Curry, Warriors embarrass Bulls in measuring stick game


Curry, Warriors embarrass Bulls in measuring stick game

Stephen Curry had the ball on a string and thought Derrick Rose was right with it, but when Rose didn’t allow himself to be shook, the United Center stood and applauded the defensive effort.

Then Curry found a curling Klay Thompson escaping Jimmy Butler a few inches away, and seconds later that effort went unrewarded as the best shooter in basketball fed the second-best shooter in basketball.

Triple, swish, timeout.

It was that kind of night for the Bulls against the NBA champs, who openly said this game was a measuring stick to their progress to date.

And a 125-94 loss to the Golden State Warriors sent a resounding message that though the Bulls have a reputation for getting up for the big games, their elevator doesn’t reach that high.

“They play the right way,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “All their guys move, they cut and every guy on the floor can make a play.”

[MORE BULLS: In house that Jordan built, Warriors look capable of hitting Bulls' 72-win mark]

Coming in knowing full well the Warriors can embarrass you if you’re not adhering to the gameplan or if the gameplan doesn’t cover everything, the Bulls still succumbed and the submission seemed to happen early.

Again, communication was a problem.

“It was embarrassing, we stopped communicating when while we were out there,” Rose said. “You could easily tell there was no communication on both sides of the ball.”

The Bulls shot 37 percent in the first half and trailed by 19 when the game was barely 15 minutes old. The Warriors shot 52 percent and toyed with the opponent as if it was a varsity-JV matchup.

Curry and Thompson didn’t have explosive nights, but they surely weren’t silent, as Curry had some dazzling moves and Thompson filled in the blanks where necessary. Curry could’ve tallied a triple double but in 34 minutes scored 25 points with 11 assists and seven rebounds.

Thompson scored an easy 20 in 32 minutes, hitting three triples as the Warriors shot 38 percent and made 12 long balls.

“They’re tough, they have a lot of guys who can score, a lot of guys who can guard, yeah. But when you don’t play good basketball, any matchup is difficult in this league,” Butler said.

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The Warriors didn’t put an all-out assault like they did on the Cleveland Cavaliers when they went up 43 points in a laugher. They just did all the great things championship teams do on a given night: never got lost on screens, shared the ball endlessly and ignored the noise.

“Guard, for one," Butler said. “We’re too worried about offense too much at times. We don’t play defense, we don’t rebound, we don’t get back. It’s not the bigs, it’s on everybody. When we’re not guarding, we’re not a very good team.”

Rose provided most of the noise early for the Bulls as they jumped out to a quick lead that wouldn’t hold. He finished with 29 points, including 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the first quarter.

Rose burned so much energy early attacking the basket and challenging Curry, he asked out six minutes into the game due to fatigue. The Bulls were down 13-12, but the Warriors went on a 21-6 run to finish the quarter, effectively ending it before it began.

Without Butler being his usual self, the Bulls were no match. He didn’t get involved until the third quarter, and by then the Warriors had a 20-point head start.

He finished with 23 points and five rebounds but only had four at halftime, when the Warriors achieved a 21-point lead.

“It just shows how bad we can be if we don’t guard,” Butler said.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Harrison Barnes scored 19 with three triples, while Andre Iguodala came off the bench to score 10 and disrupt the Bulls offense, one that made just one of 20 triples and shot 37 percent from the field.

“We came out like that in the second half and had a chance to cut it to single digits,” said Hoiberg, referring to the Bulls grabbing a little momentum to cut the lead to 67-56 midway through the third.

But the offense folded, and the lead was quickly pressed back to 16 and then to 24 at quarter’s end.

“We missed some easy shots, we let it affect us on the other end and they got some easy baskets. They kept attacking all the way to the finish line.”

Pau Gasol was 30 points short of his effort in Detroit, going 0-for-8 with only a free throw in 23 minutes.

Nikola Mirotic was also on a milk carton, going 0-for-5 along with Tony Snell only making a field goal in the last six minutes, when the game was well out of reach.

Everything the Bulls did wrong, the Warriors pounced on.

They stripped weak drives, caught the Bulls napping way too much on defense for multiple backdoor layups and open shots, laughing all the way home.

When the Bulls got close, the Warriors would hit a couple of triples in succession to hush the impending roar of the United Center. Then it became showtime, with alley-oops, long triples and the general joy that comes with being a member of a Warriors team challenging the 1996 Bulls' record of 72 wins.

For the Bulls, there was misery for the better part of 40 minutes and the knowledge of knowing they’ll have a long, long way to go before reaching elite status.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:

Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.