Bulls

Bulls: Rose puts Game 4 loss on himself after defensive gaffe

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Bulls: Rose puts Game 4 loss on himself after defensive gaffe

Derrick Rose turned his head for a split second, which was all the time the Milwaukee Bucks and Jerryd Bayless needed to slip him underneath the rim, and give Rose 48 hours of kicking himself after 48 minutes of exhilarating but mishap-filled basketball.

The Milwaukee Bucks registered a win in their first-round series with a 92-90 win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center when Bayless slipped by the Bulls point guard for a layup at the buzzer off an inbounds pass with 1.3 seconds left.

“It was honestly trying to beat them backdoor,” said Bayless, a reserve guard who’s gotten into his share of physical scrums in this series, backing down from no one. “We were hoping he was going to bite, and he bit on it. (Jared Dudley) made a spectacular pass and luckily I was able to finish it.”

The misery immediately followed a Rose turnover where Bayless stopped Rose dead in his tracks, forcing the Bulls’ season-high 28th turnover of the night—and although Bayless’ game-winner didn’t register as a turnover, it’s the kind of mental mistake the Bulls can’t afford to give up in this round—or any round.

“I put that all on me. I just wasn’t paying attention to it. Great call from J-Kidd. But if anything, it’s a learning experience,” Rose said. “Knowing we could’ve forced overtime. I missed things up.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoffs, Bulls fans!]

After early struggles, Rose had a sterling fourth-quarter before his last two mishaps, including a triple that cut the Bucks’ lead to 90-87 with 1:05 left, followed by feeding Pau Gasol the next possession for a layup and three-point play that tied the game with 38 seconds left. It was the kind of help Jimmy Butler had been begging for all night, as the fourth-leading scorer in the playoffs put up 33 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 40 minutes.

“Jimmy did a great job with holding us up and making sure we were comfortable throughout the game,” Rose said. “I tried to stay out the way here and there, and the times I did, I gotta cut down on my turnovers.”

 They often talk about taking what the “game” gives them, and by way of their carelessness for 48 minutes, the game delivered them a loss when they could’ve kicked their feet up for the next week to rest for Round 2.

“I just told the team this, I’m not going to put it on that last play,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There were a lot of other plays throughout the course of the game … we didn’t play well. When you turn the ball over like that you’re not going to have success.”

The Bulls treated the ball as if it were diseased, with the third-highest amount of turnovers in a playoff game in the last 25 years.  Their first-quarter turnover issues carried over to the final three, as Rose, Nikola Mirotic and Gasol took center stage for all the wrong reasons.

Rose gave it away eight times while Gasol had five turnovers of his own and Mirotic, who returned from missing Game 3 with a left knee strain, had three turnovers in 20 minutes, leading to 39 Bucks points.

While his teammates were listed as “missing” on a milk carton, Butler did the heavy lifting against a balanced and emotional Bucks team that wouldn’t give the Bulls an inch, literally or figuratively. The animosity from Game 2 returned after a one-game absence, with multiple technical fouls and physical confrontations.

Butler helped rally the Bulls from a 46-34 deficit in the second quarter, scoring or assisting in 18 of the Bulls’ final 20 points of the period. Scoring seven points in the last 28 seconds—including a ridiculous 3-point bank shot at the buzzer—tied the game at 50.

[GOODWILL: Bucks' progression through series should alarm Bulls]

But the Bucks didn’t fold, behind their formidable bench of Bayless, Dudley, John Henson and OJ Mayo, who kept the Bulls at bay with four 3-point daggers and led the Bucks with18 points in 23 minutes.

 Their resolve was somewhat surprising, as Mayo had a 30-foot shot-clock triple called back by review that everyone thought put the Bucks up 90-84 with three minutes remaining.

Before it was reviewed, Butler hit a three that seemed to shift the momentum before Mayo left no doubt the next time down, hitting a long triple with 12 seconds on the shot clock following two offensive rebounds.

Even when luck appeared to be on the Bulls’ side, the Bucks kept fighting it off, giving way for a miracle—as the Bulls will live in misery for 48 hours, starting with their illustrious point guard.

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

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USA TODAY

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

Outspoken Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban conceded his team was playing for draft lottery position last season, but insisted it would be a one year only strategy.

Dallas finished tied for the league’s third worst record, but fell to fifth after the lottery.

So, Cuban and the Mavs’ front office decided to make a bold move on draft night, trading their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta to move up two spots for a chance to select international sensation Luka Doncic.

Early in the season, Doncic has more than lived up to the hype, showing the creativity and flair that made him such a fan favorite on the European professional circuit. Through the Mavs’ first two games, Doncic is averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists while giving Rick Carlisle’s team a much-needed boost in transition.

Doncic and second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr. will give opposing teams nightmares in the open court all season long. They led the offensive onslaught in the Mavs’ 140-136 win over Minnesota Saturday night, combining for 45 points. Doncic finished with 26 points, while Smith scored 10 of his 19 in the 4th quarter, including a tie-breaking three-point play with six seconds left.

Veteran swing-man Wesley Matthews added 19 against the Timberwolves, and his 3 point shooting helps the Mavs maintain floor balance in half-court sets.

The Mavs also strengthened their front court in the off-season, signing veteran center DeAndre Jordan in free agency. Dallas was overmatched in the middle last season, with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Powell giving up size in the post, but Jordan will provide rim protection and an alley-oop threat when Doncic, Smith Jr. or veteran point guard J.J. Barea drive to the basket. Jordan had a big game in the home opening win over Minnesota, scoring 22 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.

Nowitzki, starting small forward Harrison Barnes and backup guard Devin Harris all missed Saturday’s game because of injuries, but Barnes and Harris are considered game-time decisions against the Bulls.

Here’s what the Bulls will need to do to get their first victory of the season Monday night.

1. GET BACK ON DEFENSE! Doncic and Smith Jr. are deadly in the open court, capable of making spectacular plays to bring the home crowd to life. The Bulls’ players have to sprint back on defense after missed shots to cut off transition opportunities, or it’s going to be a long night. The Mavs are averaging 128 points through the first two games.

2. CLOSE OUT ON 3-POINT SHOOTERS This will be a familiar theme in my keys until the Bulls start doing a better job of matching up in transition and closing out on three point threats. Detroit’s win at the United Center on Saturday came down to the Pistons’ 18-40 shooting from three-point range, and Dallas has even more players capable of doing damage from beyond the arc.

3. LET DUNN DO IT Getting Kris Dunn back from paternity leave should make a big difference on both ends of the court. Dunn has the athleticism and physicality to match up with either Doncic or Smith Jr., and his defensive skills will be critical in keeping the Mavs from turning this game into a track meet.

On the offensive end, Dunn need to be patient and get the ball into the hands of the Bulls’ top scorers, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. Even though Fred Hoiberg wants his team to play at a fast pace, they’ll need to pick their spots on when to run against the explosive Mavs.

As always, turn to NBC Sports Chicago for the very best pre and post-game coverage. Kendall Gill and Will Perdue join me for Bulls Pregame Live at 7 p.m/, and we’ll have expanded post-game analysis when the action goes final in Dallas. You can also stream the shows live on the brand new My Teams by NBC Sports app.

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”