Bulls

Bulls win season-high 4th game in a row, past Cavs team without LeBron James

Bulls win season-high 4th game in a row, past Cavs team without LeBron James

Winning a game against a LeBron James led team has proven to be an easier task than most for the Chicago Bulls in the last couple regular seasons.

And winning without James has proven to be a herculean task for the Cleveland Cavaliers since his return in 2014.

So putting those two events together seemed to produce an inevitable result at Quicken Loans Arena, with James out due to illness, as the Bulls pulled away from the Cavaliers 117-99 Saturday night.

The win marks a season-high fourth straight for the Bulls, pulling them over .500 for the first time in nearly two months and they lead the season series 3-0 over the NBA Champions.

Of course, if James were healthy perhaps the Cavaliers would look more cohesive but without him, only Kyrie Irving was in double figures amongst the starters for most of the night. Irving was unguardable with 34 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

After the lead rose to 20, Irving went to work to get the Cavaliers back in it by scoring eight in the quarter and cutting the lead in half with 2:30 left. But without James, the Bulls were able to hold off the Cavaliers with baskets from Cristiano Felicio and Nikola Mirotic, who had his second straight big game with 14 points and 10 boards.

A third-quarter flurry from the Bulls gave them some breathing room after a back-and-forth 24 minutes. The Cavs threatened to blow the game open with a 65-59 lead to start the third but the Bulls quickly turned the tables, getting stops and leaking out for fast breaks.

"We made an adjustment at halftime, I give our guys credit for making the adjustment, slowing them down a little bit," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "When we get that thing off the rim, we're pretty good. When we get it up and space the floor properly and with pace, good things generally happens."
 
Dwyane Wade corralled weak-side rebounds and popped it ahead to Butler and Bobby Portis for layups. 

Butler then hit two triples in succession to give the Bulls a 76-67 lead, as he was on his way to his first triple-double of the season with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

"That first half he started 0-5 before he made one basket," Hoiberg said. "But he grabs seven rebounds, made winning plays. That's what it's about. We talk about moving the ball, making the right play, trusting your teammate. Jimmy's obviously a huge part of that."

With no James to chase around, Butler still played like he was saving his offensive energy for later, although he was guarding Irving at times. But the easier load didn't lead to Butler trying to do too much. 

He wasn't holding the ball, just waiting on the defense to commit. They kept the Cavaliers moving from side to side and the trust was evident throughout the evening.Wade was one rebound short—one Felicio rebound attempt with seconds remaining, from getting a triple-double with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in 34 minutes, as he looked fresh from the days he had off before the break after he injured his wrist on the west coast trip.

"I'm cool with the break," Wade joked. "The way you look at it, it's a 25-game sprint. Let's go out here and have some fun. We have guys that come in, bringing new energy. We just gotta come out and play basketball."
 
Shooting nearly 50 percent, totaling 34 assists on 46 field goals and hitting a season-high 15 triples, it's almost like Hoiberg's dream has come to life—a year and a half into this experiment.

The 3-point shooting has been a welcome addition since the trade of Doug McDermott, their best 3-point shooter.

"I think guys are shooting their shots," Wade said. "Denzel (Valentine) has been a great jolt the last couple games. We've been talking about where guys can get their shots and guys are taking them. That's what we want. That's what coach wants. If you miss two, take the next one."

Valentine followed up his sterling showing Friday night with another competent and confident performance, hitting three triples to score 11 and at least competing on the defensive end.

"It says a lot about Denzel, the type of kid he is. He doesn't play with any fear," Hoiberg said. "A lot of guys would get nerves when your number is called and you know you gotta go in three. He's taken advantage of this opportunity and hopefully he continues to play well."

Cameron Payne made his debut as a Bull and hit two triples in the first half, both passes off the ball as he hasn't had enough time to grasp the offense, only going through a morning walkthrough with the coaching staff after the team arrived in Cleveland.

"Just overall unselfishness has been really good," Hoiberg said. "Had a low turnover game (seven), which really helps."

What else really helps on a night like Saturday? No LeBron James.

How Sky are approaching WNBA season, from advocacy to unprecedented schedule

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How Sky are approaching WNBA season, from advocacy to unprecedented schedule

The 2020 WNBA season is one like no other. While the league is playing out its truncated, 22-game campaign in a bubbled campus at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla, it’s also dedicating the proceedings to social justice advocacy.

To name a few ways the latter has come to fruition: Players across the W have honored the lives and called for justice for Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and other victims of police brutality and racial violence with jersey messages, on-court demonstrations and comments to the media. The Sky, specifically, launched a fund to benefit Chicago-based community organizations based on team performance called #SkyTakesAction. There was even a leaguewide thrust to publicly endorse Raphael Warnock, a Democratic challenger for Kelly Loeffler’s Senate seat in Georgia, after Loeffler repeatedly came out in opposition of the W’s social justice initiatives and the Black Lives Matter movement. Everything enacted by the league on this front has been pointed and unified.

Meanwhile, there’s basketball to be played, as well. And the Sky is on the rise. Despite dropping two of its last three contests, the team is off to a 5-3 start to the season, with mammoth victories over the Las Vegas Aces, Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics embedded in. It’s a group with championship aspirations one year after bursting onto the scene under first-year coach James Wade and bolstered by a high-octane, free-flowing style of play; and it returned much of the core of that breakout squad, even as many stars across the W traded threads.

Sky forward Gabby Williams recently joined the Bulls Talk Podcast to discuss all of the above — from her commitment to pushing for change to the high hopes, and strange circumstances, surrounding the team this season.

“Our decision to come to the bubble really was, if we're going to go, fighting for social justice is going to be at the forefront of our season,” Williams said. “That's going to go hand-in-hand with the WNBA.”

And on grinding through a season with games near every other day: “It’s going to be hard on our bodies, it’s going to be hard mentally, it’s going to be hard physically, emotionally, everything, it’s going to be exhausting. So we’re just going to try to keep each other up. It’s going to be gritty, it’s going to be a season that we have to grind out, and it’s not going to be easy for anyone. So we’re just focused on our bodies, and staying healthy and staying together.”

Listen to the full conversation here or via the embedded player above.

Bulls Talk Podcast

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Sky forward Gabby Williams on WNBA Wubble and social change

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Sky forward Gabby Williams on WNBA Wubble and social change

The Chicago Sky are dominating in the Wubble on the court, but also are doing some great things off the court as well. NBC Sports Chicago Bulls and hoops writer Rob Schaefer is joined by Sky forward Gabby Williams to discuss everything that's going on in the WNBA's Wubble as they get through their season and the many social justice initiatives the league and the Sky are pushing to help promote social change.

(2:20) - Difficulties of starting the WNBA season when so much has gone on in the world

(7:10) - The Sky are trying to motivate people and other athletes to push for social change in Chicago

(11:55) - The Sky have championship aspirations

(15:40) - Keeping the pressure on people to continue to promote change

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.