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.”

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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.

[MORE BULLS: Derrick Rose: 'I love the way I'm playing right now']

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.

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago


Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

Jabari Parker is looking forward to what will surely be an intriguing season for he and the Chicago Bulls.

Parker signed a two-year, $40 million contract, that essentially acts as a tryout for the Bulls. The second year of the contract is a team option, meaning should things not go well, the organization can cut ties with him. But after 183 career games with the Bucks over four seasons, it was clear that Parker was in need of a fresh start. In Chicago, he will slide in as the day one starting small forward, and is already paid like a player who is definitely appreciated by his organization.

But with all of the off the court stuff taken care of for now, Parker's main focus is getting in to the best shape of his life, as he prepares for a full season as a wing player. 

Part of Parker's preparation was a great pickup game in downtown Chicago organized by the Chicago Basketball Club.


For Bulls fans itching to get a look at Parker on the court, the video shows off some flashy passing ability, impressive handles and a flurry of pull-up jumpers from the 23-year old forward. He also finishes well in transition in the video, though that is to be taken with a grain of salt as Parker was easily the biggest player on the court. 

Other players in the pickup game included former Simeon teammate of Parker's, Kendrick Nunn; and NBA free agent and former Marion Catholic star Tyler Ulis (a possible Bulls target?). If Parker looks as dynamic against NBA competition as he did in the pickup game below, the Bulls are going to have one of the more valuable contracts in the league in 2020, and would be likely to lock up Parker to a long-term deal. 

Bulls need to develop a secondary playmaker


Bulls need to develop a secondary playmaker

These are the career points per 36 minutes numbers for the three players who figure to get majority of the field goal attempts on the 2018-19 Bulls:

Zach LaVine: 17.6 
Lauri Markkanen: 18.4 
Jabari Parker: 17.9

There is no debating that this current Bulls roster has multiple players who can flat-out put the ball in the basket. The the biggest questions come into play when you try to imagine how these players will keep each other involved, assuming they take the lion's share of the field goal attempts.

Kris Dunn finished just outside the top 10 in the league in assist percentage (33.3 percent), a higer mark than Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry or Stephen Curry. And though he is a talented passer, what this figure really shows is that the Bulls severely lack a secondary playmaker to take pressure off of Dunn to create shots for others.

Per Ben Falk's site Cleaning The Glass, Markkanen was not able to create for others with his offense, but shockingly, Parker and LaVine did an OK job in the play-making department, considering their reputation as shoot-first players.

Assist rate is a great way to see how much a player is distributing when they are on the floor. And usage rate is perhaps the best way to get an idea of how many possessions a player uses on offense. So naturally, assist to usage ratio is one of the best tools to use to assess a player's ability and willingness to create opportunities for others on offense. What the statistic boils down to is: how often did a player get an assist given how much they had the ball. 

Parker finished last season in the 67th percentile in assist to usage ratio, and LaVine finished in the 58th percentile. These numbers show that both players are capable passers and clearly have the potential to be great setup men.

This is crucial because Markkanen’s development will heavily depend on if he can expand his scoring repertoire, something that looks increasingly difficult with Parker and LaVine, who have averaged a combined 29.5 field goal attempts per 36 minutes for their careers. 

Many times throughout the offseason you likely heard about how the Bulls have many mouths to feed in the locker room. But this doesn’t pertain to just shots, ball-control will be a major concern as well. With incumbent point guard Kris Dunn still a relatively weak floor-spacer (32 percent from 3-point range last season), Fred Hoiberg will need to get creative with his rotations to keep the offense running efficiently. Backup point guard Cam Payne shot 38 percent from the 3-point line last season, and when inserting him into the game for Dunn, Parker would flourish as a point-forward (possibly) surrounded by four competent shooters. Parker could derail the Bulls offense because he is not an elite 3-point shooter, but that issue is mitigated when you put the ball in his hands to let him create.

Parker was fourth in the pecking order in Milwaukee last season, and so it comes as no surprise that his free throw attempts, points and field goal percentage dropped from his 2017 numbers. If you look at the 2017 season (Parker’s breakout season) you see that Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo pretty much split the No. 1 options duties on offense. They each took about 16 shots apiece and combined for 8.2 assists per game. This is a best case scenario for the Parker-LaVine wing duo. 

LaVine has the benefit of coming into the league as a point guard, and he has still retained the ability to make the right pass when it presents itself. And last season, he had an impressive turnover percentage that was just below 10 percent. However, the reason for this was that he averaged 4.34 seconds per touch, a very long time in an NBA possession, usually looking to score and nothing else. It’s easy to avoid turnovers when you aren’t looking to pass.

LaVine usually makes the obvious play if it is one pass away, but he does not move the ball around to prevent the offense from becoming stagnant.

Both LaVine and Parker will have their struggles on defense (understatement of the year), but much more important to their development is understanding that if you give the ball up on offense, it will find its way back to you. This is perhaps the only way a Bulls team that ranked 28th last season in offensive rating, can make a big enough leap in scoring efficiency to make their way back to the postseason.