Bulls

Bulls get down and dirty with Celtics for sixth straight win

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Bulls get down and dirty with Celtics for sixth straight win

Good thing that throughout this stretch of efficient, pretty basketball, the Bulls didn’t forget how to play in the mud.

Jimmy Butler demonstratively yelled “no!” when Celtics guard Evan Turner tried a fourth-quarter drive he stripped out of bounds.

The usually demure Derrick Rose slammed his hands on the floor, earning a technical foul while complaining about not getting a foul call on a drive to the basket.

“That’s the story of my career since my MVP year (2010-11), it feels like I haven’t gone to the line like I’m supposed to,” he said.

And Pau Gasol, Bobby Portis, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk traded bumps and bruises all night in what will likely register as one of the more physical games of the season.

In other words, number six did not come easy, but it came.

But on the back of some tough play and silky smooth old-school drives from Rose in the fourth quarter, the Bulls emerged with a 101-92 win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night.

[MORE BULLS: Catch a replay of the Bulls' win over the Celtics right here]

Rose had two crucial layups and an assist to Butler for a layup of his own, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists in another sterling offensive performance, shooting 9-for-16 from the field.

“Derrick has got his rhythm back,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “As long as we keep the ball moving, that has given us a lot of success as of late.”

Gasol, who played his most physical game of the season, scored 17 with 18 rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes. Butler had another 10-assist performance to make up for a tough go at shooting, as he scored 19 on 5-for-14 shooting.

“It’s all about how you finish,” Butler said. “My teammates picked me up early. I think we won because of our defense, we played well all over the floor.”

Doug McDermott came to life in the fourth, hitting two triples to held stem the tide when the desperate Celtics tried mounting a comeback. The pretty shots were a rare sight for either squad, as the Bulls shot 41.5 percent from the field and the Celtics were a putrid 35.7 percent.

Rose helped hold jitterbug guard Isaiah Thomas to 5-for-17 shooting, which included the 20-point scorer missing all four of his 3-point attempts, as the Celtics shot 5-for-25 from deep. And Turner, who always wants to impress in his return home, shot just 4-for-12 for 10 points.

[MORE BULLS: Bobby Portis opens up about rookie season]

The Celtics, coming off a disappointing loss at home to Detroit the night before, looked a little leg weary and were without their coach Brad Stevens, who left the team to visit a former player he coached at Butler who’s now battling cancer.

They didn’t look ruddlerless and at times played with more fervor than the Bulls, but it didn’t translate to offensive efficiency as the Bulls held them to just 14-for-49 shooting in the second and third quarter, when the Bulls outscored them by 17 and took control.

The offensive flow that had been such a standard in the last week or so was uneven. Not ineffective, but turning the ball over too much and Butler’s inability to get going slowed things, as he went scoreless in the first.

“First 12 minutes we weren’t doing anything. Our pace was beyond brutal,” Hoiberg admitted.

Butler was doubled every time he had the ball and even sometimes when he wasn’t. It was clear the 36-point performance Butler had last month in Boston was fresh in the Celtics’ mind, but they clearly didn’t plan on Rose carving up their interior.

Rose took advantage of the 5-foot-9 Thomas guarding him and went straight to the basket at every chance, essentially keeping the Bulls in the game despite falling behind by 10.

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But their confidence in what has been built was on display, as they didn’t deviate from the plan that has earned them eight straight 100-point games through this current winning streak.

“It’s what we talked about in the timeouts,” Hoiberg said. “Once we got it going and had a little spurt, it injected a little energy. We got some momentum and carried that to the third.”

And Nikola Mirotic had a couple big plays before the half, along with Rose and then Butler finally getting going with an off-balance three-point play, a key point in the Bulls’ 18-6 run that gave them a one-point halftime lead.

Mirotic only shot 3-for-10 but scored 11 with eight rebounds and played with some necessary toughness on the boards when possessions were at a premium.

Piling up the wins as they find their identity is of utmost importance, and they seem to be taking advantage of the opportunities given to them.

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
 
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
 
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
 
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
 
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
 
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
 
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
 
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
 
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

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USA TODAY

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.

Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.

It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.

It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.