Bulls

Bulls' 'magic number' down to one after beating Pacers

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Bulls' 'magic number' down to one after beating Pacers

INDIANAPOLISBulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has talked incessantly about his team not skipping stepssince his tenure in Chicago began, but most recently, as a cautionary tale before the playoffsand not getting caught up in the race for home-court advantage throughout the postseason.

Well, it appeared the Bulls (49-16) heeded his warning, as they held off Central Division rival Indiana, 92--85 Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, reducing their magic number to clinch the leagues top overall seed to just one game.

A steady dose of the inside tandem of Carlos Boozer (16 points and seven rebounds) and Joakim Noah (14 points and 14 rebounds) set the tone at the outset, as Boozer displayed his feathery touch and the energetic Noah was active and used his agility and high activity level to frustrate Pacers All-Star center Roy Hibbert.

For Indiana (42-24), veteran power forward David West (13 points and five rebounds) got off to a solid start, but that wasnt enough to prevent the visitors from creating some early separation.

All-Star point guard Derrick Rose (10 points and seven assists) didnt have a major impact, but in an abbreviated stint, the reigning league MVP showed some explosiveness on one move in particular, an acrobatic driving left-handed finish.

Despite reserve Darren Collison (six points and four assists), formerly the Pacers starting point guard, sparking the hosts toward the end of the period, the Bulls led, 32-24, after the opening quarter, as All-Star Luol Deng (nine points and eight rebounds) contributed with a strong all-around performance.

Lockdown defense by the Bench Mob, as well as Kyle Korvers (20 points) outside marksmanship and the blend of scoring and playmaking of C.J. Watson (five points and three assists), allowed the Bulls to further extend their edge.

Indiana didnt let things get completely out of hand, as they mustered enough of an effort , led by second-year guard Lance Stephenson (22 points)in his first NBA start, as leading scorer Danny Granger was sidelined due to a sore kneeto make sure the visitors didnt run away with the game in the first half.

The Bulls starters returned at approximately the periods midway point and were able to maintain both the double-digit spread and determined defensive effort. At the intermission, the Bulls held a 49-36 advantage, after Dengs attempted buzzer-beating three-pointer at the halftime whistle was ruled no good by the officials.

Chicago came out hot after the break, as Boozer and Noah resumed their early dominance, but behind West, the Pacers responded and cut the deficit to single digits.

Suddenly, with Indiana within striking distance, the contest began to resemble the defensive-minded dogfights in the first-round playoff series from a year ago, as the home crowdno longer as supportive of the guestsgot behind their team.

The Bulls defense prevented the Pacers from further closing the gap, as Indiana, with the exception of the fearless Stephenson, struggled to score near the end of the third quarter. While the Bulls also experienced one of their periodic offensive droughts, they still entered the final stanza with a 67-59 lead.

Chicagos Bench Mob, sparked by the high-energy play of Taj Gibson (10 points and three rebounds) and swingman Ronnie Brewer (four points and four assists), pushed the pace and got out to a quick start in the fourth quarter.

However, they were countered by a Pacers squad that lacked any fear of their opponent, stemming from the aforementioned playoff battle last season, and the young Stephenson continued to carry the offensive load.

Although the Bulls were plagued by ball-security issues, leading to transition baskets for Indiana. After Thibodeau sent back in a mix of his regularsRose got the opportunity for some extra work and hit a key floater before being replaced by Watson latebut it was Korvers shooting that ensured the visitors wouldnt falter down the stretch.

Solid execution and defense were able to hold off the Pacers, who went to an all-reserve lineup in the games waning moments, despite Stephenson continuing to pour in points on a career night.

Report: Bulls will sign Summer League standout Antonio Blakeney to two-year deal

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls will sign Summer League standout Antonio Blakeney to two-year deal

Antonio Blakeney's past 12 months have landed him a permanent spot on the Bulls, according to Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania.

The signing comes as little surprise for a number of reasons, beginning with Blakeney's play.

He was named the G-League Rookie of the Year after averaging 32.0 points per game for the Windy City Bulls last season. He then fared well alonside Wendell Carter Jr. in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 21.0 points on 40 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in five games.

Blakeney, playing on a two-way contract, had a cup of coffee with the Bulls in 2017, averaging 7.9 points on 37 percent shooting in 19 games. He scored a career-high 16 points on two different occasions.

He'll likely take the spot left vacant by wing David Nwaba, a player whose qualifying offer from the Bulls was rescinded in order to free up more cap space to sign Jabari Parker.

Blakeney will battle with Denzel Valentine, Justin Holiday and Chandler Hutchison for minutes on the second unit.

Jabari Parker defends Derrick Rose's legacy in introductory press conference: 'A legend, no matter what'

Jabari Parker defends Derrick Rose's legacy in introductory press conference: 'A legend, no matter what'

Chicago basketball is a brotherhood. Jabari Parker made that much clear during his introductory press conference on Wednesday at the United Center atrium.

When asked by a reporter about what the Chicago native and Simeon alum thought about the "rise and fall" of Derrick Rose's NBA career, Parker took a hard stance defending the former league MVP.

"Derrick had no lows. He didn't, because he still maintained. Derrick is a legend, no matter. I don't like how you explained that," Parker said.

"Injuries is a part of life. Everybody has an injury, either athletics or normal life. But Derrick is one of the best players to ever play the game and one of the best icons in Chicago. So, he accomplished his duty already."

Parker and Rose have more than just Simeon basketball and a Chicago upbringing in common. Both suffered multiple knee injuries early in their careers - Rose's infamous ACL tear in the 2012 playoffs and subsequent MCL tears; Parker tore his ACL in both his rookie and third NBA seasons with the Bucks. - and battled back through them.

And now they both have ties to the Bulls.

Last week Parker agreed to a two-year, $40 million deal with his hometown team. He'll join a young core including Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Wendell Carter Jr. as the Bulls enter Year 2 of their rebuild.

Parker wasn't the only one to stick up for Rose.