Bulls

Dwyane Wade vents after Bulls blown out by Celtics

Dwyane Wade vents after Bulls blown out by Celtics

BOSTON — Of all the metrics that could be described to best illustrate yet another disappointing effort for the Bulls in their 100-80 loss to the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon at TD Garden, one snapshot stands out as they simply submitted from the opening tip.

On consecutive possessions after turnovers and misses, only one Bull crossed halfcourt as the Celtics increased their lead to 29 with uncontested layups in the third quarter.

It prompts the question, given the five-game losing streak and the manner in which it’s happened recently, of whether the Bulls have given up on the season — despite being in playoff contention.

"No, I don’t think we're giving up," Jimmy Butler said. "We're just not playing any type of good basketball as a whole. We gotta get back to winning basics before we can try to do anything else. Getting back in transition. Guarding the way we’re supposed to be. Taking the right shots. I'm sure we're gonna talk about that for awhile before we play Charlotte.

"But we're not giving up, I can tell you that."

Not much changed from Friday night's showing or strategy against the Houston Rockets. Fred Hoiberg played 11 players in the first half, with only Michael Carter-Williams being the change.

"It's tough," Dwyane Wade said. "Especially when you're playing teams that's ready for the playoffs, besides Orlando. It's all been playoff teams and they're ready. They know what they gotta do. We're still… experimenting."

Whether it actually played a part in the Bulls' worst first quarter and first half showing is up for speculation, but shooting three for 22 in the first quarter against a Celtics team that wasn't playing swarming defense.

"I don't think it was a lack of competing but a lack of shot making," Hoiberg said. "Missed some really good looks and turned it over four times in that span. But to answer your question, the vets are staying positive and that's the only way I can judge it right now."

They missed their first 12 shots from the field before Wade bailed them out with a jumper and the Celtics jumped out to a 20-4 lead as the Bulls mustered just nine points in the quarter.

Wade, who finished a career-low minus-37 on the plus-minus scale, offered some level of shelter for Hoiberg, as the Bulls coach and players have been put in an impossible position since the trade deadline.

"It does, it does. A lot of people have a lot of things they can say about Fred as a coach but I will defend him on this: this is a tough situation he's been put in," Wade said. "I'm glad I'm on this side, glad I got a jersey and I don't have to make certain decisions because it is tough. No one is going care too much, Fred gets a nice paycheck, I got a nice paycheck, Jimmy gets a nice paycheck. This 2016-17, we all go down together no matter what the story is. And it's on us."

Watching his words given how calling his teammates out went several weeks ago, Wade was asked if it was fair of him to answer questions about a situation no one in the locker room created.

"I don't know. I wish upper management could be answering the questions because I'm tired of answering them every game," Wade said. "I don't know. I wish I had the answer. I don't wanna say too much, I don't wanna say the wrong thing. I just wanna get out there, try to play and lead. Figure out a way me and Jimmy can be better. Right now they're just watching us on pick and rolls, we gotta find a way to be better, so we can help everybody else be better."

Wade might've washed out his defense of Hoiberg when Wade suggested he and Butler are too easy to guard, saying "pick and rolls, that ain't it." Wade said he and Butler would have to get with the coaching staff before Monday's game in Charlotte to try to figure out new strategies to get them easier looks — because at this stage, opponents have figured the Bulls out and the word is spreading to trap Wade and Butler, then wait on the house of cards to fall from there.

The nine was the season-low for any quarter this season — which was one short of the players Hoiberg used in the first as Nikola Mirotic was further embarrassed by being listed as inactive in place of Isaiah Canaan.

Butler's post-All Star slump continued as he shot just two for 11, but it wasn't as bad as Bobby Portis' nightmare.

Airballs, turnovers, you name it, Portis probably did it as he struggled as much as he has at any point during this stretch since the trade of Taj Gibson.

The problem is, he wasn't the only one as the Celtics didn't break a sweat. Wade shot four for 11. Joffrey Lauvergne was one for seven. Rajon Rondo was one for five.

Overall, the Bulls shot 36 percent as Denzel Valentine made a dent in the scoring column with 13 but all came when the game was out of reach — and the playoffs look not too far behind.

Once the Celtics' lead reached double figures at 10-0 with 7:44 left in the first quarter, the Bulls never got it under 10.

There was no need for an Isaiah Thomas explosion, although he and Avery Bradley had a field day against the Bulls' guards. Thomas scored 22 and Bradley 17, with each playing under 30 minutes.

Rookie Jaylen Brown showed some signs why he'll be a big piece in any trade discussions this summer, with a couple highlight plays in his 21 minutes.

But the Celtics didn't blow out the Bulls with red-hot shooting or otherworldly efficiency, although they corralled plenty of loose balls and hit 14 triples.

They simply didn't need to bring their best game because their opponent forgot to bring any game to TD Garden.

Talk feeling cheap as Year 2 of Bulls' rebuild continues to regress

Talk feeling cheap as Year 2 of Bulls' rebuild continues to regress

There’s not a whole lot to say at this point. The Bulls are 47 games into Year 2 of their rebuild and, now healthy, have somehow taken a step back. What was supposed to be a measuring stick in the second half with a complete roster has now becoming an alarming sign that this team hasn’t improved in any area and they’re trending downward. The latest in a long line of ugly performances might have been the worst under Jim Boylen, spotting a 14-win Hawks team a 20-point first half lead and ultimately suffering their ninth loss by 17 or more points under Boylen.

The same typical responses reverberated in the locker room: the Bulls need to take what they’re doing in practice and put it to use in games; the Bulls need to defend better; the Bulls need to be tougher; the Bulls need to care. At least publicly they haven’t gotten down on themselves or one another. They’re surprisingly upbeat despite having one win in 2019, and it coming at the hands of a tanking Cavaliers. Ironically, one of the reasons Fred Hoiberg was fired was that the team didn’t look disappointed and hurt enough after losses.

But at some point the results need to speak. Boylen said after the game that he’s not judging the Bulls on wins and losses, and even cited that the Bulls didn’t play all that well in their lone 2019 win in Cleveland, committing 18 turnovers. It’s gotten ugly and there’s only so much that can be said. Actions speak, and the Bulls have gone silent the last month.

The most fight the team showed was Bobby Portis taking exception to a Justin Anderson dunk with 11.1 seconds left in the game. He got into a brief skirmish with Alex Len on a free throw attempt. But the Bulls also inexplicably doubled at halfcourt as the Hawks were trying to run out the clock, so the Hawks played on. Ironically, it was the first time all night Atlanta felt suffocated by the Bulls defense…and they still managed to get two free throws out of it.

The loudest the United Center got on Wednesday night was from a small pocket of fans near the Hawks bench chanting “We want Vince!” Carter didn’t get in the game, but if he did he likely would have found open space to score against a Bulls defense that didn’t stop much of anything.

Boylen slowed down the Bulls’ pace when he took over, and it actually led to more efficient defense. The Bulls had the No. 8 defense in Boylen’s first month on the job. The offense was a mess but at least the Bulls were showing improvement. But in the last three weeks that defense has plummeted to 29th in the NBA. Yes, Justin Holiday and Wendell Carter Jr. are gone. No, they are not Paul George and Rudy Gobert.

There was at least a bit of excitement over the previous two games when the Bulls made 27 3-pointers against the Heat and Cavaliers. It came against two of the league’s worst defenses, but even Boylen admitted that the Bulls were looking to increase their pace.

Before the game Boylen said that he felt in his heart that 25 3-point attempts were not enough for the Bulls. Against a Hawks team that led the NBA in pace, the taking was there for the Bulls to at least give it a go and hoist 3-pointers in an up-tempo game. If the defense wasn’t going to improve at least they could continue pushing the tempo and finding open shooters to try and score with a Hawks team ranked 24th in defensive efficiency.

The Bulls took 3-pointers on three of their first four shots. They took 23 the rest of the night. They made 8 of 26 from beyond the arc; Atlanta went 9 of 17 from deep in the first half alone and finished with 15 triples. Markkanen (22 points), LaVine (23 points) and Kris Dunn (16 points) were bright spots, but most of those numbers came with the Bulls trailing a team that got spanked by the Magic at home two nights earlier.

It’s somehow gotten worse. Forty-seven games into the year all the Bulls have to show is that they’ve added a piece in Carter and that LaVine is a capable scorer. They don’t need to win – Zion Williamson would be a worthy consolation prize – but they need to improve at some point. Worse than a lack of improvement is a lack of effort, and a bunch of young prospects with talent are somehow regressing. They’ll continue to say all the right things, but until there’s any sort of results it’ll all feel cheap.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Favorite moments of the Melo Era

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Favorite moments of the Melo Era

Mark Grote, Chris Bleck and JJ Stankevitz join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel.

0:00- Bulls and Hawks battle it out at the bottom of the NBA standings. Are they too good to finish in the bottom 3?

6:00- The Derrick Rose reunion talk continues. Would he fit with the young Bulls?

7:30- The panel discusses how you should watch Bulls games for the remainder of the season.

9:00- The guys discuss their favorite moments of the Melo Era.

10:00- 8 Bears were named to the Pro Bowl. 7 will be playing. Will Bears fans actually watch this meaningless exhibition?

14:00- Luke has the latest on Manny Machado-- it's that there is no news. The guys discuss when something might actually happen. How devastating would it be if he does not sign with the White Sox?

19:00- The Blackhawks beat another division leader. They've won 2 straight heading into the All-Star Break. Could they sneak into the playoffs?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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