Bulls: Mirotic becomes a question mark for Game 3 in Milwaukee


Bulls: Mirotic becomes a question mark for Game 3 in Milwaukee

If Game 3 was Tuesday, the strained left knee Nikola Mirotic suffered late in the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks would keep him sidelined, and it appears the Bulls are likely taking the cautious approach with their valuable reserve.

Mirotic was walking very gingerly through the Advocate Center with a wrap around his left knee after the Bulls’ film session, and coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t ready to make any kind of declarations when speaking to the media.

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The Bulls emerged with a 2-0 series lead but a couple unexpected bumps and bruises.

“We'll see. It's going to be a few days,” Thibodeau said.  “We want to see how he responds to treatment and then we'll go from there.”

With Game 3 on Thursday, it gives the Bulls a couple extra days to evaluate Mirotic, who sustained the injury when diving on the floor for a loose ball and actually wound up in a mini-altercation with Bucks center Zaza Pachulia, resulting in double technical and a Pachulia ejection.

But it wouldn’t be a safe bet to assume Mirotic will play in Milwaukee Thursday, and he hasn’t had his usual effect in his first two playoff games, totaling 13 points in 39 minutes on 35 percent shooting, as the length of the Bucks’ big men has given him problems — and the Bulls have relied more on Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler for scoring (the two account for 48.4 percent of the Bulls’ scoring through two games).

Mirotic underwent electric stimulation on the knee, and presumably was checked for a concussion after a collision during the same play. Thibodeau indicated Mirotic went through the league-mandated checkpoints and was cleared.

“I don't want to put a timetable on it,” Thibodeau said. “We don't know. It's a strain so you don't know how it'll respond. Just get treatment. He'll be in there two, three times a day. We'll just see how it feels.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The altercation with Mirotic was the third one of the game, as both teams were unusually chippy throughout.

Bucks big man John Henson ran over Bulls guard Aaron Brooks running downcourt in the first quarter, which started the festivities and it carried on for the rest of the game.

Nobody would say the game was dirty, although you could get a sense from the Bulls players that the Bucks toed a little closer to that line than the Bulls would’ve liked. Pachulia was hit with a technical earlier in the second half when an elbow caught Mirotic in the top of the head while jostling for position on a rebound.

It wasn’t a surprise after Bucks coach Jason Kidd wanted his team to be more physical after their Game 1 loss.

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“It’s a tough game to officiate,” Thibodeau said. “We have the best officials in the world. I can say that based on the international experience I have now. It’s not easy to officiate. For the most part, oftentimes you replay plays four and five times and you’re still not sure. These guys have to do it on the spot. They’ve done a good job. Playoffs are physical. A lot of it is judgment. We’ll see.”

Mirotic’s teammates were surprised at him being able to handle the increased physicality of the series, as it’ll only ramp up as the familiarity and thus the contempt, increases.

“It was rough. But actually, it’s more physical overseas a little bit,” said Rose of Mirotic. “I think that he’s used to it. It probably just took him by surprise that he (Pachulia) did it so blatant. He’ll be all right.”

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers


Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, See Red Fred joins Big Dave and Matt Peck. The guys talk about some big plays down the stretch by Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine. Plus a great defensive job by Kris Dunn on Paul George. (1:30) See Red Fred states his case for more playing time for Denzel Valentine. (4:00) Plus what's going to happen when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison come back. (8:00) The guys share some concerns about Coby White in the short term. (10:30) See Red Fred tells you about 3 players who have exceeded expectations this year. (13:00) Plus the guys debate whether Zach LaVine should compete in the dunk contest or 3 point competition. (18:00) They discuss the impact that Kris Dunn has had on the defensive end of the floor. (20:30) Plus See Red Fred lays out his blueprint for the Bulls to make the playoffs. (23:30) Plus the guys make a wager regarding the rest of the season. (25:00)

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

Bulls Outsiders


Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Just over two hours before tipoff, in his first public comments since Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how Jim Boylen’s teaching and coaching hasn’t always translated from the practice floor and film room to games.

Could the Bulls’ first victory this season over a winning team be a step?

And don’t mention that the Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams in the Bulls’ 109-106 victory, secured on Zach LaVine’s three-point play with 2 seconds to play.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto Porter Jr.) or Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) or (Daniel) Gafford,” Boylen said. “So we can ‘Yeah, but’ it a little bit too.”

Bravado aside, there’s stuff on which the Bulls can build here.

LaVine posted his sixth 30-point game and ended a week filled with closing misses with a game-winner in which he powered through a Montrezl Harrell foul on a nice misdirection play involving Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen tied his season-high with 17 rebounds while posting his third double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine, playing all but two seconds of the fourth, hit a huge tying 3-pointer in the final minute and scored a season-high 16 points. Thad Young tied his season-high with 17 points.

And Dunn was everywhere, relishing the challenge of guarding Paul George down the stretch and winning a crucial battle for a 50-50 ball that led to Valentine’s tying shot.

“That was a huge moment,” Boylen said.

So was Valentine closing a game.

“I just thought we needed some more shooting on the floor,” Boylen said. “We’ve wrestled with defensive lineups, offensive lineups. We try to mingle them a little bit. I just thought we needed someone to make a big shot. And he did.”

Valentine has now scored in double figures off the bench in five of six games.

“I’m very confident in my abilities,” Valentine said. “I was just waiting for the ball to come my way. Zach is our best player. So the ball’s going to be in his hands. But shoot, I’m ready for it. I love those moments. I love to make those shots.”

Dunn, who finished a plus-22, defended George as he missed a good look for a tying 3-pointer. George scored 10 points in just over 7 minutes in the fourth but missed all three attempts following Valentine’s tying shot.

“I love it,” Dunn said of guarding great players. “I know my niche on this team is to guard. And I take pride in that. It feels good to go against a big-time player and be able to get stops towards the end.”

Markkanen actually received credit for the rebound that Dunn kept alive to lead to Valentine’s tying shot, which Dunn said Markkanen teased him about. Dunn finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.

But his two biggest plays didn’t even crash the box score. He won the 50-50 ball to lead to Valentine’s tying shot and then confused the Clippers’ defense by slipping a screen on LaVine’s game-winner.

“I knew Zach was going to get downhill,” Dunn said. “Because once I did it, I saw Paul George look at me.”

LaVine couldn’t believe how much space he had to operate.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “Once I saw the lane open up, I think there were like 5 seconds left. We were trying to get the last shot. But once the lane opened up, I tried to get a one-on-one. He’s a tough dude. I knew I could attack his body.”

LaVine missed game-winning attempts on an isolation 3-pointer against the Warriors and over a double-team against the Raptors. His three-point play offered a dose of redemption for a player who is never afraid to fail.

“You’re not going to be perfect. As much as people are going to show more of the bad than the good, I’ve had a lot of good times in the clutch as well,” LaVine said. “I try to make the right play for us to win. And I did that tonight.”

For one night, matters were more positive. The Bulls closed out a game against a good team and received multiple contributions while doing so.

Heck, Boylen even downplayed Paxson’s vote of confidence.

“We understand what we’re trying to do. We’re in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like,” the coach said. “I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t expect anything less.”