Bulls storm into matchup with Cavaliers with laugher in Milwaukee


Bulls storm into matchup with Cavaliers with laugher in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE — Onto Cleveland.

The series the NBA world has been curious to see is now upon us, after the Chicago Bulls finally decided to get desperate and do away with the Milwaukee Bucks with a runaway 120-66 Game 6 shellacking at the Bradley Center, the largest playoff win in franchise history.

Whether it was by four or 40, the Bulls needed to put the pesky Bucks away on the road as opposed to sitting on their hands and waiting for a seventh game in Chicago — and by the 48-minute display, one is left to wonder how this series was taken to a sixth game as opposed to it being ended a few nights prior.

Just like it was evident from the dawn of Game 5 the Bulls weren’t ready for what the Milwaukee Bucks were bringing, the reverse was definitely the case Thursday as the Bulls stopped playing tight and tightened up on the Bucks, jumping out to an 8-0 lead before methodically and systematically breaking the Bucks down piece by piece en route to a 34-point halftime lead that actually extended to 88-44 late in the third quarter.

After the offensive disaster that took place in Game 5, where the Bulls couldn’t hit much of anything, they needed a sterling offensive performance, a confidence booster of sorts.

Shooting 51 percent and 50 from three with 15 triples while holding the Bucks to 32 percent is the type of game film Tom Thibodeau won’t mind showing in preparing for the second round.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It looks a lot better when the ball goes in the rim,” Thibodeau said. “A lot of times you don't have control over when the ball goes on or doesn't go in. If they're the right shots, you want them to shoot them.”

And when Mike Dunleavy comes out scoring 19 in the first half, you know it’s more than just a good night for him; it’s a night birthed from supreme ball movement, the recipient of open 3-point looks as the Bulls looked anything like the panicked outfit that took the floor three nights ago.

With the series against the Cleveland Cavaliers set to begin Monday, Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler needed to play well, together. Rose missed his first five shots but it wasn’t an indication of how well he ran the Bulls offense, as he assisted on the first three Bulls field goals and five of the first seven, most to Dunleavy.

“Mike is playing great, knocking down shots. Mike is playing great,” Rose said. “Being a veteran, coming back to the bench. Talking. Just being Mike. And that's what we need, somebody that's a little bit older and experienced talking to young guys like Tony. And to the guys that's coming in, making sure they're ready and prepared.”

By the time he hit his first field goal, a runner which started a streak of seven straight points in the second quarter, the Bulls were already off and running, leading by 20 two minutes into the period.

In 24 minutes of effective work, Rose finished with 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds on six of 14 shooting. Butler, the man who opened his mouth about setting the tone and believing his teammates would follow with his defense, registered four steals and five rebounds to go along with his 16 points in 31 minutes.

[WATCH: Antetokounmpo tackles Dunleavy, gets tossed from Game 6]

That defensive mentality permeated to his teammates, as the Bulls prevented the Bucks from hitting the offensive glass, and forced nine turnovers to match their nine field goals by the time the score rose to 47-20 in the second.

All series long, the Bucks played with poise and composure, but as the game and series began to slip away, youth was served in a not-so good way. As Dunleavy spotted up for a transition triple, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo charged into him leading with his forearm and nailed him, perhaps payback for Dunleavy apparently hitting him in the face on a previous possession.

Dunleavy could be in danger for league review once they look at his shot to the neck of Michael Carter-Williams early in the first, which caused him to go to the locker room before he returned to exact some revenge with a low blow.

“I don't wanna comment on it. It's a physical game, there's a lot going on,” Thibodeau said.

Antetokounmpo was ejected for his foul while Carter-Williams was given a flagrant one foul for his action.

All series long the Bulls reacted to the Bucks’ aggressiveness, and it took six games to fight back—six games of learning they can’t afford against the Cavaliers.

Onto Cleveland.

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.