Bulls

Bulls survive scare, edge Hornets

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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.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.