Bulls

Celtics take series from Bulls in Game 6 drubbing

Celtics take series from Bulls in Game 6 drubbing

The last Bulls’ home playoff game before this series was a disastrous, effortless drubbing to the Cleveland Cavaliers on a Friday night in May two years ago.

The Boston Celtics completed their resounding and emphatic comeback using the same formula and the Bulls were greeted by the same reaction from the United Center fans on a Friday night in April, with a chorus of boos.

That game brought about a summer of change, chief among them a coach firing and hiring of Fred Hoiberg, who had to watch his team submit physically and emotionally to the Celtics in Game 6 of their first-round series with a 105-83 loss at the United Center Friday night.

The Celtics took what was left of the Bulls’ competitiveness by the end of the third quarter with a 34-18 flurry to give themselves a 29-point cushion, on a night where the Bulls can only say two words.

“We stunk.”

Dwyane Wade shot just one for 10, and the Bulls shot just 38 percent as the Celtics acted like the schoolyard bullies who takes lunch money through the hallways, a far different scene compared to the first two games when the Bulls looked ready to make history as an eight-seed poised to knock off a top seed.

“I understand the frustration (from the fans),” Hoiberg said. “It was a frustrating game, no doubt about that, to go out this way. The high note to start this series, getting out to a 2-0 lead, we couldn’t finish it off. We fought, we battled, especially that Game 5 in Boston. We didn’t have it tonight.”

Gerald Green scored 16 as Brad Stevens’ signature personnel adjustment from Game 3, and Celtics guard Avery Bradley continued his torrid end to the series with nine of 12 shooting, including three of four from 3-point range, to score 23 points.

All five Celtics starters scored in double figures, and they jumped on the Bulls early from three, hitting 16 triples—a move to which the Bulls had no counter. The Celtics got off to another quick start, hitting three quick triples and never truly looked back.

They even did it without Isaiah Thomas exploding, but the attention paid to him from the Bulls resulted in unselfish ball movement and a Bulls defense that didn’t look ready for it, yet again, as the Celtics had 28 assists on 39 field goals.

“They shot the three ball here better than they did at their place and we played better at their place than we did here; very weird series from that standpoint,” Wade said. “At the end of the day they came out and took care of business… eighth seed we didn’t have all our guys but we put a fight up, made it a tough series and I’m proud of our guys.”

Everything was in vain, from Hoiberg’s adjustments to Rajon Rondo’s sideline pressing to Jimmy Butler’s ability to play through pain, because their spirits were broken and their bodies were bruised—from attrition in some cases and the Celtics in others, as they beat up the Bulls in every way that mattered, as Robin Lopez was the only Bull besides Butler (23 points) to score in double figures with 10 points as the Bulls shot 39 percent and were four of 21 from 3-point range.

“I’d have played more minutes I’d of went one for 20; I don’t care; you have to shoot the basketball,” Wade said. “Jimmy did came out tried to be aggressive tonight; they kicked our butt overall. I played 19 minutes; I’ve been one for 10 in a half before.”

Butler was playing through an injured left knee and clearly lacked explosiveness, but was doing more than his share to keep the Bulls alive—by a thread. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury but by the end of the third quarter, it appeared he had no business on the floor with the game out of reach and risking possible serious injury.

“The same thing everybody this time of year feels,” Butler said. “Nicked up a little bit, still gotta go out there and compete, play the best basketball you can. Nobody feels sorry for me that I’m nicked up, I’m okay with it.”

It was a thread that popped when he took a rest to start the second quarter and the Bulls down by seven that ballooned to 17 quicker than you can say “20-second timeout”.

“That’s one thing people don’t realize how banged up Jimmy was,” Hoiberg said. “You talked about that fourth quarter in the last game, only getting two shots. A lot of that was his limitations, trying to get the ball up the floor against Avery Bradley. Felt better today, got treatment throughout the day yesterday and today to put himself in the position to go out there and fight with his teammates.”

At that point, it was a matter of time before the Celtics truly put the game out of reach, because Butler could only do but so much and with Wade having his worst game of the series, no rescue was on the way.

Butler was efficient with nine of 17 shooting, but his teammates contributed to go just 15 of 43 (34 percent) by the end of the third, with the Celtics getting stronger and stronger as they saw the Bulls were rudderless without Rondo’s services for the fourth straight game.

The Celtics continuously attacked the Bulls and found their soft spots. First, it was their defense, and then it was their psyche as the Bulls learned a lesson in physical and mental toughness.

A week ago, it was thought the Bulls had the advantage, up 2-0 with an edge that bordered on cockiness.

By the end of 36 minutes, the edge dwindled to hopelessness and one wonders what the next step for the storied franchise will be as the Celtics move on, and Bulls are going fishing.

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:


Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen.