Bulls fall flat against charged-up Paul George, Pacers


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.”

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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.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition


2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.