Bulls

Bulls lose composure in Game 5 loss to Celtics, falling one game from elimination

Bulls lose composure in Game 5 loss to Celtics, falling one game from elimination

After a long miss, a battle of strength ensued underneath the Bulls basket as Jimmy Butler, Robin Lopez and Al Horford, Isaiah Thomas dug deeper to snarl the loose ball and was fouled by Bobby Portis.

The smallest player on the floor flexed with swagger, unleashing a devilish smile before giving the Chicago Bulls hell on the other end.

Thomas broke loose during a critical stretch to help the Celtics shake the Bulls in Game 5 of their first-round series with a 108-97 win at TD Garden, with the Celtics now leading three games to two and with a chance to clinch the wild series Friday night at the United Center.

Thomas' 24 points was certainly a tangible, but the Bulls will lament losing their cool midway through the fourth quarter after every button they pushed up until that point seemed to work, keeping them in contention.

Needing a leader to settle things, the Bulls were missing Rajon Rondo, who could only aid from the sidelines as a de-facto coach. The Bulls needed calm, they needed leadership.

Instead they came up empty at the worst time, being outscored 29-16 in the fourth quarter and turned it over six times, 16 overall. The turnovers prevented them from taking a decent-sized lead in the first half and doomed them in the end.

"We got off to a really good start then obviously they took over the last ten minutes," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I love the way our guys competed."

It was part of a Bulls unraveling when they needed to keep their composure, after they kept their composure for the better part of 40 minutes in a hostile environment.

Dwyane Wade picked up a technical, followed by Robin Lopez' complaining about being caught in a leg hold from Jae Crowder earned him one as well. Lopez' sarcastic clapping at official Ed Malloy did him in.

"I was trying to be supportive of my teammates; I was trying to be supportive of Mr. Malloy," Lopez said. "I think he misconstrued it; I think he took it the wrong way."

Wade warned his teammates there would be a game where very little would go their way by way of the officials, and his team would have to play through it. Wade said he commented to official Danny Crawford that Thomas was getting a lot of calls and that's why he was tagged with a tech.

"Well I've definitely been a 1 seed before, playing against an 8 seed and I understand what it means, especially on the road," Wade said. "It's a lot of these guys' first time in it, that we're not going to get a call on the road, to our liking. Not saying we don't get any calls, but to our liking, the home team is gonna get a little more cooking than you, and the emotions run high in the game."

Considering the Bulls rarely lost their cool, even in instances this season where more fire would've been good to see, Wade was encouraged by the passion and investment.

Even if it cost them.

"I'll take that. I'd rather see that than see nothing," Wade said. "It shows that people care. I'm fine with everything that happened."

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bulls playoff tickets right here]

At the end of it, the Bulls were behind 104-89 with four minutes left and Al Horford again continued his low-key but effective play with a dunk by twisting Nikola Mirotic with a fake that opened up the baseline and sent the Garden crowd into a frenzy, part of a 21-point nine-rebound, seven assist performance.

Reserve Kelly Olynyk scored a playoff-high 14 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes as the Celtics routinely used one big with four wing players all night, giving the Bulls fits again.

But that four-minute stretch was costly and now the Bulls find themselves one game away from playoff extinction.

Thomas' circus layup and foul put the Celtics back on top and he looked ultra aggressive from the start of the fourth, as Jimmy Butler got a rare rest in the opening minutes but it didn't translate, as he went scoreless on just two shots.

He took what the double teams gave him and will probably lament putting up just 15 shots, especially after he finished the third with a flurry, including a buzzer-beating 30 footer in front of the Celtics' bench.

Wade scored 26 with 11 rebounds and eight assists in 34 minutes, and the Bulls even shot 50 percent from the field, but put up just 74 shots. Lopez scored 14 and Butler 14, but Butler missed both of his attempts in the fourth and didn't get aggressive.

Lopez again made the parquet floor his own, going through a stretch in the third where he was hitting 20-footers and even manipulated the defense when it was scrambling to find Butler for a triple near the top of the key that was the most open look since Rondo injured his thumb.

Hoiberg went to his bag of tricks by pulling out Anthony Morrow for significant minutes in the first half, and unlike the last two games neither team could get away from the other.

Morrow scored eight in 16 minutes and Canaan scored 13 in 36 minutes, holding Thomas to just one of 10 shooting before Thomas managed to break loose later.

The Bulls repeatedly answered the Celtics' surges with calm execution and shot-making, hitting 53 percent in the first half. Keeping Thomas in check was the objective and although he made some pretty passes in traffic his teammates couldn't convert on wide-open shots, shooting 24 percent on 25 3-point attempts.

Thomas didn't get his first basket until the last minute of the first half, a triple off an offensive rebound. It was Avery Bradley who helped carry the Celtics when Thomas needed assistance, scoring 17.

In the end the Bulls needed assistance from somewhere, and it was nowhere to be found, as they head back to Chicago with their bodies wounded and spirits fractured.

Jersey from LeBron James' first-ever SI cover sells for over $180K

lebron_thumb.jpg
USA TODAY

Jersey from LeBron James' first-ever SI cover sells for over $180K

LeBron James is arguably the second-greatest basketball player of all time, with a claim to being the true GOAT depending on who you talk to. But one thing we can all agree on, with James entering his 17th season in the NBA, is that we don't know how much longer we will get to see him grace the NBA hardwood. With the final stages of James' illustrious NBA career in sight, fans have started to buy up all of the LBJ merchandise they can find and as of Sunday night, one of the rarest pieces of James memorabilia is off of the market. 

The St. Vincent-St. Mary's Irish jersey that James wore on his first-ever Sports Illustrated cover went for a whopping $187,500 in a Goldin Auctions event. The SI cover that James wore the jersey on in 2002 featured the title "The Chosen One", detailing how NBA franchises were already lining up for their shot at drafting James despite him just being a high school junior at the time. 

The $187,500 paid for the jersey is (somewhat shockingly) more than the amount paid for Michael Jordan's final Bulls regular season jersey, which sold for $173,240 back in 2015, then the highest price paid for a Jordan collectible ever at any auction

Only time will tell if another piece of James (or Jordan) memorabilia will eclipse the $200k mark but with a decent chunk of James' career still left, one would think that is a strong possibility.

Though Goldin Auctions founder Ken Goldin was off a bit, projecting that the jersey would sell for somewhere in the ballpark of $300k or more, the now-legendary jersey still ended up breaking the record for the highest price paid for a LeBron James jersey. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

As the Bulls played out the string last season, fielding glorified G League lineups, meaningful days still existed.

April 3 was one of them.

Not only did the Bulls scratch out a fun, one-point road victory over the Wizards, executive vice president John Paxson, coach Jim Boylen and general manager Gar Forman met with Otto Porter Jr. and his longtime strength coach from his alma mater of Georgetown.

That meeting mapped out Porter’s offseason plan and began the strong communication that continued Friday when Boylen and Porter met to discuss the organization’s approach for a proper workload for the crucial veteran. Following Sunday’s practice at the Advocate Center, Boylen for the first time publicly disclosed the Bulls’ plan to play Porter in the neighborhood of 30 minutes and approach back-to-back games on a case-by-case basis.

“We will manage him appropriately,” Boylen said. “He will not play over 30 minutes in anything we do to get going here. We’ll manage him on the off days in a real respectful way. Obviously, he’s a big piece. He’s our starting 3, a big wing. And we need him.”

The Bulls have a set of back-to-back games in this first week of the regular season, with their home opener against the defending NBA champion Raptors coming Saturday following a game at the Grizzlies Friday.

“We’ll see how he feels,” Boylen said. “It might be a situation where we manage him the first night in order to play him the second night. Or manage him the first night and the second night he feels maybe a night he doesn’t play. But we have a plan. It’s rough because it’s depending on how he feels.”

Right now, Porter feels good.

“Preseason has been great, making sure my body is healthy, making sure I get my reps in, making sure as a team we’re ready to go,” Porter said following practice. “I’ll hold it down for us until we get Chandler (Hutchison) back. That’s going to be always my job.

“But we got a lot of guards that can play the three too. We got a lot of guys that can play multiple positions. If somebody goes down, the next man always got to step up and replace – not replace but do more – and I feel like everybody is going to do more.”

Hutchison has yet to play with a hamstring injury. Shaq Harrison missed all five preseason games but is available for Wednesday’s opener in Charlotte, N.C.

Boylen said there are many options to keep Porter fresh even with Hutchison injured and Denzel Valentine currently out of the rotation, including Harrison or Tomas Satoransky at backup small forward and three-guard lineups. The Bulls also utilize big lineups with Thad Young at small forward.

“You’ve seen what we’ve done. We’ve had Coby (White), Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) and (Kris) Dunn out there together. Playing small and fast is good. You can also put ‘Sato’ out there with that group,” Boylen said. “There may be opportunities where we go big depending on the situation of the game. We’ve practiced those lineups and scenarios.”

Porter played a huge role in the Bulls’ brief surge last February after arriving from the Wizards in a trade. He has battled nagging injuries in the past, including knee, shoulder and neck issues. Porter also underwent minor surgery on his left leg that knocked him out of the April 2018 playoffs to address a blood buildup around a contusion.

“Every season, there are ups and downs and teams go through it,” Porter said. “Right now, it’s a matter of depth and we want to start out fresh. You start out fresh, you’re already ahead of the game.”

Porter is encouraged by the Bulls’ offense during the preseason, including an increased emphasis on 3-point attempts.

“Right now, we might not be shooting a high percentage. But in the regular season, that number is definitely going to increase drastically because we’re practicing hard, making our open shots and just getting open looks,” Porter said. “We know what this offense can do for us.”