Bulls

Bulls unhappy with end of trip, but happy to be home

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Bulls unhappy with end of trip, but happy to be home

BOSTON -- Derrick Roses Monday appointment with a back specialist aside, on paper, all seems well with the Bulls these days. Sure, they didnt close out their nine-game road trip the way they would have liked after losing Sunday to the Celtics, but a 6-3 record is nothing to complain about.

Right? Wrong, if you ask them.

Those three losses that we had, its not something we like. We wish we could go back, play them again and win them all, but the challenge for us now is to go back home and take care of our home court, said Carlos Boozer. We wish we didnt lose one of them, man. We feel like we could be undefeated and to have the six, seven losses that we have, its tough because we feel like we should have won every one of them.

Concurred Rose: I think we did badly, man. We were 6-3. For us, thats not good. We did kind of badly on this trip. Hopefully the next trip that we have, we play well and our record is better than this one.

Joakim Noah agreed: 6-3, its OK, but its not great. For what were trying to do, were not happy with 6-3.

Left unsaid was the fact that the three opponents the Bulls lost to -- Miami, Philadelphia and Boston -- were the three toughest of the trip. While beating Central Division rival Milwaukee, a pre-Linsanity Knicks team and the murderers row of Washington, New Orleans, Charlotte and New Jersey could be considered taking care of business and avoiding letdowns, it isnt exactly a resume booster.

Youve got to play well on the road. You cant judge anything now. You judge it at the end. When you go in and you play a quality opponent on the road, every team is capable of beating you. Youve got to do the same things to win, argued Tom Thibodeau. You could lose to anybody in this league. I dont look at it the way you guys do. I look at it totally different.

I thought we hung tough, I thought we got good bench play out of a number of guys. The starters played well, but we still could have done a lot better, continued the coach in evaluating the trip. Some things we did well, some things we need to improve upon, so theres good and bad, but wed like to have the opportunity to have some practice time, where we can work on improving in all areas and were looking forward to that.

Luol Deng put a positive spin on it: It was a great road trip. We want to win every game. At the same time, we got to spend a lot of time together off the court. It kind of helped us. But a lot of games, we came out and played great. We wanted to end it better. Even though we didnt play great tonight, we still gave ourselves a chance to win the game and it came down to right at the end.

After more than two weeks of living out of suitcases, the Bulls return to the Windy City and begin a slate of home games that lasts until the All-Star break.

Were looking forward to it. We wish we went back off of a win, but itll be good to be back in Chicago, said Boozer. I dont think were far from where we want to be. I think were right there, but it would be good to get healthy a little bit and get some of the guys that were missing back. It would be great, but itll be good to be back in Chicago, get some home-cooked meals, sleep in our own beds and play some home games at the UC.

Rose chimed in: I cant wait, just to be in the UC again. I know our fans are going to come out and support us. Its going to be fun, exciting and its going to be some good games.

Deng, who played Sunday with a heavy bandage on his left wrist, has personal reasons to be happy to play at the United Center again after more than two weeks away from the West Side.

The injury and being out, then getting on the road and playing on the road, Im not going to lie to you: Im looking forward to going home and playing at home, said Deng. Honestly, its always good to be home. Its always good to play in front of your fans, but its the NBA. Whatever your schedule is like, it doesnt really matter. You have a tough schedule early or tough schedule late, it really doesnt matter. Youve just got to focus on your next game. I think its a lot of things going on -- All-Star, all that, game, youre playing this, youre playing that -- all that, youve got to put all that aside and just focus on the next game.

Above all, Thibodeau expects his squad to keep its foot on the gas, no matter the quality of opponents (not that he thinks any foe is weak, of course) for not only the home stand, but for the remainder of the Bulls schedule, which is regarded as significantly easier, in terms of travel, opposition and off days.

Weve got to be ready when we go home, thats the big thing. We cant look back. Everybodys going to say, Your schedule changes, its going to be easy, and its not going to be easy, he said. You cant look ahead, you cant look behind. Youve just got to stare at that next one. The next ones Sacramento. Weve got to be ready for it.

Five observations from Bulls-Sixers: Well, at least the first quarter was good

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USA TODAY

Five observations from Bulls-Sixers: Well, at least the first quarter was good

Here are five observations from the Bulls' season-opener loss to the Sixers on Thursday night.

1. How about that first quarter?

In what could wind up being the most exciting quarter all year, the Bulls began the year with a 41-point explosion. The Bulls shot 63 percent in the quarter, at one point scoring on an absurd 11 consecutive possessions. Bobby Portis scored 13 points and hit all five shots, while Zach LaVine added 15 of his own. The ball was moving, they played quickly and caught Philadelphia out of position at times and took care of the ball. The fun times didn't last, but it wound up being the highest scoring first quarter in a Bulls season opener. It was fun. The other three quarters? Well, the first quarter was fun.

2. The defense is as bad as we thought it was

Granted, Kris Dunn is far and away the Bulls' best defender and was out while attending the birth of his baby boy. But this was still about as bad a defensive performance as the Bulls could have had, even against an offensive juggernaut like the Sixers. Communication was off almost from the start, and they always looked two steps behind. The Sixers got just about anything they wanted in transition, meaning it was a moot point that they struggled from beyond the arc. From Jabari Parker to Zach LaVine, it wasn't pretty. They're going to struggle all year long. Dunn isn't going to make enough of a difference. Shoutout to Wendell Carter's block on Ben Simmons, the lone defensive highlight of the night

3. Bobby Portis' bet is off to a good start

Portis was guilty of an ugly defensive performance, as Dario Saric posted a monster line by out-hustling his counterpart much of the night. But offensively Portis continues to shine after a great preseason. Portis, now officially in a contract year, went for 20 points and 10 rebounds and added a steal, a block and three 3-pointers in 29 minutes. Without Lauri Markkanen he's the Bulls' No. 2 scorer behind LaVine. We'll add her, too, that LaVine continued to look smooth on offense. He had 29 points on 19 shots and had seven of the Bulls' 12 free throw attempts.

4. The backup point guard job is up for grabs

Cam Payne's leash is incredibly long. He's the best option for now once Kris Dunn eventually returns, but it's probably time for Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis to get a look. Payne finished 0-for-4 with five assists and a turnover in 22 minutes. No one was expecting Payne to match Ben Simmons stat for stat (Simmons went for his third career-triple double in four games against the Bulls). But the ball routinely stopped when it got into Payne's hands, and he didn't seem to know where to go once he pushed in transition. His speed is a positive, but once he gets to his spot he struggled to make the right play. And he's a clear negative defensively. Arcidiacono and Ulis aren't exactly Gary Payton, but they deserve looks at some point in the near future. Arcidiacono had 8 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists in 28 minutes. That came against Philly's second unit, but he was decidely better.

5. Jabari Parker will want a do-over

Friday feels like forever ago. For all Portis did well to close the preseason, it was gone on Thursday. Parker's final line is a bit misleading because of the points he scored when the game was well out of reach. The truth was Parker's shot selection early was awful, and his defense was a real liability. It was the "cons" side of his scouting report played out on the court. There's still hope he can improve, of course, and Hoiberg will need to find the right combinations to make him successful. But we can probably rule out him at small forward if he's having trouble staying in front of power forwards.

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

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USA TODAY

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.

Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”

The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”

Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.

He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.

“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”

After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”