Bulls flip the fourth quarter script to secure 'must-win' game


Bulls flip the fourth quarter script to secure 'must-win' game

The same story was playing out Thursday at the United Center. This time the Bulls wrote a different ending.

Leading by 10 after three quarters against the favored Clippers, Fred Hoiberg's group began that ominous fourth quarter that had troubled them in each of the past three games in similar fashion, with Los Angeles opening the period with a 12-2 run that erased the lead.

During a three-game stretch in which the Bulls had been outscored 102-70 in the fourth quarter, Thursday night's would have been the worst of the bunch. The Clippers had played in Milwaukee the previous night, Blake Griffin had been ejected early in the second half for a hard foul on Taj Gibson and Doc Rivers was rolling his comeback dice with a lineup consisting of NBA misfit toys in Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson and Austin Rivers; the Clippers bench entered Thursday shooting 39.5 percent from the field, second worst in the NBA.

But the early returns were positive. Rivers buried a 3-pointer from the right corner to get the run going. Wesley Johnson connected on another from the left wing to cut the deficit to six, then Smith buried a pair of triples, prompting a second timeout during that span from Hoiberg. The Los Angeles triples were sprinkled in between another offensive lull from the Bulls in which they missed 10 straight shots following a Derrick Rose runner off the glass to begin the period.

The Bulls were in the midst of deja vu at the United Center, a place where they had lost two straight for the first time since last January. Making matters worse, Rivers still had his big guns — Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan — resting on his bench ready to close out the comeback.

The remaining 7:29 certainly wasn't pretty — a theme throughout the night — but as Hoiberg correctly observed: "Our guys found a way."

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A Jimmy Butler jumper gave the Bulls a two-point lead, and Gibson's thunderous putback dunk off an Aaron Brooks missed triple gave the Bulls breathing room in the form of a four-point lead. Los Angeles hit 3s on three of their next four possessions, but all came in response to Bulls baskets, including triples from Rose and Pau Gasol, who led the Bulls with 24 points and three 3-pointers.

As if Smith's pair of 3-pointers weren't a sign of more fourth-quarter trouble (Smith is shooting 28.6 percent from deep this season) then Paul's 32-foot triple with the shot clock winding down to pull the Clippers within three, 78-75, was. But Brooks responded with three free throws after a clumsy Paul shooting foul, and the Bulls played two transition opportunities perfectly on defense, resulting in a Luc Richard Mbah a Moute offensive foul and missed Paul layup with a chance to get within one possession in the final two minutes.

A rose floater off the glass pushed the lead to six, and the Bulls withstood yet another 3-pointer from Johnson, with Paul's triple attempt at the buzzer hitting off the back iron.

The Bulls' troubles weren't solved on a night when they shot 35 percent from the field and committed 11 turnovers. They also nearly lost a game in which their opponent shot 3-for-23 in a quarter and played without their All-NBA power forward the final 18 minutes. The Bulls again were outscored in the final stanza, 26-19.

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But for a night, numbers didn't matter to the Bulls. Another tally in the win column did.

"Here we are again, fighting for our life. And I think now what’s most important is to build on it, minimize those type of runs against us in critical times, especially down in the fourth quarter," Gasol said. "It was a must-win, otherwise we’d be talking here about four (losses) in a row and (it's) just not a good place to be."

It was a mask-less Rose that led the charge. Coming out of the locker room after halftime, Rose, who went scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting in the first half, forgot to put on the mask protecting his face after orbital surgery. Rose kept the mask off and scored 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting with a pair of assists. Gibson, making his second straight start, scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Joakim Noah continued to show energy, making the most out of a grind-it-out game built for his style with 13 rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocks. Butler added 14 points and eight assists and didn't turn the ball over in 37 minutes.

Though the Bulls were two games out of the top spot in the East and less than one-third done with their regular season, Thursday felt like a must-win, as Gasol alluded to. And while questions will still arise about how the Bulls offense is responding to Hoiberg's philosophies, as well as rotation questions after another quiet night from Nikola Mirotic (five points and 11 rebounds in 14 minutes), for one night the Bulls flipped the script and busted out of a funk that had plagued them in each of their last three losses.

"We had to get this one. This was a huge game for us after losing three in a row, including a couple on our home floor," Hoiberg said. "We had to find a way to win a game. It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to get the win."

Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract


Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract

A report on Sunday from Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports indicated that the Bulls have agreed to a two-way contract with former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins. 

The 6'5'' guard was a teammate of Lauri Markkanen on the 2017 Wildcats, and many expected him to be a potential lottery pick after showing off the all-around skill set that also made him the top player in the state of New York in high school.

After going undrafted, Alkins played for the Toronto Raptors Summer League team, where he put up 9 points, 4.67 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. In the six  Las Vegas Summer League games he played in, Alkins shot poor from the field (37 percent) and the free throw line (62.5 percent), but he knocked down his 3-pointers, shooting 43.9 percent on a healthy 3.5 attempts from deep per game. 

There is an obvious fit on the Bulls for a player like Alkins. He was a career 36.5 percent 3-point shooter in his two college seasons, and has the physical profile of a great wing defender at the NBA-level. Alkins has a 6'9'' wingspan, and at a listed 220 lbs., it is easy to see him having the potential to guard four-to-five different positions on the floor. At this stage of the rebuild, the Bulls could really use as many of the coveted "3-and-D" wings as they can get. And there are some, like, The Ringer's Chris Vernon, who think that Alkins has the potential to become a glue guy.

Alkins will be a fan favorite wherever he plays. You want a Marcus Smart, Tony Allen, or P.J. Tucker–type player when you need a big play in a big game. I see that with Alkins.

-The Ringer's Chris Vernon 

The nature of the two-way contract means that Bulls fans will to catch some Windy City Bulls games to see Alkins in action. But much like Antonio Blakeney last season, we could see Alkins make an instant impact in the G League and get a call-up sooner than later, especially if the Bulls decide to move on from veteran Justin Holiday.

Either way, the pick up is a shrewd move by the Bulls front office. Alkins is a well-rounded, defense-first player who will be joining a young roster overstocked with scoring talent, but thin on defenders capable of guarding on the perimeter or executing a switching defense at a high level.

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago


Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

Jabari Parker is looking forward to what will surely be an intriguing season for he and the Chicago Bulls.

Parker signed a two-year, $40 million contract, that essentially acts as a tryout for the Bulls. The second year of the contract is a team option, meaning should things not go well, the organization can cut ties with him. But after 183 career games with the Bucks over four seasons, it was clear that Parker was in need of a fresh start. In Chicago, he will slide in as the day one starting small forward, and is already paid like a player who is definitely appreciated by his organization.

But with all of the off the court stuff taken care of for now, Parker's main focus is getting in to the best shape of his life, as he prepares for a full season as a wing player. 

Part of Parker's preparation was a great pickup game in downtown Chicago organized by the Chicago Basketball Club.


For Bulls fans itching to get a look at Parker on the court, the video shows off some flashy passing ability, impressive handles and a flurry of pull-up jumpers from the 23-year old forward. He also finishes well in transition in the video, though that is to be taken with a grain of salt as Parker was easily the biggest player on the court. 

Other players in the pickup game included former Simeon teammate of Parker's, Kendrick Nunn; and NBA free agent and former Marion Catholic star Tyler Ulis (a possible Bulls target?). If Parker looks as dynamic against NBA competition as he did in the pickup game below, the Bulls are going to have one of the more valuable contracts in the league in 2020, and would be likely to lock up Parker to a long-term deal.