Bulls survive scare, edge Hornets


Bulls survive scare, edge Hornets

After a four-day layoff and starting the second half of the season against a short-handed team they had already defeated by 23 just two weeks ago, The Bulls (28-8) would get all they could handle from the New Orleans Hornets (8-26), holding on for a 99-95 win.

Derrick Roses 19-foot jumper broke a tie ballgame at 95 to put the Bulls up ahead for good. It was the same play the Bulls used to beat the Atlanta Hawks back on Jan. 3rd, the only difference being Luol Deng was open after a back-door cut.

You would be surprised how much we practice that play said Joakim Noah.

After a 13-0 run by New Orleans put Chicago down 95-91 with 1:25 remaining, the Bulls turned up their defense forcing the Hornets into a missed field goal and a turnover on their final two offensive possessions and finishing the game on an 8-0 run to finish the game and are now 14-2 at home.

Rose led the team with 32 points to go with nine assists. Noah finished with 15 points, 16 rebounds and Deng and Carlos Boozer (11 rebounds) both finished with 14 points.

After sitting the last 13 games, Richard Hamilton returned to the starting lineup for Chicago and five points and five assists in just under 17 minutes of action.

I thought turnovers hurt us, said Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau. The second shot hurt us. They didnt shot a high percentage but I thought they got to the line. We were closing to their drivers not under control, so that got them to the line some, but well take the win.

We played them in New Orleans, they were short-handed, they had just gotten Chris Kaman back and theyre playing a lot better, continued Thibodeau. Theyre playing teams real tough, they got some wins right before the break, so theyre playing with more confidence. As they get players back, that team is a very good team. They play hard, they play together and their tough. Their record doesnt indicate how good they are.

It appeared readiness wouldnt be an issue in the first period as the Bulls offense ran smoothly as they jumped ahead by 10 points early in the period, before the scrappy New Orleans Hornets winners of four out of their last 10 closed their deficit to 30-26 going into the second quarter.

With all starters healthy for the first time this season since Dec. 30ths contest against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Bulls Bench Mob was at full strength, but couldnt provide their usual energy to increase the Bulls lead and the Hornets beneficiaries of the whistles strong free throw shooting in the first half (15-15) and Chicago being out of sync allowed the visitors to outscore them 24-17 in the period, giving them a 50-47 lead at the half.

I thought we had a few possessions in a row where we were careless on the break and that also let them back into the game, said Thibodeau. We were trading buckets with them for a while and they took the lead.

The Bulls started the second half strong, nailing eight of their first 12 shots and avenged a disappointing first half, shooting 54 percent and outscoring New Orleans 29-20 in the period and forcing them into 34 percent shooting.

Leading 76-70, going into the fourth, the Bulls begin the period on a 7-to-2 run to push their lead to 11, when the Hornets made their run to take a four-point lead, setting up Chicagos run and defensive stand.

We definitely held it together and we played defense towards the end, said Rose. I think thats the best we played throughout the whole game.

Chicago will hit the road for three-straight games and lead the NBA in road wins (14-6).

Even with the road trip, the Bulls are pleased to have all hands on deck, but as is the season youll hear often after Bulls wins.

We have to knock the rust off a little bit, said Rose.

Everybody is coming back from vacation and being with their families and were just happy that we got the win. The most important game now is tomorrow, where were playing against a team thats playing great right now.

The San Antonio Spurs (24-10) are winners of 12 of their last 13 games.

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'


Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

It’s tough to call the position battle for the backup point guard spot on a Lottery-bound team important, but here we are two days into the Bulls’ season.

It won’t move the needle in NBA circles and Dwane Casey won’t be putting in additional time getting ready for Saturday’s game, but there appears to be potential for change in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation.

One day after an embarrassing display in a season-opening loss to the Sixers, Hoiberg said the Bulls have yet to make a decision on a potential lineup change for tomorrow’s affair against the Detroit Pistons. Kris Dunn, who missed Thursday’s game for the birth of his first child, was not at practice on Friday and may or may not be available for the home opener.

That could prompt changes after Cam Payne, inserted into the starting lineup, was largely ineffective, failing to score on 0 of 4 shooting in 21 minutes.

“We’re gonna see how practice goes today and then make that decision,” Hoiberg said. “It’s still up in the air on what we’re gonna do.”

The loss certainly can’t fall on just Payne, as the Bulls went lifeless after a 41-point first quarter that had them in the lead after 12 minutes. From there the Sixers outscored them by 29 in the second and third quarters, facing little resistance from a Bulls defense that doesn’t appear to have made much improvement from a year ago, Dunn or no Dunn.

Philadelphia shot 48 percent from the field, scored 20 fast-break points and 46 points in the paint, cruising to 102 points through three quarters before reserves finished things off. Even with Dunn the defensive prospects don’t look good, meaning Hoiberg might have to make changes to ignite the offense that scored just 35 points in those second and third quarters.

The Bulls could go a few different routes. Zach LaVine’s hot hand in the first quarter – 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting – saw the ball in his hands, and he even added two assists.

“It's a collective effort. You've got to have all five guys out there trying to play the right way and again, we found a recipe with Zach, especially in that first unit, where we let him bring the ball up the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We ran a couple actions where he was the facilitator and we put Cam in the corner. So a lot of that will be dictated by who has it going on a particular night and last night it happened to be Zach, so he was the one that was doing a lot of facilitating.”

Past a point guard-less lineup, the backups to Payne – Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis – could also see extended minutes going forward.

Arcidiacono had 8 points and 8 assists in 28 minutes, though the majority of those stats came in garbage time. Still, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and didn’t turn the ball over, and five of his assists resulted in makes at the rim.

Ulis, acquired off waivers last week, could inject some life into the second unit.

“He’s ready. He’s done a good job in practice,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gone through the system with him as far as what we expect and if there’s a point in the game where he can go out there and we feel he can help us, I’m confident that he’ll go out there and give us good effort.”

The point guard rotation isn’t the key to unlocking the Bulls as a lockdown defensive team, or no longer suffering the offensive dry spells that happened Thursday. But in a season that’s already showing signs of adversity, shaking up the lineup might be Hoiberg’s only chance.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.