Bulls

Cavaliers stand behind ailing Irving: 'The kid is a warrior'

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Cavaliers stand behind ailing Irving: 'The kid is a warrior'

Struggling to get any kind of acceleration that has made him one of the game's elite, Kyrie Irving went to a few of his teammates during Sunday's Game 4 and asked if they wanted him to continue playing through a strained right foot. Irving had been a shell of his healthy self most of the afternoon, connecting on just 1 of 8 field goals and handing out one assist in 21 first-half minutes. He had been relegated to guarding the Bulls' smallest offensive threat on the floor, at times Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell or Kirk Hinrich. Lingering through the pain, Irving wasn't sure if he was helping or hurting the Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 11 late in the third quarter.

Forward Tristan Thompson wasn't one of the players Irving consulted, but what his response would have been was also the consensus in the Cleveland locker room.

"I’d tell him, 'Are you crazy? Get your butt out there, boy. You’re one of the best on the court. You gotta be out there. We need you out there,'" he said. "He knows he could never ask me that because I’d look at him like he’s crazy. He gets it done."

[RELATED: JR Smith answers Cavs' call in '9-1-1 situation']

Irving did gut out another performance, playing 41 minutes in the Cavaliers' 86-84 victory that tied the series at two games apiece. It was the second straight game in which Irving has dealt with the foot strain he suffered against the Celtics in Round 1 and that was aggravated in the opening minutes of Game 3 on Friday. His final numbers were pedestrian, at best, finishing with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists. But he played, and though he wasn't able to replicate his performances from Games 1 and 2 the boost he gave his team was instrumental in the win.

"I definitely always want him out there if he can go," said Iman Shumpert, who's dealing with a groin injury of his own. "We’ll be hurt after the season. Right now we’ve got to get wins."

It was clear from the onset that Irving was still dealing with the injury, as he missed his first five shots and rarely matched up with Rose on the defensive end. His lone field goal in the first half came on a botched play from LeBron James, who found Irving on the right baseline for a 10-foot jumper. But Irving stayed aggressiveness enough to earn eight trips to the free-throw line in that first half, connecting on all of them.

He didn't attempt a shot in the fourth quarter, allowing both J.R. Smith and James do the heavy lifting on the offensive end, yet still gutted out 11 minutes in the final stanza. His +7 rating was tied for best on the team, and he also added two steals playing as much help defense as he could.

"It’s a little frustrating, but playing with my brothers and winning a big game like this makes my effort for me - it goes right out the window. I’m going to go out there and compete, space out people as much as possible, make plays when the ball’s in my hands, or go screen or get a couple steals or rebounds,"he said. "So whatever’s needed I can do. I’m going to will myself to do it and I’m just glad the guys still want me out there, even if I’m not 100 percent."

[MORE: LeBron's buzzer-beater evens series with Bulls]

And though the Cavaliers regained home court advantage heading back to Cleveland for Game 5, they'll need more from Irving to earn two more wins. James has been inefficient taking on more of a shooting load in the series, with his 10-for-30 performance Sunday putting him at 37.7 percent shooting on 106 attempts for the series.

Irving will continue to play through the injury, with JR Smith admitting after the game "him at 60 percent is better than most point guards in the league at 100 (percent)." It's tough to find a scenario where Irving can't complement James in the scoring/distributing department and the Cavaliers winning the series. It happened Sunday, thanks in large part to Smith's shooting and James' last-second heroics.

Yet for an afternoon, Irving's presence was enough for the Cavs to steal a win in Chicago, where the Bulls had won 12 of their last 14 games.

"The kid is a warrior," James said. "Just his presence on the floor, no matter if he’s playing on one foot or not you have to account for him because of his ability to make shots, his ability to command things out on the floor. And it goes a long way. It’s not just about basketball, what this kid is doing for our team. And he’s giving us everything that he’s got, and that’s all we can ask for."

Coby White is making history left and right in absurd three-game stretch

Coby White is making history left and right in absurd three-game stretch

Coby White is enjoying a special stretch of basketball right now. In each of the Bulls’ past two games entering Tuesday night’s matchup with the Thunder, White set and matched career-high scoring totals with consecutive 33 point-games — something no rookie reserve had ever done

But Chris Paul was determined to stop it.

“I told Coby he wasn’t going to score 33 tonight,” said Paul, who coached White at the AAU level and has forged a deep bond with him since

Mission accomplished… Sort of.

White poured in a new career-high of 35 points in a nail-biter of a 124-122 loss to Oklahoma City, shooting 13-for-21 from the field and 6-for-9 from 3-point range. At 20 years old and in his first NBA season, White has now logged three 30-point games in a row, all off the bench. Here are a few reasons that is statistically ridiculous:

  • White is the first reserve in Bulls franchise history to post three consecutive 30-point games (via Bulls Game Notes)

  • White is the first rookie to score 30 points in three consecutive games since starters were first recorded in 1970-71 (via ESPN Stats & Info)

  • He’s also the first rookie to achieve that feat while hitting five or more 3-pointers in each game since the 3-point shot was introduced in 1979-80 (via Elias Sports Bureau)

  • Zach LaVine and White became the second pair of Chicago teammates in franchise history to each score 30-plus points in consecutive games, joining Bob Love and Chet Walker, who did it in 1969 (via Elias Sports Bureau)

  • White is the first Bulls rookie to score 35 points in a game since Ben Gordon in 2005. Other Bulls rookies to score 35 points in a game: Michael Jordan (21 times) and Elton Brand (twice). Solid company (via Bulls Game Notes)

  • In his last three games, White is averaging 33.7 points per on 57.4/58.1/92.9 shooting splits (20.3 FGA/g, 10.3 3PA/g). 

  • In that stretch, the Bulls are scoring at a rate of 120.1 points per 100 possessions (with a +15.6 net rating) with White on the floor, and just 92.2 points per 100 (with a -41.8 net rating) with him off.

  • I don’t have any further historical context for those last two. They’re just absurd.

“That’s what he [does]. He shoots lights out,” Paul said. “I’m glad to see that he’s playing with that confidence, and this summer we’ll get in the gym and we’ll go to work.”

 

“He’s coming into his own, and I’ve said this from day one, he’s special. He can score the ball like no other,” Zach LaVine said. “He’s continuing to get better. He’s 20 years old, I think he’s starting to find his groove right now.”

LaVine and White combined for 76 of the Bulls’ 122 points against Oklahoma City, collectively keeping the team’s offensive afloat in a floundering first half, then vaulting them back into the game with an infernic third quarter. LaVine (with 19 points) and White (with nine) combined for 28 points on collective 12-for-17 shooting (4-for-6 from deep) in the third, a period the Bulls won 38-19.

“It’s been great, especially with both of us on the court,” LaVine said. “There was a couple times in the fourth — that third quarter, when we were down, I spent so much energy trying to get us back into it — and he held onto that lead for us. 

“But it’s been great, man. He’s been putting a lot of hard work in. I go into the gym late or I shoot after practice and he’s right there. He’s gonna be special.”

White played 33 minutes in the game and was a team-high +15. When he’s ‘on’ he makes the Bulls fun, interesting and electric. LaVine went on to sing gratitude for White’s ability to draw defensive attention away from him over the course of games, and shoulder on-ball responsibilities in spot moments.

Just don’t ask Jim Boylen if he’s ready to promote White to the starting lineup.

“I keep getting this question and I'm just going to answer it one more time,” Boylen said. “Coby’s in a good place. We’re going to keep him in a good place. Let’s let Coby keep playing and lets let him keep developing.”

Point taken. And the way things are going, perhaps that’s perfectly OK.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Coby White and Zach LaVine shine in loss to Thunder

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Coby White and Zach LaVine shine in loss to Thunder

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson react to the Bulls 124-122 loss and another great game from Coby White.

0:45 - Welcome back, John Sabine!

1:45 - On Coby White's career-high 35 points

4:25 - What Coby and Zach do for each other when on the floor together

6:00 -  On the Bulls overcoming a huge deficit

8:10 - On the Thunder and their surprising success this season

13:05 - Viewer comment on Outsiders seating arrangement

13:45 - Viewer comment on Coby going for the All-Rookie second team

15:50 - On playing Zach and Coby together and White not starting

19:45 - Viewer comment on getting Coby another nickname

20:25 - Viewer comment on expectations for when Otto Porter comes back

21:45 - On potential of Shaq Harrison starting over Ryan Arcidiacono

22:55 - Viewer comment on Outsiders shirts

23:40 - Viewer comment on Bulls needs at small forward

26:10 - On Coby blowing past the rookie wall

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

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.