Bulls

Dwyane Wade saves Bulls from disastrous loss, scores 31 in win over Kings

Dwyane Wade saves Bulls from disastrous loss, scores 31 in win over Kings

A sleepless night for Dwyane Wade, courtesy of Trevor Ariza stripping him of the ball and chance to be the hero in Houston two nights ago led him to a second chance three nights later.

A second chance, it should be noted, that didn’t seem likely considering a half hour before Wade had his moment in “the moment” as the Chicago Bulls held a 27-point lead over the Sacramento Kings in the third quarter.

But unlike last Friday night, Wade did more than rise to the occasion and bring the Bulls back to .500 with a 112-107 win at Golden 1 Center, as he literally saved the Bulls from a soul-crushing disaster that could’ve very well derailed the baby steps they’ve made in recent days.

“It was in my mind. The guys knew it, everyone knew it,” Wade said. “I kept telling them, if I’m in a position tonight, I’m redeeming myself. It’s uncharacteristic for me to get stripped twice like that. I wanted that game-winner in Houston and they hit the ball away, so I couldn’t sleep very well the last couple of days.”

After DeMarcus Cousins couldn’t complete a 3-point play that would’ve given the Kings their first lead of the game, Wade snatched the rebound and trudged upcourt for some personal redemption as Matt Barnes stood in his way this time instead of Ariza.

So he walked Barnes down to the right wing and nailed a pull-up jumper with 13 seconds left to put the Bulls up two. Then he added some extra flavor to the finish as the Kings had a shot to send the Bulls reeling with a three-pointer, as he darted into the passing lane for a pass intended for Cousins, finishing it off with a two-handed dunk with 10 seconds left.

Not bad for a guy who was being taunted by the crowd as “too old” while he took his rest in the first quarter.

“You wish I was on your team,” Wade shot back.

It was redemption of a different kind as Wade was bailed out by the officials in their earlier meeting on a similar play when he missed a dunk in the closing seconds but Cousins was called for a controversial foul when Cousins’ hand barely grazed Wade’s back.

He left no doubt this time, completing a 31-point performance where he was arguably his most efficient of the season, making 12 of 18 shots to go along with six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a game-saving steal.

Finding gold early against Arron Afflalo, Wade got easy scores on the block early which enabled him to get into a rhythm and produce his fifth 30-point performance this season.

“Dwyane’s been in this position a lot through the course of his career,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “One of the reasons he’ll be in the Hall of Fame one day is because of his ability to close games and play clutch, not be afraid of the big moment.”

“He made an unbelievable shot and followed it up with a great steal.”

It seemed unlikely the Bulls would need Wade to dust off his cape when they led by 27 with 4:13 in the third when Jerian Grant hit a three and it seemed the Bulls’ biggest problem was figuring out how to divvy up minutes between Grant (13 points, 4-5 shooting) and Michael Carter-Williams, who scored 21 with four assists and six rebounds in another start as the Bulls were without Jimmy Butler (right heel contusion).

“Michael was great all night, he really set the tone for us offensively,” Hoiberg said. “He got us out playing with pace.”

Wade didn’t feel uncomfortable taking on the extra workload with Butler out but he knew he had to be more economical with his usage.

“The guys look for me to score more, coach calls a lot of plays for me,” Wade said. “So I kind of take the Jimmy role from that standpoint, and obviously that’s what I’m used to. I’ve just got to do it in 30 minutes and not 38. But it’s a comfortable game for me, and it’s coming in early and playmaking.”

The Bulls’ ball movement was crisp early even before taking the 82-55 lead, as they assisted on their first 14 field goals, playing solid defense on the Kings and frustrating the All-Star Cousins, who torched the Bulls for 40 at the United Center.

Taj Gibson took the assignment of guarding Cousins and bothered him all night, not allowing the big man to get a rhythm and creating an atmosphere of frustration—although Cousins’ blowup toward the end of the third seemed to ignite the Kings later.

Cousins, who was ejected with one second half as he could no longer keep it together, finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and five assists but only made five of 16 shots from the field.

From a gameplan execution standpoint, it looked similar to the Bulls’ win in Oklahoma City last week when they led nearly wire to wire, as they were finding Robin Lopez (17 points) and Taj Gibson (13 points) inside for scores against a lagging defense.

Perhaps ignited by a skirmish at the end of the quarter involving Gibson, Rajon Rondo and associate coach Jim Boylen with Cousins and Matt Barnes where it looked like Cousins shoved Boylen, they found new life and had the Bulls seeing double.

Ty Lawson scored a quick 10 in the first several minutes of the quarter, then back-to-back triples from the two Kings combatants, Barnes and Cousins, cut the lead to 107-105 with 56 seconds left.

They gave up six triples in the fourth quarter after allowing just five in the first three quarters, as Lawson scored 22 off the bench and Barnes 19.

“I think the big thing is continuing to play the right way,” Hoiberg said. “Early in the game we had been moving the ball, I think it got stuck a little bit in the second half when they got on that run. You have to realize what made successful, how you got that big lead.”

[SHOP: Buy a Dwyane Wade jersey]

Panic didn’t necessarily set in, although one can imagine if the feeling of “here we go again” was setting in for the Bulls.

“I was like, ‘Yes!’ I wanted to redeem myself. I wanted the ball,” Wade said.

For a long while, it looked as if Butler’s prudence was the right decision.

Then it looked like they needed to send in the bat signal for their All-Star.

They did, but Wade happened to be the one to answer.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.