Bulls return home thwarted with sloppy loss to Lakers

Bulls return home thwarted with sloppy loss to Lakers

The Bulls’ bench had been a warning sign even during this team’s unexpected start, but it was only a matter of time before it came back to bite them

And with the Los Angeles Lakers in town, on a back-to-back after taking a whipping from the New Orleans Pelicans, it didn’t seem likely this would be the night for the Bulls to start off what could be a fruitful home stretch with fruit flies.

But the gnats were all around in the Bulls’ 96-90 loss at the United Center Wednesday, starting from the second quarter and ending with Jimmy Butler’s airballed 3-point attempt that could’ve tied the game with under 20 seconds left, a play where Butler found himself open on in a similar fashion as their late loss in Denver a week ago when Butler didn’t get a chance to tie it late.

“I let it go like I did the other one; It came up short,” Butler said. “I guarantee you it won’t be the last time I take a shot like that. Hopefully it’ll be the last I miss one but I doubt it. I’ll probably miss another one.”

It was an ugly finish to an ugly night for the Bulls, after allegedly heeding the age-old warning about the first game back from a long road being a tough one. They took a 14-point lead in the first but it disappeared when the second units stepped on the floor and the Bulls were in a dogfight for the better part of the last 40 minutes.

“It goes to show you, you don’t go out and play with energy, you’re not gonna give yourself a chance,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It didn’t even look like the same team. The turnovers in the second half, mindless, careless. Disappointing, just disappointing game.”

Shooting just 35 percent, the Bulls couldn’t find much of a rhythm outside the first quarter and the bench was again a problem. Not only were the Lakers so potent off the bench, with Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams scoring 18 each, but Larry Nance Jr added 12 with 11 rebounds and the Bulls bench was outscored 56-16—another sign the Bulls need Michael Carter-Williams and Doug McDermott back in the worst way.

Isaiah Canaan finished with a minus-19 in 25 minutes. Bobby Portis finished with a minus-15 in 10 minutes and Nikola Mirotic shot just three for nine and was a minus-9 in 21 minutes.

“Tried to get a couple of our starters out there early, get them back in there with the second unit,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gotten some solid minutes with the bench in this early portion of the season. Tonight we struggled in the area.”

The memory of Butler tossing Laker defenders off him like rag dolls on his way to a 40-point game was fresh enough in the Lakers’ minds.

He received a much more physical brand of treatment this time around, being double-teamed at seemingly every part of the floor. Butler still went to the line and converted in abundance, hitting 13 of 15, but the easy treading was over.

They were dominated on the glass, a turnaround from what has been a hallmark of this early start as the Lakers outleaped and outhustled the Bulls to loose balls. Julius Randle’s relentlessness on the glass helped the Lakers to a hug 60-46 advantage while subsequently fouling out Taj Gibson with under three minutes left.

Randle’s spin and basket over Mirotic with 45 seconds left as the immediate counter to Butler tying the game at 90 with a triple, as Randle finished with 13 points and 20 rebounds.

The Bulls nearly pulled one from their behinds, as Rajon Rondo was engaged, hitting half of the Bulls’ four triples but nobody could do enough to counter the Bulls going four of 21 from long range.

Mirotic missed all four of his 3-pointers and Isaiah Canaan went one for five from three.

“I think that’s one of those nights,” Butler said. “Take shots you normally make, continue to take them, they’re gonna fall. We’ll be alright.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

And although the Bulls didn’t defend terribly, they didn’t defend well enough to offset their putrid showing offensively.

“I think the missed shots definitely affected us. And again, you can’t let that happen,” Hoiberg said. “Your defense and rebounding has to be your constant. It was one of those games on that end of the floor where the ball wasn’t going in. When they did, it ended up in a layup for them.”

Rondo hit two triples to start the third, looking more assertive as a whole offensively. He poked balls away after the Lakers started fast breaks and when he got the ball with an advantage, he wasn’t content to just settle; he absorbed the space given to him and attacked the rim on occasion.

He finished with 14, eight rebounds and six assists while Dwyane Wade scored 17, with all five starters scoring in double figures but getting nothing from the reserves.

Even the Lakers turning it over 24 times for 26 points couldn't save the Bulls from themselves. Robin Lopez blocked eight shots but the Lakers were so relentless in attacking, he couldn’t stop everything and the Bulls found themselves fighting a team with new life trying to make amends for a bad game the night before.

So the Bulls countered with one of their own.two triples to start the third, looking more assertive as a whole offensively. He poked balls away after the Lakers started fast breaks and when he got the ball with an advantage, he wasn’t content to just settle; he absorbed the space given to him and attacked the rim on occasion.

Bulls react to Kobe Bryant's stunning death with emotion, eloquence

Bulls react to Kobe Bryant's stunning death with emotion, eloquence

The tears streaming down Jim Boylen’s face said all you needed to know about the Bulls’ reaction to the stunning death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other victims in a Sunday helicopter crash that has rocked the NBA community.

Like Bryant, Boylen has daughters who love basketball. Like Bryant, Boylen is uber competitive and serious about his job.

But he’s a father and a human being first.

“Obviously, a very emotional, tearful day in our building. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kobe Bryant’s family, the other families that are involved in the accident,” Boylen said. “These things hit your team and the league on different levels. There’s the rookie out of high school breaking into the starting lineup, one of the hardest workers ever and becoming an All-Star and a champion and a Hall of Fame player. And then there’s the second half of your life where you earn respect from the basketball community and you’re a husband and a father and a mentor for the rest of the league. Difficult day.

“And if you have children like many of us do, it’s painful.”

The Bulls discussed the tragedy after a Monday morning shootaround to prepare for a game against the Spurs that everyone acknowledged would be difficult to play. The United Center has projected images of Bryant, smiling in his Lakers uniform, since Sunday night and fans have started a makeshift shrine outside the building.

The Bulls will have a moment of silence to honor Bryant, and Thad Young, who will wear Bryant’s “Zoom Kobe 4 ‘Prelude’” shoe, said it’s likely they’ll take a 24-second violation to honor one of the numbers Bryant wore.

“Kobe has always inspired me — and not just me but other guys around this league, from young to older guys,” Young said. “He's always been very inspiring to each and every one of us just because of what be brought to the game and his life outside of the game. He was pretty much an open book. You know, he let us see how he treated his wife and kids. He let us see the behind the scenes of how he lived his life.

“We thank him for that. He showed us how to continue to walk this Earth and be upstanding citizens and he showed us how to be not just a person to walk this earth but to be a loving husband, father and family member.”

LaVine, who wears No. 8 in part to honor Bryant, acknowledged the difficulty of playing Monday night but said it’s the best way to honor the future Hall of Famer’s legacy.

“It’s going to be really sad, but I think it’s something that he would have wanted — for people to get back into the game and play,” LaVine said. “I feel like that’s how he would approach it. So I’m going to go out there and play the way I do, play my heart out. Obviously, everybody is going to have a heavy heart. But we still have a job to do. It’s terrible you have to play under those circumstances, but I feel like it’s something he would want as well.’’

LaVine grew up idolizing Bryant.

“He inspired a whole generation of kids pretty much. They wanted to be like him. It’s like kids in the 80s and 90s wanted to be like Mike. We wanted to be like Kobe,” LaVine said. “Growing up and seeing the different highlights of his hard work, I feel like that’s one of the biggest things that was instilled in me was his hard work. I try to bring that to my game. And his passion for the game, how ruthless he was as a competitor. But it’s more than that as a basketball player. He was a father. There were more families on there. It’s just terrible what happened, man. It’s just such a loss in so many different ways.”

LaVine proudly detailed one anecdote from his rookie season when he scored 28 points off the bench in a Timberwolves road victory at Staples Center on Nov. 28, 2014.

“I just remember Kobe was guarding me in the fourth quarter, and obviously I knew growing up and idolizing him that he always guarded the best player [late],” LaVine said. “I had a really good game so he was guarding me, and we were standing at the free-throw line and he tapped me on the butt and said, ‘You know, keep going.’ It was almost shocking to me that I was in that situation as a 19-year-old. It was like, ‘This is a dude I idolized, he’s guarding me.’ It was just surreal.”

LaVine also recalled how he fouled him to send him to the free-throw line that gave Bryant the points to pass Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. But LaVine’s takeaways from Bryant were as much professional as personal.

“I try and take his hard work,” LaVine said. “He was somebody that after games, I heard so many different stories from former players that have coached me where if he had a bad game he would stay all night. Or during the summertimes, he wouldn’t take time off.

“Obviously, everybody is different. But I just try and take that mindset of working hard and being in the gym and his mindset of coming in to just kill every game. That was his mindset. There will never be another Kobe Bryant. There’s only one person like that ever. He touched so many lives in the way he affected basketball, and beyond that as well.’’

Young also acknowledged Bryant’s competitiveness.

“He's just always been a clear-cut assassin. There's a reason they call him the Black Mamba. He's one of those guys that's very ferocious, very competitive, do whatever it takes to win, even if it means dunking on his grandmother,” the veteran forward said. “But at the end of the day, he's one of the greatest to ever do it, one of the realest to ever do it. He's put this league on his back. He's helped make the league to what it is today. He's helped inspire and lead the way for guys like me and younger guys to come into this league and be able to do a lot and be able to continue to grind.”

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Kobe Bryant to be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020


Kobe Bryant to be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020 was already set up to be a special one, with some of the greatest names in the sport, names like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, set to get in. But now that class takes on an even greater significance as Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that Kobe Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, will be inducted into the  Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Basketball Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo stated that the 2020 class is expected to be one of the "most epic" classes in the history of the sport.

Along with Bryant, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020 is expected to include some of his fiercest rivals. The list of players that could be inducted in 2020 includes the aforementioned all-time great San Antonio Spurs forward Duncan (played a total of 30 playoff games against Bryant), Pistons legends Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups (defeated Bryant and the Lakers in 2004 NBA Finals), and Shawn Marion, whose Suns teams were a huge threat to the Lakers dynasty throughout the 2000s.

The full Hall of Fame class will be revealed in April. In departing from the usual selection process, Colangelo maintained that "Kobe will be honored the way he should be."

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