Bulls rally, but come up short in do or die game vs. Hawks


Bulls rally, but come up short in do or die game vs. Hawks

It was termed “do or die” by the Bulls’ coaches and players, as the Atlanta Hawks were the first opponent in the season’s most critical week.

But as history has shown—and aptly pointed out by Pau Gasol, teams just can’t turn it on when they feel like it, especially 70 games in.

The Bulls’ race to the playoffs is turning into a race to the lottery, as they suffered yet another critical blow to their chances, falling below .500 with a 102-100 loss to the Hawks at the United Center, completing a season sweep from the Hawks and falling 2.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Detroit Pistons, despite a rousing start and an inspired, desperate finish after falling behind by 15.

They had a chance to tie with 13.6 seconds left but while going for two, Mike Dunleavy’s layup rolled off the rim, a curious call considering they were down three with no timeouts remaining.

“We had a play drawn up to give us two looks at the three (point shot),” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Mike made a great cut to the basket, unfortunately it didn’t go in.”

But nevertheless, the Hawks finished the game at the free throw line as Jeff Teague completed his 26-point night and held off an emotional charge from the Bulls.

If the Bulls had carried that desperation throughout, they likely would’ve won the contest easy but it’s hard to play off emotion for 48 minutes when you’ve been devoid of it for the better part of three months.

“We need to go out and fight like that. We need to have that kind of spirit and energy,” Hoiberg said.

A Jimmy Butler triple followed by a full court pass to Gasol resulted in a dunk and United Center explosion as the Bulls had their first sign of hope with a 11-2 run, cutting the lead to 90-86.

Then a surge from Aaron Brooks, complete with circus shots and all, tied the game at 93.  Brooks finished with 16 points, six assists and four rebounds in 22 minutes. Rose overcame a slow start to score 20 with five rebounds and five assists and Gasol scored 19 with 11 rebounds.

Things looked lost then the defibrillator worked again, as Butler converted on a four-point play, hitting a triple while being fouled with 19.6 seconds left, cutting the lead to one.

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It was a bright moment in a game where Butler again struggled, starting off 2-7 before finishing 5-16 with 15 points in 35 minutes.

He started off with a tip dunk after a fast break, during one of those high-emotion instances when the Bulls looked like they were capable of running the Hawks out of the building, taking a 39-26 lead before the second quarter obliterated any hope of comfort.

Those 12 minutes will likely play in Hoiberg’s nightmares this offseason when he wonders why this team didn’t make the playoffs. From the 9:45 mark of the second quarter, the Hawks outscored the Bulls 26-6, swarming them and forcing bad shots all the way to halftime.

Paul Millsap hit two triples in the last minute of the half to give the Hawks a 52-45 lead, sapping any momentum the Bulls dreamed of having as they shot 15 percent (4 of 26).

“Going into the second we were over 50 percent but we started settling a little too much,” Gasol said. “They played pretty well so we have to give them credit defensively.”

It was death by a thousand cuts—or backdoor cuts, as Teague didn’t reach double figures until the third quarter when he scored 14 of his 26, cutting into the teeth of the defense at will, and the most impactful player wasn’t a high man in the scoring department at all.

But Millsap was all over the floor defensively, with blocked shots at the rim and steals underneath the basket when the Bulls thought they had easy opportunities, as he often stripped players on the way up, leaving the Bulls complaining to the officials while the Hawks galloped downcourt.

Millsap scored 11 with 11 rebounds, but his versatility threw the Bulls off-balance early, and he hit a big jumper late when the Bulls were charging.

“The second quarter we hit a low and then let them take the lead at the half,” Hoiberg said. “We were able to recover from our poor second quarter and give ourselves a chance to win.”

Desperation was all over the Bulls early, doing things that had been missing for weeks: active defensively, crisp ball movement and definitive decisions on both ends of the floor.

Gasol was potent on the pick and pop, and if nothing else Rose was active with his playmaking as the energy flowed through the building and the team, leading to a 13-point lead.

But the Hawks knew that would only last but for so long, as the league’s best defensive team over the last three months lived up to its billing, weathering the storm.

They stayed patient while the Bulls’ emotion went from full to empty almost at the blink of an eye.

And that’s when the Hawks pounced and preceded to put distance between themselves and the Bulls, sending them to their fourth straight loss—and making the postseason look more and more like a mirage.

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career


Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.