Bulls need to play 'perfect game' or Warriors 'could tear us apart'


Bulls need to play 'perfect game' or Warriors 'could tear us apart'

It's just one of 82 regular season home games. Win by 20 or lose by 50, they'll still be at least seven games over .500 and in the top four in the Eastern Conference. By season's end Wednesday night's game will be a blip on the radar of a long, up-and-down season they hope ends on a high note.

All those statements are true of the Bulls' matchup against the defending champion Golden State Warriors tonight at the United Center. But even some of their most veteran players, ever cautious not to get caught up in the moment, understand the importance of tonight's game.

"It’s the hottest team in the NBA, team with the best record, so yeah it does feel a little different because of the challenge they present," said veteran Pau Gasol. "We’re going to have to play our best basketball in order to be able to have an opportunity to win tonight."

[MORE BULLS: Bulls prepare for daunting task against champion Warriors]

Such is life for every opponent facing the Warriors, who at 38-4 are on pace to break the 1996 Bulls' 72-10 record and are the favorites to repeat as NBA champions. But beyond what reigning MVP Stephen Curry and the run-and-gun Warriors may accomplish by June, they're a matchup nightmare on both ends of the floor and tout not only the most lethal starting unit in the league, but also a bench that rarely skips a beat when called upon.

Led by Curry's league-leading 30.0 points per game - despite him averaging 33.9 minutes per game, 33rd most in the NBA thanks to the Warriors' copious blowouts - the Warriors rank first in the NBA in offensive efficiency (112.4), effective field goal percentage (56.0%), assists per game (28.7) and made 3-pointers per game (12.8). Stretch forward Draymond Green has become a legitimate MVP candidate, a five-category contributor who leads the NBA with eight triple-doubles, and Klay Thompson is averaging career-bests in field goal percentage and 3-pointers per game.

They showed signs of mortality last week, losing games to the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons, the latter by 25 points. But they responded with arguably their most impressive win of the year - which says a lot considering they've already got 38 of them - handing LeBron James his worst home loss in a 43-point drubbing of the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

[LIVE STREAM: Bulls-Warriors pregame warm-ups at 4:30 p.m.]

"They present a very difficult matchup," Gasol added. "They move extremely well without the basketball, they have great shooting on the floor, they spread the floor really well with Steph being such a threat from anywhere on the floor he creates attention. He allows Draymond to make plays for himself and others and so they have great balance overall. They’re a tough matchup."

Working in the Bulls' favor, aside from playing at home where they're 16-7, is that they played the Warriors close in Oracle Arena back in November, falling 106-94 without point guard Derrick Rose. The Bulls led that game with less than 9 minutes to play and were within a single possession inside 2 minutes before the Warriors closed on a 12-3 run.

Also, the Bulls have played their best basketball against some of the league's best competition. Though they've got a handful of inexplicable losses, their impressive resume of wins includes victories over Oklahoma City (twice), Cleveland and San Antonio. Of the teams with the six best records in the NBA - the Bulls have the seventh at 24-16 - they've beaten time of them a total of six times, with the Warriors being their only miss.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The Bulls have lost four of six but enter Wednesday night games with some confidence, having knocked off the Pistons on the road Monday afternoon. A loss certainly wouldn't be a sign of a team falling off, while a win would signal once again that the Bulls have the talent to compete with any team in the NBA. In order to do that, the defense that has faltered the last few weeks will need to step up in a big way against a Warriors offense that can rattle off points in a hurry and won't slow up, like they did Monday night when they scored 132 points on the Cavaliers.

"We have to have pretty much a perfect game from beginning to end, top to bottom," Gasol admitted. It’s going to come down to us being the more aggressive team tonight and if we can do that and get into them defensively, make it uncomfortable for them, make them take tougher shots than usual, rebounding the ball, not giving them second opportunities, kind of taking control of the game, which is a tough test, we’ll have a better chance and a good chance to win.

"If we allow them to play their game, to be comfortable out there, to take any shot they want with the shooters they’ve got out there, they could tear us apart."

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

The NBA preseason has finished and teams are finalizing their rosters before the beginning of the regular season.

For the Bulls, that meant claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers and signing him to a two-way contract.

The Athletic's Shams Charania first reported the move.

Ulis, a product of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, was waived by the Warriors on Friday. He spent two years at Kentucky before getting drafted in the second round by the Phoenix Suns in 2016.

In two years with the Suns, Ulis made 58 starts and played in 132 games. He averaged just over 7 points per game in both seasons. Last season, Ulis also averaged 4.4 assists per game against 1.8 turnovers in 23.4 minutes per game.

The Suns waived Ulis after the season and the Warriors signed him for the preseason. He averaged 3 points and 1.5 assists per game in four preseason games with the Warriors.

The two-way contract means Ulis could be spending more time with the Windy City Bulls than at the United Center on game days, but backup point guard is a question mark for the Bulls. Cam Payne looks like he will get first crack at the role behind Kris Dunn with Denzel Valentine injured. Ryan Arcidiacono just made the team and could also figure into point guard minutes.

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Cuts during the NBA preseason aren’t exactly as gut-wrenching and tension-filled as they are in the NFL. NBA teams cut from somewhere in the late teens down to 15, and the potential for two-way contracts exist for those players who don’t make the roster. But for Ryan Arcidiacono, Saturday was filled with angst as he waited for a call. It never came.

“I was thinking about it. It’s like Hard Knocks when you’re watching. You don’t want to get that phone call,” Arcidiacono said Sunday before practice. “I was just thinking to myself after the game (Friday), nobody said anything to me. I was talking to (assistant) Pete (Myers) and he said, ‘Just get outta here, man. I’ll see you at practice on Sunday.’ I was still a little nervous on Friday night. Saturday morning I felt better after I talked to my agent and everything became more official.”

It’s quite the journey for Arcidiacono, who spent time both with the Bulls and their G-League affiliate in Hoffman Estates last season. In 37 starts with the Windy City Bulls, Arcidiacono averaged 13.9 points and 8.5 assists in 39.6 minutes. His two longest stints in Chicago came in late January and at the end of the year, and that 24-game audition was enough for the Bulls to re-sign him in July.

Arcidiacono found more comfort this summer in Year 2 with the Bulls. Though his playing time in the preseason was limited he showed enough in camp to warrant a spot on the roster. It also helped that the Bulls find themselves thin at the point guard position behind Kris Dunn, with Cameron Payne struggling and Denzel Valentine on the mend with an ankle injury.

“I think last year really helped me with the two-way, getting acclimated with what Fred wants to do,” he said. “I think getting up and down with the G League. (Head coach) Charlie (Henry) really helped me a lot. Knowing our point guard situation, I just tried to be the hardest playing guy on the floor anytime I step on and the rest will take care of itself.”

It’s unknown whether Arcidiacono’s stint in Chicago will last. His contract will be guaranteed on January 10. He’s an important body for now with Lauri Markkanen out for the foreseeable future and Valentine still recovering from his own injury. But he’ll also have the opportunity to push Payne for that back-up role. Payne struggled much of the preseason, averaging 4.2 points and 3.2 assists on just 25 percent shooting.

“Arci has done a lot of really good things,” Hoiberg said. “I liked the way he looked in the game the other night off the ball. Defensively, made some really good solid plays and again, when there’s an open man on the court Arci’s gonna find him.”

He won’t move the needle on the Bulls’ season, and his minutes will likely be minimal once the season begins. But for now it’s a great story of persistence that gives the Bulls another hard-working body in practice.”

“Whatever our team needs, that’s what they’ll get from me,” he said. “Whether that’s being a backup or the third point guard spot, I’m just here to compete and make our team better and hopefully get us some victories.”