Bulls

Bulls streak continues with improbable win over Warriors

Bulls streak continues with improbable win over Warriors

The hair-pulling, hair-raising and asylum-inducing attributes of the Chicago Bulls were on full display and because it was a Thursday night home game, victory was all but assured.

It doesn't matter if it's the Golden State Warriors, as the best two shooters in the NBA are no match for a comical and foolish streak that seemed destined to end.

The bounces went the Bulls' way as the Warriors couldn't hit much of anything for most of the night, particularly late in the 94-87 Bulls' decision at the United Center.

The Thursday night home streak extends to 18 games and in more practical matters, the Bulls pull back to a game over .500 while the Warriors stumbled to their 11th loss of the season — their first two-game losing streak since the 2014-15 season.

And it was to these rag-tag Chicago Bulls, who did without the heroics of Jimmy Butler, although he scored 22 with six assists and five rebounds in a solid but understated performance.

Bobby Portis took his time in the spotlight with his most impactful game as a pro, scoring 17 with 13 rebounds, going head-up with Draymond Green (12 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) and helping the Bulls control the glass where there were plenty of misses to be had as neither team shot 44 percent from the field.

"I thought Bobby was awesome," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was really in a great rhythm, fighting their guys on the glass, fighting our guys on the glass, he was just trying to make a big impact on the game."

Portis scored 14 of his points in the first half while Butler worked himself into the game as it wore on and seemed generally unfazed. He hit two triples and even though he took a couple shots out of aggression, being in the right position defensively more than made up for small mistakes that could be erased through experience.

"That's what Bobby Portis is," Hoiberg said. "He's out there playing winning basketball and it's great to see."

Dwyane Wade's fadeaway followed by Paul Zipser's buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the Bulls a six-point lead with under two minutes left — a lead that usually evaporates against this explosive team but proved to be too mountainous for the Warriors to overcome.

Scoring just 15 in the fourth would've spelled disaster but their closing lineup did just enough to carve out a win as the Bulls are tied for sixth place in the East. Wade scored 12 and Robin Lopez scored 10 as the Bulls' lowest-scoring output since Feb. 12 resulted in an improbable win.

Zipser has proven to be a dependable cog for Hoiberg despite missing time with an ankle injury. His defensive versatility along with his shot-making, as he went four for five, made him an easy option to be in the closing lineup for his first game in nearly a month.

"He really solidified himself as our sixth man and the guy who was closing games for us," Hoiberg said. "We missed him, there's no doubt about that. He's got size, he's got length, he can put it on the floor and he can really defend."

And stumbled mightily the Warriors did, as Stephen Curry went 10 of 27 and backcourt mate Klay Thompson went five of 22. Combined from three, they shot three of 22 — and the Bulls weren't much better overall, going five of 19.

Yes, the Warriors were without Kevin Durant and looked like a team battling malaise and general boredom, with Curry and Thompson having the worst luck on the most open jumpers.

Even though no Bull was in the same zip code, shots often went in and out and kept the Bulls in the game. All in all, the Warriors shot six for 30, continuing their shooting slump since starting their eastern swing.

"Our defense hasn't been as good of late," Wade said. "I thought today our attention to detail was phenomenal. They missed some shots. Some of them open, but that's part of the game."

But the Bulls will make no apologies for the Warrior woes, as the third quarter was one of the best in recent memory considering the competition, as the Bulls moved the ball around in a dizzying, Warriors-like manner, scoring 32 points.

Rajon Rondo again pushed the pace for stretches, helping put Curry in foul trouble and giving the Bulls a six-point lead in the third quarter with more aggressive play.

It helped negate an early showing where the Bulls could barely hold onto the ball with seven first-quarter turnovers — and it looked like it was only a matter of time before the Warriors found themselves and sent the Bulls on their merry way.

But it didn't happen, as the Bulls proved yet again that they are a Thursday night outfit not to be trifled with.

Now, to those other six days of the week…

Why NBA role players could see on-court benefit from bubble environment

Why NBA role players could see on-court benefit from bubble environment

Kenny "The Jet" Smith never made an All-Star team across his 10-year NBA career. Nor earned an All-NBA selection.

But he did display a knack for stepping up when the spotlight shone the brightest. His two rings with the Houston Rockets evidence that. In the two postseasons that yielded those championships, Smith started all 45 games for Houston and averaged 30 minutes, 10.8 points and 4.3 assists per game while canning 44.4% of his attempts from 3.

The 2019-20 NBA playoffs will be unlike any the league has seen before. Over the next three days, 22 teams will make their way to Orlando, Fla. to tie a bow on an eight-game conclusion to the regular season and a 16-team playoff in a bubble environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Throw home court advantage out the window. All games will take place on a neutral court, and without fans.

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Who could such an environment benefit the most? Smith broke down his thoughts on the latest episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, hosted by Jason Goff:

“I don’t know if it’ll affect the (quality of the) product,” Smith said of the unprecedented bubble atmosphere. “Like, they’re the best 350 players in the world. But there are levels inside of the 350. Players who are marginal inside of the best 350 in the world are going to play better. Because guys don’t play as well on the road as some play at home. There is no home. There is no road. Every game’s a home game, every game feels like a practice setting.

“The superstars have taken over a lot on road games. There is that. So now, I think you’re going to be like, ‘Man, I did not know such and such was so good,’ because he’s going to have a comfort level that he’s never had before. It’s going to feel like every game feels like an intense practice — more than an NBA game, but a super intense practice, which they’re accustomed to and they’re comfortable in that environment.”

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Of course, there will be other factors in play, as well. Though the NBA baked a three-week ramp-up period and scrimmage schedule into its restart plan to reacclimate players, the league’s four-month hiatus will have impacted each player differently depending on the resources at their disposal from their respective homes. With social distancing a priority, and gyms and practice facilities shuttered, think of the training differences between players living in big-city high-rises compared to sprawling suburban residences, plus the salary gap — and thus, the resource gap — that exists between older and younger players. Also looming will be the still-present dangers of COVID-19, which trump any purely basketball-related consideration.

Still, Smith’s theory is an interesting one. Long has the hypothesis of role players performing better at home than on the road in the postseason persisted. Perhaps the Orlando bubble will mark a definitive test of that.

RELATED: NBA season restart 2020: Schedule for 8-game seeding round for every team 

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Kenny Smith launches virtual basketball camp featuring NBA and WNBA stars

Kenny Smith launches virtual basketball camp featuring NBA and WNBA stars

Two-time NBA champion and TNT analyst Kenny Smith is launching Jet Academy, a virtual basketball camp staffed by the highest-level hoopers in the world to help boys and girls train their game while maintaining social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was sitting at home and social distancing and quarantine, and my kids typically go to basketball camps,” Smith told Jason Goff on the latest Bulls Talk Podcast. “They can’t go to camps anymore, I can’t do my basketball camp in North Carolina, I had 700 kids. And I just noticed it was a need in the world that was going on, and I said I’m going to create — and I created — the first virtual basketball camp for kids and adults and anybody who plays the game, virtually. And you can do it from anywhere, any time, on any device, with anyone.”

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As for the instructors? Kemba Walker, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Victor Oladipo, Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Trae Young will all lead or co-lead training sessions. Those seven players account for 35 All-Star appearances and two MVP awards. 

Smith was clear that his intention isn’t to replace traditional trainers, but he believes those that have achieved greatness at the highest level will have special perspective to offer.

“I was talking to Kemba, I was like, ‘OK, Kemba, so this is what we need to do in the camp’ and he’s like, ‘OK, what are the drills you want to do?’” Smith said on the podcast. “I said, ‘No, no, no. Trae, Kemba, I want you to do the drills that you do to get ready. I want to see how you got your jumper like that. That’s what I would want to see. ‘Kemba, show me the pullback.’ He said, ‘Alright, I’ll show you the pullback.’ I said, ‘No, but then you gotta tell us why you use it and when you use it.’ That’s what a trainer at times can’t give you.”

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The camp tips off July 20 and will feature live, daily, two-hour video sessions with instructors that campers can follow along with remotely. Campers will also be able to text questions to instructors, upload video of them training for response within 48 hours, and view sessions on-demand. Smith stressed the importance of that interaction towards developing one’s game. 

Listen to the rest of Smith and Goff’s conversation, which touches on the litany of considerations facing the NBA as it embarks on its bubble experiment in Orlando, here or via the embedded player above.

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