Derrick Rose's fourth-quarter takeover leads Bulls past Thunder


Derrick Rose's fourth-quarter takeover leads Bulls past Thunder

A response was necessary after a submission led to embarrassment in Charlotte, and the Bulls put forth a requisite effort against perhaps the deepest team in the league.

Derrick Rose put his stamp on the game after Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah kept them in it early, with the Bulls winning, 104-98, against the Oklahoma City Thunder, quieting the calls for roster upheaval and sending a temporary shock of relief back through the fanbase.

Rose scored 29 with seven assists and five rebounds, his best performance of the season against the top competition in his physical equal, Russell Westbrook.

“He was phenomenal, I’m happy for him putting on a performance like he did tonight,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “A game like tonight will be great for his confidence.”

Ten straight for Rose came in the fourth when the Bulls needed it most, including jumpers off defensive switches that put him against Thunder center Enes Kanter, not the most inclined fellow on that end.

[MORE BULLS: Durant, Thunder 'still figuring it out' under Billy Donovan]

Taj Gibson had a crucial stretch in the fourth where he forced a travel on Nick Collison, caught an alley-oop dunk from Noah and hit a wing jumper, right when it appeared the Bulls energy was wearing off and the Thunder stalking.

“We showed some resiliency,” said Noah, who scored four points with seven rebounds and four assists. “It was alarming. What happened in Charlotte was alarming.”

Butler scored 21 of his 26 in the first half, when the Thunder came in intent on keeping the Bulls’ morale down. And the Thunder hitting eight of the first 10 shots didn’t bode well for an antsy crowd.

Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic struggled early, as Hoiberg went with Doug McDermott as a surprise starter in place of Tony Snell because the Bulls had been so prone to slow starts the last few games.

“That’s as tough a team to defend, I think them and Golden State,” Hoiberg said. “In this league with the superstars they have and (Serge) Ibaka knocking down shots like he can.”

[MORE BULLS: Cowley discusses reported disconnect between Rose, coaching staff]

Ibaka, who kept getting open when Mirotic had trouble tracking him, scored 17 points with six rebounds and two blocks, while Steven Adams missed the fourth quarter with a back injury, a crucial subtraction because he was much more equipped to defend a point guard on a switch.

He played his part in helping bully the Bulls early, blocking two shots of his own.

But it was Noah’s energy that picked this team up off the mat, when it very well could’ve went the way of Tuesday’s disaster in Charlotte. Noah only scored two points in the half but grabbed six rebounds, including every loose ball, and his mere presence lifted the Bulls’ spirits.

“We finally started getting the loose balls,” Hoiberg said. “Jo was a plus-16 at halftime, he was huge for us. Noah is out there making plays, he’s so emotional and is a rock for us.”

Then Rose got going, blowing by his workout partner Westbrook for layups and going through a stretch where he made six of 11 shots after a tough-luck start. That combined with Butler’s 21 in the first half gave them a seven-point lead with 24 left to play.

“We push each other,” Rose said. “Our workouts are extremely hard, and it's paying off. The way I see him playing and the way that he's controlling the league has been great. For me to work out with him, it's the amount of time I need to catch my rhythm.”

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When Durant seemed to stalk the Bulls with another long triple, three of his game-high 33 points, Butler replied with one of his own to push the lead back to eight.

But Durant and the Thunder refused to acquiesce at the end of a four-game in five-night stretch.

A fast break dunk for Durant after a Butler missed jumper brought the lead back to two for the Bulls with less than 5:46 remaining.

They couldn’t stop Durant, the league’s most impossible cover, as he scored 33 but took 29 shots to get there, defended admirably by Butler.

“He’s something else, and Jimmy did, I thought, as good a job as you could do to get a body on him, make him take tough shots,” Hoiberg said. “He’s just one of those guys that’s a special, special talent.“

Westbrook had an off night by his standards, with 20 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in 39 minutes.

But when an early season gut-check was needed, the Bulls answered the call, as disaster was looming if they didn’t.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games


Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East


Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.