this is based off of the fact that Payne has maintained an assist rate above 30 percent through all of his G League stints, while also having a low turnover rate (9.9 percent). Walton didn’t come close to Payne in terms of G League assist rate, and his 17.9 percent turnover rate at the G League level shows that his decision-making has yet to catch up to his shooting. 

Ultimately, Walton is going to be most effective as an off-ball guard who can make quick decisions, and knockdown the 3-point shot at a high level. Though if Summer League was any indication, his passing out of the pick-and-roll is getting better. And while Payne certainly is a good shooter, his game is much more predicated on having the ball in his hands, and playing in the pick-and-roll. With so many players on the Bulls who can create their own shot, Walton could end up being the cleanest fit with this constantly evolving Bulls roster.