Bulls stay close but fall late to unbeaten Warriors


Bulls stay close but fall late to unbeaten Warriors

OAKLAND, CA- Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler hit the floor for a long loose ball after a Stephen Curry missed triple, a sign the champion Warriors had no designs on ending their season-starting 13-game winning streak.

Thompson cooly pitched it to Curry, who drained a triple, blowing the top off the fanatical Oracle Arena with five minutes remaining — a sign for the visitors an upset would require more than just effort.

It would require more than just keeping the MVP to an off-night and have him commit more turnovers than usual.

Beating the NBA champs means playing a damn near perfect game at this stage and even without Derrick Rose, the Bulls put up a valiant effort but even weary and off their game, the Bulls were just another victim to the Warriors’ march to validation, falling, 106-94, Friday night.

“We gotta always win the 50-50 balls, can’t leak out for shots,” said Butler, the best player on the floor for the second straight night with 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. “They hit a lot of threes off offensive rebounds. I’m not gonna say that’s why where we lost the game, but it had something to do with it.”

Butler did all he could on the big stage, but aside from early play from Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol, he didn’t have enough help.

Joakim Noah continues to be lost within the offense, going scoreless in 17 minutes with seven rebounds and four turnovers, as it appears he can’t find his place when one more playmaker is all it would’ve taken for the Bulls to pull off an improbable upset.

“I have to be more aggressive offensively and look for my opportunities,” Noah said. “Right now I’m not sure where I can get them but when they come I have to be ready.”

Through 42 minutes it was hard to tell which was the better team, at least until Golden State’s deadly lineup finished the night by not allowing the Bulls to get anything going offensively in the last half of the fourth.

But the Warriors’ offensive rebounding was an Achilles’ heel, giving up 15 as Draymond Green came up with more than his share of loose balls, producing an effect that went beyond his nine-point, nine-rebound night.

“Yeah, loose balls,” Hoiberg said. “Draymond Green, he’s a horse in there. He does a great job watching his body, getting in there for extra ones. Those loose balls, you’ve got to find a way to come up with those.”

They harassed Curry into six turnovers, as Kirk Hinrich gamely put up 17 before fouling out, including eight in the fourth and a triple to tie the game at 89. Hinrich’s scoring was necessary considering the bench, aside from E’Twaun Moore’s nine points, couldn’t produce much offense, placing a lot of pressure on Butler, Mirotic (18 points) and Gasol (14 points, 10 rebounds).

Meanwhile Andre Iguodala scored 12 off the bench to accompany Harrison Barnes scoring 20, a sharp contrast to the Bulls’ production at small forward, with Tony Snell scoring two and Doug McDermott hitting one of his four triples.

Despite that, the Bulls held leads in the second half and had the Oracle Arena crowd sitting on their hands and knees before things got away late.

“I thought we battled, we really competed,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We wanted to hold them to 10 threes or under.”

Then Curry re-entered the fourth midway through hitting just two of his eight triple attempts, then that one fell to break an 89-all game.

Waiting on the inevitable knockout punch that always comes wasn’t part of the plans, as the Bulls kept Curry and Thompson relatively in check, holding them to a 42-point night total.

They controlled tempo, didn’t turn the ball over and refused to be seduced into Golden State’s addictive style of play. It allowed them to shoot just 40 percent from the field to the Warriors’ 49, yet they had a real chance to steal one on the road like the last team that beat them in their building — themselves, last January.

“Nobody’s perfect, man,” Butler said. “I think we had to play really well. I think we did alright. We got away from their shooters at times and they made big shots, that’s what players in this league do.”

But the Warriors’ small ball lineup more than made up for their sluggishness, as Barnes’ two late triples made it a 10-point game with 1:02 left, leaving the Bulls a bit dazed, confused and added to the lot of Golden State victims to start the season.

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks


Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

Denzel Valentine’s troublesome left ankle is going to keep him on the sideline for at least the next two weeks. Fred Hoiberg said Saturday before the Bulls’ home opener against the Detroit Pistons that Valentine is suffering from a bone bruise in the ankle he sprained on the second day of training camp. Valentine will be evaluated in two weeks.

“It sucks because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what’s going on I at least have a time frame and be patient with it; it’s bad news but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.”

Valentine had been practicing earlier in the week and appeared close to a return after spraining the ankle on Sept. 25. But the third year wing complained of discomfort in the ankle and missed practice on Friday. A scan of the left ankle revealed the bone bruise, and Hoiberg wouldn’t speculate on when exactly Valentine might return.

It’s the same ankle Valentine had surgery on in May 2017. Valentine also missed the last two weeks of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Valentine or the Bulls, who are in desparate need of help both in the backcourt and on the wing.

Though Valentine isn’t a true point guard, he averaged 3.2 assists per game off the bench last season. The Bulls could use that kind of production when Kris Dunn returns on Monday, as Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t exactly showed promise in the early going.

Instead, Valentine is on the mend and it’s unclear when he might return. Given he’s had surgery on the same ankle before, the Bulls will be cautious upon his return.

“I’m a fighter, I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt," Valentine said. "I can’t sit here and be negative, I just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

The Bulls are still scrambling to add depth at point guard and found another body to throw in the rotation.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Bulls "are planning to sign" Shaquille Harrison. Harrison was waived by the Suns on Monday.

In order to complete the move, the Bulls are reportedly waiving center Omer Asik.

Harrison went undrafted out of Tulsa in 2016. The Suns signed him and sent him to the then NBA D-League. Last season, the 25-year-old from Kansas City played in 23 games and made two starts in the NBA. He averaged 6.6 points and 2.4 assists in 16.7 minutes per game.

The Suns signed Jamal Crawford earlier this week and waived Harrison. The Bulls apparently have swooped in.

This move comes just six days after the Bulls added Tyler Ulis, who was also waived by the Suns. Ulis didn't play in the season-opening loss at Philadelphia.

Kris Dunn will miss his second straight game Saturday against the Pistons. His absence against the Sixers showed the lack of depth at guard for the Bulls. Cam Payne started at point guard and split minutes with Ryan Arcidiacono. Payne went 0-for-4 in 21 minutes and led coach Fred Hoiberg to say potential lineup changes are "still up in the air."

Harrison can now join Payne, Arcidiacono and Ulis in a battle for backup minutes at point guard when Dunn returns to the lineup.