Bulls

Bulls rally in fourth quarter to beat Davis, Pelicans

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Bulls rally in fourth quarter to beat Davis, Pelicans

The Bulls want to become this fluid offensive bunch that flows into sets, gets up and down in a hurry while winning pretty.

But winning pretty isn’t an identity that describes this group right now. If they’re gonna win, it’s gonna be ugly, and sometimes ugly has to be beautiful.

After sleepwalking through most of the night, the Bulls pulled it together to knock off the New Orleans Pelicans at the United Center on Saturday, 98-94, with a late fourth-quarter surge that seemed to erase extended stretches of inactivity, and a little disinterest.

The only pretty thing might have been the play of Aaron Brooks, who hit a leaning, floating hook shot with 40.3 seconds left to break a 94-all tie.

For a man that’s been short his entire life, taking such contorting and downright awkward shot attempts come easier than it appears—and returning to the rotation after a few games on the bench, it appears Fred Hoiberg likes using him and Derrick Rose together to close games.

“Aaron was awesome. Out second unit saved the day for us,” Hoiberg said. “They went in there in the last 4-5 minutes of the third and through the fourth and was phenomenal.”

Not to be outdone, Rose, the man who played without a mask, nailed a pull-up jumper with 11.5 seconds remaining to put the game away—his first jump shot attempt and only make.

Brooks only had two going into the fourth but scored 15 in the final 12, as the Bulls struggled for any form of offense all evening.

“I didn’t feel like I was in a zone. I just took open shots,” Brooks said. “I didn’t realize I was in a zone. Just made open shots. I got to the spots I wanted to get to and shots went in.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Hoiberg had to lean on the bench, as Joakim Noah, Brooks, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic all scored in double figures to help out the lagging starting unit. More than anything, they played with the type of pace Hoiberg envisioned when he took the job last spring.

The Bulls scored 34 points and shot 65 percent in the fourth quarter.

“It was such a grind out, ugly and slow motion type of game and finally got some energy injected,” Hoiberg said. “It was fun. Fun to watch, fun to sit there and see it as opposed to moseying into our offense.”

Rose scored nine with three assists while Jimmy Butler made just 4 of 15 from the field but scored 15 thanks to some hard drives to the basket and free throws.

Brooks hit two straight triples to start the fourth and tied the game at 70 before Kirk Hinrich hit a corner 3-pointer to finally give the Bulls a lead.

It was short-lived as a five-point lead turned to a one-point deficit when Tyreke Evans hit a wing triple with 7:31 remaining.

Rose’s penetration set up two crucial baskets, a Brooks triple and Pau Gasol midrange jumper, to give the Bulls a 94-91 lead with 2:05 left. Anthony Davis’ three-point play made it nervous time for the Bulls again, but they shut down the lane just enough for the second straight game after their panic-inducing three-game losing streak.

Davis and Evans scored 22 each, but Noah helped hold the Chicago native to just 8 of 24 shooting, making everything difficult aside from a highlight play here and there. Davis finished with 13 rebounds and four blocks but also committed four turnovers.

[WATCH: Hoiberg: Bulls 'were having fun out there' in win over Pelicans]

But the negative signs were still around, the Bulls just overcame it. They shot 42 percent but it was their hot fourth that made it look respectable after they shot 35 percent through three quarters.

The ball movement was choppy and the players often resorted to playing one on one as opposed to flowing through the system. It resulted in a variety of bad shots, bad decisions and plenty of guys standing around.

The Bulls committed seven turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game, being careless and cavalier, allowing the Pelicans to easily get into the passing lanes for steals and easy layups.

“We weren’t making good decisions, weren’t holding guys off and giving them layups at the other end,” Hoiberg said. “We had a nice little flash, a little burst in the second that got us going.”

Alonzo Gee had three steals in the first alone, as he, Evans and Norris Cole repeatedly attacked the Bulls’ defense and dared them to challenge shots at the rim. They were undeterred and the Bulls looked a little out of it until receiving their wake-up call.

Even if they’re playing games that shouldn’t be so close, learning how to win in less than ideal circumstances can only bode well for down the road.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.