Bulls

Bulls smacked around by LeBron, Cavs in Game 2

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Bulls smacked around by LeBron, Cavs in Game 2

The Bulls claimed not to be satisfied with just stealing a series opening win, pledging to take seriously an opportunity to put the Cleveland Cavaliers in a big hole before heading to Chicago for the weekend.

But they couldn't manufacture the desperation that came with knowing their season would likely be over with a loss, as was the likelihood of another Cavaliers loss. So LeBron James atoned for his self-described “bad game” and turned in a vintage performance on the way to a series-tying 106-91 win at Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday.

Just as one could tell the Bulls had bad intentions stepping into the ring Monday night, the Cavaliers had the same thoughts, illustrated by their leader powering them to a 13-2 lead in the first few minutes.

“I knew we were in trouble, as soon as they jumped out, I just had a bad feeling,” said Bulls reserve Taj Gibson. “I just hoped we wouldn’t lose too much of a lead. Every quarter we kept chopping it down, chopping it down but wearing out our energy.”

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If one wasn’t sure about James’ energy, his devastating drive and dunk over Jimmy Butler in the second quarter put everyone on notice, finishing with 33 points, eight rebounds and five assists, although it took 29 shots to get there, if there’s a silver lining for Bulls fans.

“You win one game, it doesn’t mean you win the series,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You feel too good about yourselves, you’re gonna get knocked on your butt. And that’s what happened.”

Just as the Bulls led wire-to-wire in Game 1, they trailed all game Wednesday, shooting 33 percent in the first quarter while allowing the Cavs to shoot 65 percent.

“The story of the game was the first quarter,” Thibodeau said. “They smashed us. And we gotta respond a lot better.”

The Bulls’ slight glimmer of hope came in the third, a 14-0 run, with Derrick Rose scoring or assisting on every Bulls basket when Iman Shumpert left for the locker room with a left groin injury and the Cavs comfortably ahead by 25.

Shumpert has come to emerge as a vital cog in the Cavs’ machine, hitting four triples for the second straight game and scoring 15 in 29 minutes. As for Rose, the Bulls point guard couldn’t get to the free-throw line for the third straight game, the first time in his career such an occurrence has happened.

Thibodeau was clearly less than pleased about Rose not getting to the line while his counterpart Kyrie Irving has gone 21 times in two games, but doesn’t want to hear from the league office about a fine for criticizing the officials, so his long wry stare was followed by a sarcastic statement when it was brought to his attention afterwards.

“I guess he’s gotta go harder, I don’t know,” Thibodeau said. “It looks like there’s a lot of contact to me, I don’t know. Obviously others don’t see it that way.”

And even though Irving dropped in a quiet 21, James set the tone early, forcing the Bulls’ defense to put so much attention on him it freed up his teammates for 12 triples, including 9-15 in the first half after the Bulls held them to 27 percent shooting from that range in Game 1.

James had to check himself out of the game in the first five minutes because he expended so much energy trying to get his teammates going. Had that trend continued, the Bulls could’ve been in a good spot, going down the stretch against a tired Cavs leader.

“We gotta come out with a lot more energy,” Gibson said. “We came out a little lax. It’s hard to get the same looks when you have guys into you. They were just running at us every time. We just gotta make adjustments.”

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

But unfortunately for the Bulls, James’ teammates followed his lead. Tristan Thompson, who started at power forward in place of Mike Miller, was a nightmare of activity on the offensive glass.

Thompson ran around, threw down and jumped over Pau Gasol, for six offensive rebounds, negating the Bulls’ relative effectiveness with their initial defense after a blistering Cavaliers start.

James Jones and Matthew Dellavedova combined for six three-pointers, while Kendrick Perkins added agitation and irritation to Gasol, who had a miserable night.

The Bulls’ bigs activity left a lot to be desired, as Gasol, Joakim Noah and even Gibson (5-5 shooting) couldn’t do much on the glass.

More than anything, the Bulls appeared a step slow and plenty satisfied, with no counter for the Cavs’ desperation. Rose and Butler battled frustration and ineffectiveness all game, without getting much help from the other weapons. Butler scored 18 while Rose added 14 but took 20 shots with 10 assists and seven rebounds.

If Game 1 was a clear shot across the bow to the Cavaliers, they returned it in kind in a game they needed to win—and likely, giving the Bulls a whipping that will instill a little doubt before the scene shifts.

Round 2 to Cleveland.

Bulls crack the top 20 of Forbes' most valuable sports franchises

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USA TODAY

Bulls crack the top 20 of Forbes' most valuable sports franchises

The Bulls' franchise is heading in the right direction on the court, and it's doing pretty great off it, too.

Forbes released its annual ranking of the top 50 most valuable sports franchises, and the Bulls are back in the top 20 with a valuation of $2.9 billion.

The Bulls are up from 23rd a year ago, when they were valued at $2.6 billion. They were 22nd in 2017 with a $2.5 billion valuation, and 18th in 2016 with a $2.3 billion valuation.

The Bulls were one of nine NBA franchises in the top 50. That number was one more than last year.

Here's a list of all nine NBA teams that made the cut:

1. New York Knicks ($4 billion)
2. Los Angeles Lakers ($3.7 billion)
3. Golden State Warriors ($3.5 billion)
4. Chicago Bulls ($2.9 billion)
5. Boston Celtics ($2.8 billion)
6. Brooklyn Nets ($2.35 billion)
7. Houston Rockets ($2.3 billion)
8. Dallas Mavericks ($2.25 billion)
9. Los Angeles Clippers ($2.2 billion)

As Forbes noted in the piece, "NBA teams have made the most dramatic moves this decade." Just seven years ago, the Lakers were valued at $900 million and were one of just two NBA teams (the Knicks were the other) in the top 50.

Among Chicago teams, the Bulls ranked second behind the Cubs ($3.1 billion) and tied with the Bears ($2.9 billion). Neither the Blackhawks nor the White Sox made the list.

Bulls will host Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zion Williamson as part of five-game preseason schedule

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USA TODAY

Bulls will host Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zion Williamson as part of five-game preseason schedule

The Bulls announced their 2019 preseason schedule on Tuesday, and they'll begin their five-game slate by hosting two of the most exciting players in the game.

They'll kick off their campaign on Monday, Oct. 7 with a matchup against reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee was the No. 1 seed in the East last year and signed Robin Lopez in the offseason.

Two days later, No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson comes to the United Center as the Bulls host the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Bulls then hit the road with contests against the Indiana Pacers (Oct. 11) and the Toronto Raptors (Oct. 13). They close their preseason slate at home against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 17.

All five preseason games will air live on NBC Sports Chicago and the NBC Sports Chicago MyTeams app.