Bulls

Bulls get what they want in matchup with LeBron, Cavaliers

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Bulls get what they want in matchup with LeBron, Cavaliers

 

MILWAUKEE—This is what Joakim Noah wanted, a trip to Cleveland.

It’s what the NBA likely wanted, and for once there will be no outside accusations of league manipulation in terms of making sure Bulls and Cavs happened.

The two teams who love to hate each other in the East, in a matchup that seemed preordained from the moment LeBron James announced he was taking his talents back to Ohio and reinforced once James the executive pulled off some roster-changing moves to ensure the Cavaliers would have a championship-ready roster moves, bringing in Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert via trade.

“You know what? I never thought I'd say this, but I'm very excited to go to Cleveland."

Of course that was Noah, who found his game at the right time in Game 6 against the scrappy, pushy Milwaukee Bucks with 11 points and 10 rebounds, giving credit to assistant coach Ed Pinckney for the work they put in during the two days leading to Game 6.

[MORE: Bulls storm into matchup with Cavaliers with laugher in Milwaukee]

By the time halftime rolled around in Milwaukee, you can bet the Bulls’ thoughts shifted to Cleveland and the inevitability of said matchup. They can drop the niceties about not thinking about the Cavaliers, and focusing solely on the team in front of them.

After Game 6, they sounded like they had a full scouting report on their rivals, starting with the absence of Kevin Love—whose shoulder injury will cause him to miss the entire series, leading many to believe the Bulls and Cavaliers are now even, despite the Bulls’ struggles with the Bucks in round one.

“It's a little different when you take the range shooting 4 out,” Derrick Rose said. “You don't know what they're gonna do or what sets they're gonna (run) or strategy they're gonna have. It's gonna take going up there and playing them. When you don't have a player like Kevin Love, it's something to worry about a little bit.”

After two shaky games and a shaky finish to Game 4 where he let Jerryd Bayless sneak behind him for a game-winning layup, Rose is back staring down that old nemesis who always seems to be in his way in James.

[WATCH: Antetokounmpo tackles Dunleavy, gets tossed from Game 6]

James is the main reason the Bulls can’t play the “we took them too lightly” card that seemed to be within reach during their slip-ups against the Bucks. When a man puts you out of the playoffs seemingly every other year, you can’t forget him, you can’t avoid him.

James averaged 28.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists in four games against the Bulls this season, so whatever slippage people think exists with James in his 12th season, it doesn’t show on the stat sheet.

“Just make it hard on him. I'm not gonna sit here and say we have the game plan to stop him,” Rose said. “But he's gonna bring it. He's gonna play hard. He's won championships so you gotta give it to him. He's a hell of a player. So when we play against him, we just gotta make it tough. Nothing easy for him, make sure he sees bodies.”

They’ll need Rose and Jimmy Butler at their best and most efficient, and one wonders if it’s too much to ask those two to be superstars every night against James and Kyrie Irving—especially with the damning evidence the Bulls presented in terms of inconsistent performances against the Bucks.

“We know they're a great team. We're gonna have to play very well for 48 minutes,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We're gonna have to be ready from the start. They're well-rested, they've been sitting there.

“They have a lot of weapons, it's a lot more than LeBron and Kyrie. They play very well as a team, share the ball. They've got length at the rim, good competitors. We're gonna have to be ready.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

How sweet would it be for these Bulls to put away these Cavaliers? The players won’t say, but the eyes of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, two players who’ve had to endure James sending them away for the summer three times before, can’t lie.

Gibson wants to make sure every possible thing that can work in the Bulls’ favor will, starting with the famous “limit the distractions” speech.

“Every game is different; especially in the playoffs everybody adjusts; like Thibs said everybody has to sacrifice, focus on doing the right thing." Like Derrick said, "put away the poison. Take away everything your friends, your family, the girls, you have to put all that stuff away and focus on the team.”

As they say all the time, no excuses, because they’re showing up at the door of a bad man ready to send them back away with a bad feeling.

Let’s get it on.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Darnell Mayberry’s prediction for the Bulls draft

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Darnell Mayberry’s prediction for the Bulls draft

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill are joined by Darnell Mayberry.

0:45       On chances Bulls trade up to 4 or 5

2:00       On Darius Garland and why Kendall thinks he could be better than Ja Morant

2:50       What would be the cost of moving up to 5?

4:00       On Bulls need at point guard- draft or free agency?

4:45       Odds that Coby White falls to the Bulls at 7. Darnell has concerns with White’s skill set

7:35       Will the Celtics surprise everyone and move into the top 5?

8:30       Trade scenarios involving the Pelicans

10:25    Assuming no trades, who do Bulls take at 7?

13:25    Concerns over Cam Reddish’s motor

15:30    On Jazz trade for Mike Conley, price too high?

17:50    On Bulls potential interest in Ricky Rubio (Kendall has a different veteran free agent idea….)

20:20    Darnell predicts that Derrick Rose joins LeBron and the Lakers

21:10    On Bulls interest in Malcolm Brogdon

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

All of our 2019 NBA Draft content in one convenient location

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USA TODAY

All of our 2019 NBA Draft content in one convenient location

Here's all our NBA Draft coverage to get you ready for Thursday night's main event.

Analysis

Every move the Bulls make should be geared toward 2021

Forget needs: The Bulls need to draft the best player on Thursday

How the Bulls can land a max free agent this summer

Versatile Coby White makes one thing clear at Combine: 'I'm a point guard'

Bulls not a part of Anthony Davis trade but it could affect draft night

The statistical need that top NBA Draft prospects would fill for the Bulls

Cam Reddish out to prove doubters, show he's the total package

Jarrett Culver checks all the boxes as a perfect two-way wing in today's NBA

Could Rui Hachimura be an option if the Bulls trade down?

A history of the Bulls trading up and down in the NBA Draft

Here's what it would cost for the Bulls to trade up

Draft Profiles

Why Cam Reddish should be an option at No. 7

What the Bulls would get in Virginia's De'Andre Hunter

If Bulls draft for need, here's what Darius Garland or Coby White would bring

If the Bulls draft Texas center Jaxson Hayes, here's what they'd get

USC's Kevin Porter Jr. could be the steal of the draft

Why Jarrett Culver should be an option at No. 7

NBA Mock Drafts

Expect lots of movement on draft night

How does the Anthony Davis trade affect the draft?

If the Bulls trade back with the Hawks, who might they target?

Mailbags

Trade talks heating up surrounding the Bulls

Best fits for the Bulls rebuild in the draft, free agency

Heading into a crucial offseason, where will the Bulls look for help?

News

Report: Bulls looking to trade up for Vanderbilt PG Darius Garland

Report: Bulls interested in Celtics forward Marcus Morris

Patrick Beverley is a fan of Bulls assistant Roy Rogers

Cam Reddish will miss 6 weeks after undergoing core muscle surgery

Assistant coach hires could hint at philosophy shift for Bulls offense

Here's who experts around the league have the Bulls drafting at No. 7

John Paxson confident Bulls will find a player that fits the rebuild

Podcasts

Reaction to Anthony Davis trade and impact on Bulls' draft strategy

K.C. Johnson joins to talk latest Bulls offseason rumors

Ricky O'Donnell on the Bulls' chances of landing a star at No. 7

Could the Bucks go after Malcolm Brogdon in free agency?

Would the Bulls consider trading for Mike Conley?

John Paxson confident in where the Bulls' rebuild is headed

Will Cam Reddish find his place in the NBA or be a bust?

Sarah Kustok joins to talk Lottery, draft, free agency and more

Catching up at the Combine with Vinnie Goodwill

Options at 38

Will high-flying Luguentz Dort be on the board when the Bulls pick at 38?

Admiral Schofield could be an option for Bulls

Why the Bulls should take Missouri center Jontay Porter at 38

Why the Bulls should take Kansas' Dedric Lawson at 38

Why the Bull should take Ty Jerome at 38

Why the Bulls should take Carsen Edwards at 38

Why the Bull should take Admiral Schofield at 38

Why the Bulls should take Shamorie Ponds at 38

Why the Bulls should take Zach Norvell at 38

Charles Bassey scouting report (went back to school for 2019-20)