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Carter-Williams steals the spotlight from Rose, Bulls

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Carter-Williams steals the spotlight from Rose, Bulls

Through four games Michael Carter-Williams had been the other guard in the first round playoff series between the Bucks and Bulls.

Storylines, both positive and negative, revolved around Derrick Rose's play in his first postseason appearance in more than three years. The former MVP scored 23 points in Game 1, nearly triple-doubled in Game 2, added a season-high 34 points in Game 3 before committing eight costly turnovers in a Game 4 loss. He, the measuring stick for a Bulls team with championship aspirations, garnered the attention. And heading into a Game 5, the spotlight again was on Rose to close the series out at home and set up a date with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Instead, it was Carter-Williams who stole the show, earning himself a spot at the postgame podium after handily winning his individual matchup with Rose and helping the Bucks stave off elimination in a 94-88 win in Game 5. Carter-Williams scored 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting, added eight rebounds and nine assists and played stifling defense on Rose and Jimmy Butler in a team-high 38 minutes.

"He looked good, like a veteran point guard," said OJ Mayo. "He really kept his poise, quarterback’d the team, made sure that we understood what we were doing on both ends of the floor. He played like an All-Star point guard tonight."

Carter-Williams was the aggressor from the opening tip, scoring on a layup on the game's first possession, the first of what became a 9-0 run for the Bucks to open the contest. Twice more in the opening frame Carter-Williams attacked Rose and finished inside. It became a trend for the night, the Bucks staying a step ahead of the Bulls' pick-and-roll defense, living in the paint and beating rotations with better ball movement and spacing. All 10 of Carter-Williams' field goal makes came in the paint, with the Bucks scoring nearly half of their 94 points as a team inside.

[RELATED: Bulls still can't close out Bucks at home]

A sprained right ankle forced him to the locker room in the opening minutes of the third quarter but he managed to return at the 2:54 mark of the period and didn't sit the rest of the night. It's when he did his best work, too, scoring eight points and handing out a pair of assists in the final stanza. His most impressive sequence came after the Bulls had used a quick 6-0 run to pull within three points at the 4:45 mark. Carter-Williams calmly cut left, received a pass from Mayo and hoisted a floating bank shot in over Rose to quiet the United Center crowd. The next trip down he blocked Jimmy Butler - one of the eight Bucks blocks in the final 12 minutes - and fed John Henson on a beautiful baseline bounce pass for a layup that pushed the lead back to eight with 3 minutes to play.

"I was just trying to get in the lane and find the open guy," he said after the game. "I was just being patient and that opened up the lane a little bit and I was able to score."

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Carter-Williams' offensive aggressiveness was a welcome sign after he had averaged 12.0 points on 39 percent shooting in the first four games, but he made his mark defensively. Kidd has preached the entire series that the Bucks would be as successful as their defense allowed them to be, and on Monday night it was Carter-Williams leading the charger.

He was credited with three blocks and one steal, but his pressure was felt throughout. Rose shot 5-for-20 and the Bulls committed 13 more turnovers, bringing their five-game total to 89 giveaways. Carter-Williams switched between assignments on Rose and Jimmy Butler (5-for-21), with his 6-foot-6 length giving Kidd options to mix and match between Mayo, Bayless and and Khris Middleton at the other guard position.

It's been a turbulent few months in Milwaukee for Carter-Williams, who was acquired in a three-team deal at the trade deadline that sent All-Star caliber point guard Brandon Knight from the Brew City to Phoenix. The transaction, done with eyes on the future - Knight was a free agent at season's end - was met with scrutiny, and the Bucks struggled most of the way with Carter-Williams at the helm; the Bucks went just 10-15 in games he started after the trade, nearly falling out of the No. 6 spot in the process.

But Carter-Williams has righted the ship and has the defensive-minded Bucks back feeling confident after two straight wins. And while his team's success doesn't hinge on his individual play much like it does for Rose and the Bulls, when that other guard is showing the aggressiveness on both ends of the floor like he did Monday night, the Bucks will be in position to win. The next test is Thursday.

"If that’s what we get form him as a player every night," Henson said, "we’re going to be tough to beat."

Bulls react to Kobe Bryant's stunning death with emotion, eloquence

Bulls react to Kobe Bryant's stunning death with emotion, eloquence

The tears streaming down Jim Boylen’s face said all you needed to know about the Bulls’ reaction to the stunning death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other victims in a Sunday helicopter crash that has rocked the NBA community.

Like Bryant, Boylen has daughters who love basketball. Like Bryant, Boylen is uber competitive and serious about his job.

But he’s a father and a human being first.

“Obviously, a very emotional, tearful day in our building. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kobe Bryant’s family, the other families that are involved in the accident,” Boylen said. “These things hit your team and the league on different levels. There’s the rookie out of high school breaking into the starting lineup, one of the hardest workers ever and becoming an All-Star and a champion and a Hall of Fame player. And then there’s the second half of your life where you earn respect from the basketball community and you’re a husband and a father and a mentor for the rest of the league. Difficult day.

“And if you have children like many of us do, it’s painful.”

The Bulls discussed the tragedy after a Monday morning shootaround to prepare for a game against the Spurs that everyone acknowledged would be difficult to play. The United Center has projected images of Bryant, smiling in his Lakers uniform, since Sunday night and fans have started a makeshift shrine outside the building.

The Bulls will have a moment of silence to honor Bryant, and Thad Young, who will wear Bryant’s “Zoom Kobe 4 ‘Prelude’” shoe, said it’s likely they’ll take a 24-second violation to honor one of the numbers Bryant wore.

“Kobe has always inspired me — and not just me but other guys around this league, from young to older guys,” Young said. “He's always been very inspiring to each and every one of us just because of what be brought to the game and his life outside of the game. He was pretty much an open book. You know, he let us see how he treated his wife and kids. He let us see the behind the scenes of how he lived his life.

“We thank him for that. He showed us how to continue to walk this Earth and be upstanding citizens and he showed us how to be not just a person to walk this earth but to be a loving husband, father and family member.”

LaVine, who wears No. 8 in part to honor Bryant, acknowledged the difficulty of playing Monday night but said it’s the best way to honor the future Hall of Famer’s legacy.

“It’s going to be really sad, but I think it’s something that he would have wanted — for people to get back into the game and play,” LaVine said. “I feel like that’s how he would approach it. So I’m going to go out there and play the way I do, play my heart out. Obviously, everybody is going to have a heavy heart. But we still have a job to do. It’s terrible you have to play under those circumstances, but I feel like it’s something he would want as well.’’

LaVine grew up idolizing Bryant.

“He inspired a whole generation of kids pretty much. They wanted to be like him. It’s like kids in the 80s and 90s wanted to be like Mike. We wanted to be like Kobe,” LaVine said. “Growing up and seeing the different highlights of his hard work, I feel like that’s one of the biggest things that was instilled in me was his hard work. I try to bring that to my game. And his passion for the game, how ruthless he was as a competitor. But it’s more than that as a basketball player. He was a father. There were more families on there. It’s just terrible what happened, man. It’s just such a loss in so many different ways.”

LaVine proudly detailed one anecdote from his rookie season when he scored 28 points off the bench in a Timberwolves road victory at Staples Center on Nov. 28, 2014.

“I just remember Kobe was guarding me in the fourth quarter, and obviously I knew growing up and idolizing him that he always guarded the best player [late],” LaVine said. “I had a really good game so he was guarding me, and we were standing at the free-throw line and he tapped me on the butt and said, ‘You know, keep going.’ It was almost shocking to me that I was in that situation as a 19-year-old. It was like, ‘This is a dude I idolized, he’s guarding me.’ It was just surreal.”

LaVine also recalled how he fouled him to send him to the free-throw line that gave Bryant the points to pass Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. But LaVine’s takeaways from Bryant were as much professional as personal.

“I try and take his hard work,” LaVine said. “He was somebody that after games, I heard so many different stories from former players that have coached me where if he had a bad game he would stay all night. Or during the summertimes, he wouldn’t take time off.

“Obviously, everybody is different. But I just try and take that mindset of working hard and being in the gym and his mindset of coming in to just kill every game. That was his mindset. There will never be another Kobe Bryant. There’s only one person like that ever. He touched so many lives in the way he affected basketball, and beyond that as well.’’

Young also acknowledged Bryant’s competitiveness.

“He's just always been a clear-cut assassin. There's a reason they call him the Black Mamba. He's one of those guys that's very ferocious, very competitive, do whatever it takes to win, even if it means dunking on his grandmother,” the veteran forward said. “But at the end of the day, he's one of the greatest to ever do it, one of the realest to ever do it. He's put this league on his back. He's helped make the league to what it is today. He's helped inspire and lead the way for guys like me and younger guys to come into this league and be able to do a lot and be able to continue to grind.”

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Kobe Bryant to be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020

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USA TODAY

Kobe Bryant to be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020 was already set up to be a special one, with some of the greatest names in the sport, names like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, set to get in. But now that class takes on an even greater significance as Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that Kobe Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, will be inducted into the  Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Basketball Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo stated that the 2020 class is expected to be one of the "most epic" classes in the history of the sport.

Along with Bryant, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020 is expected to include some of his fiercest rivals. The list of players that could be inducted in 2020 includes the aforementioned all-time great San Antonio Spurs forward Duncan (played a total of 30 playoff games against Bryant), Pistons legends Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups (defeated Bryant and the Lakers in 2004 NBA Finals), and Shawn Marion, whose Suns teams were a huge threat to the Lakers dynasty throughout the 2000s.

The full Hall of Fame class will be revealed in April. In departing from the usual selection process, Colangelo maintained that "Kobe will be honored the way he should be."

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