Dwyane Wade's big fourth helps Bulls pull away from Pelicans

Dwyane Wade's big fourth helps Bulls pull away from Pelicans

Taj Gibson didn't want to shoot it, but Dwyane Wade was blocking off two defenders while encouraging the man doing the dirty work to take some scoring glory.

"Shoot it, Taj. Shoot it," Wade said, before Gibson's midrange jumper found net late in the fourth quarter, giving the Bulls an eight-point lead.

Moments later, Wade did the dirty work of his own, spinning in the lane and hitting a one-handed glasser while being pounded by Anthony Davis to put the Bulls up 10—an unlikely occurrence if one saw the first three quarters from Wade.

Wade turned into Mr. Fourth Quarter when the Bulls needed to end their three-game losing streak, going 7-for-10 in the last 12 minutes to help the Bulls to a 107-99 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday afternoon at the United Center.

"I'm happy for him, just as he's happy with me," said Jimmy Butler of Wade. "He wasn't making shots early but he kept with it. Those shots that he take, they're gonna go in, as they did. And we feed the monster on this roster."

Butler looked fresh and rejuvenated despite missing the better part of three games and losing 10 pounds due to the flu that's ravaged the Bulls and the NBA, scoring 28 points with eight rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks in 39 minutes.

"Jimmy was great, he came out aggressive," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Butler looked like a new man from the tip, getting a shooter's bounce on his second shot of the game, hitting two triples in the first quarter and generally being all over the place.

He didn't waste time to work himself into the game.

"Having him back out there really shows how much he means to the team," Hoiberg said. "You can tell how important a player is based on the difference of how we play when he's not out there."

He ceded space for Wade in the fourth after a 15-point second half lead was cut to five at 91-86. With Wade having Sunday's game in Memphis off, he was able to empty his reservoir after a rough start.

"I emptied the clip tonight," Wade joked.

With fadeaway jumpers and slithering his way to the rim, Wade finished with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes, overcoming a two-for-13 start that had Butler probably feeling like he didn't have much help scoring wise.

"He got hot at the right time," Hoiberg said. "He was trying to help us in every way possible. We played through him and Jimmy all through the fourth and it clearly worked for us."

But the Bulls dominated the glass early and often with Gibson's season-high 16 boards (15 points) leading the way. Robin Lopez grabbed 10 and even Doug McDermott had seven as the Bulls outrebounded the Pelicans 62-42—making up for their 43 percent shooting night and unusual 57 percent from the free-throw line performance.

"The biggest thing tonight was the great job our guys did rebounding," Hoiberg said. "It was a physical basketball game. Only shooting 42 percent, we still found a way to win. We won other battles, especially the rebounding one."

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Once leading 63-48 in the third, they had to survive an onslaught by the two players with Chicago ties, as Anthony Davis kept pouring it on and E'Twaun Moore made his return to Chicago for the first time since signing with the Pelicans as a free agent this summer.

Telling by the way he played, the Bulls could probably use his perimeter shooting and savvy as he hit his first five shots from the field and scoring 16 overall.

Four of those makes were from the 3-point line and with the way the Bulls have struggled to hit the perimeter shot this year, hindsight is always 20-20.

Davis continued to be the biggest inside-out problem in the league, showing the Bulls no mercy despite being questionable after getting hurt in their win over the New York Knicks, leading all scorers with 36 points and 14 rebounds.

Moore's 16 off the bench was second for the Pelicans, which probably illustrates the state of affairs for Davis' Pelicans as they seem to have a difficult time building around him.

One could say the Bulls have that issue on a smaller level with Butler, but the afternoon showed how important he is to them, and what they'll need to actually make a push for the playoffs.

Bulls will try to slow down Mavericks' dynamic young backcourt


Bulls will try to slow down Mavericks' dynamic young backcourt

Through the opening four weeks of the NBA season, Dallas swingman Luka Doncic has emerged as one of the early favorites for the Rookie of the Year award. The 19-year-old from Slovenia is averaging 20.8 points on .489 shooting from the field and .395 from the 3 point line, along with 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

We’ve been hearing about Doncic for a number of years because of his sensational play in the European leagues, but some scouts questioned whether his lack of elite athleticism would limit his ability to excel at the NBA level.

So far, Doncic has silenced all the doubters with his innate feel for the game and the joy and flair he exhibits on the court. Paired with high-flying second year guard Dennis Smith Jr., Doncic is giving basketball fans in Dallas hope for the future despite the team’s current 4-8 record.

The Mavs beat the Bulls in the third game of the season in Dallas, 115-109, led by 19 points and 6 assists from Doncic and 18 points and 16 rebounds from veteran center DeAndre Jordan. The Bulls got outrebounded 41-34 and fueled the Mavs’ transition game with 19 turnovers that led to 27 points for the home team.

Monday’s rematch could be even tougher since Dallas will have the services of talented small forward Harrison Barnes. Barnes, who missed last month’s game because of injury, is averaging 14.5 points and five rebounds a game.

Even though he’s only shooting .377 from the field right now, Barnes' presence gives the Mavericks another three-point shooting threat on a team that lives and dies on its proficiency behind the arc. Dallas currently is tied for fifth in the NBA with 33.9 three point attempts per game.

Wesley Matthews scored 20 points in the first meeting between the two teams and veteran guard J. J. Barea always seems to comes up with big games against the Bulls. Barea is coming off a 21 point performance against Oklahoma City Saturday where he knocked down three of four attempts from three-point range.

So, what will it take for the Bulls to earn a split in the season series Monday night?

1. DEFEND THE THREE-POINT LINE Like so many teams in the modern NBA, the Mavs won’t get discouraged by early misses from long range. They’ll keep jacking up threes throughout the game, with everyone on the roster except DeAndre Jordan given the green light. Doncic, Matthews, Barnes and Smith Jr. are all capable of big nights from three-point land, as are Barea, Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith off the bench.

2. LIMIT TURNOVERS  Dallas wants to play at a fast pace with their young guards making plays in transition, so careless turnovers will make the Mavericks even more dangerous in the open court. Inserting Ryan Arcidiacono into the starting lineup improved the Bulls offensive efficiency early in their win over Cleveland on Saturday, but the challenge now is sustaining that efficiency over four quarters.

Shaq Harrison also gave the Bulls quality minutes at the point guard position against the Cavs, and he’ll use his size and aggressiveness to put some defensive pressure on the Mavs’ guards.

3. ANOTHER BIG NIGHT FOR ZACH  LaVine poured in 34 points in a losing effort in Dallas last month, and he’ll have a big advantage in quickness against either Doncic or Matthews. Dallas might go with Barnes on LaVine at times to challenge Zach’s outside shooting, but that might open up more opportunities to drive to the rim, where Jordan will be waiting.

LaVine has been very successful so far in challenging opposing centers on drives, and even though Jordan is an excellent shot blocker, don’t expect the NBA’s fourth leading scorer to back down.

With match-ups against Eastern Conference heavyweights Boston, Milwaukee and Toronto coming up, you know the Bulls would love to come away with a win over Dallas on Monday night.

We’ll have the game for you on NBC Sports Chicago and the My Teams by NBC Sports app, starting with Bulls Pregame Live from the United Center Atrium at 6:30. Neil Funk and Stacey King will have the play by play call at 7, followed by Bulls Postgame Live and Bulls Outsiders.

We hope you make your plans to join us Monday night.

Bulls practice notes: Wendell Carter Jr. looks up stats differently

Bulls practice notes: Wendell Carter Jr. looks up stats differently

The Bulls got a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Here are my thoughts from practice on Sunday.

1. Winning Sunday

Following the Bulls 99-98 win over the Cavs, there was an upbeat vibe on Sunday as guys hit the hardwood laughing, joking around and putting up shots. Then it was off to watch film and back to business. It was two weeks ago in that film room where this team had its ugliest and hardest session of the season… watching the Warriors dismantle them time and time again.

But, since then, the Bulls have actually made big strides defensively, ranking sixth in the league since that blowout. While they’ve gone 2-4 over that stretch, you could argue the losses were all close and coach Fred Hoiberg believes that’s progress.

“Since that night, guys have really bought in to film sessions. They’re coming out on the court and trying to correct things where we were making consistent mistakes. We’re still not there 100 percent, we’re still making [mistakes], but we’re making less of them and that’s a good sign," Hoiberg said. "If we can get the rebounding to where we need it and finish off possessions that’s what will really take us to the next level.”

2. Carter relishes his role as the defensive anchor

Meeting the media with a big grin Sunday, Wendell Carter Jr. joked that he didn’t mind our questions getting him out of some of the team’s film session. Don’t worry Bulls fans, Wendell is a quick study with an extremely high basketball IQ.

“He’s a smart kid. If he does make a mistake, you only have to tell him once and he won’t make it again,” Hoiberg said.

I mention the grin, but the rookie has a lot to be smiling about as he continues to turn heads in this league. He’s averaging nearly 12 points, 8 rebounds and over 2 assists and 2 blocks a game. WCJ joked he was robbed of a fourth swat against the Cavs near the end of the game, but the one everyone wanted to talk about came in the opening quarter where he came from the weak side and blocked Jordan Clarkson.

“It all depends on who I’m guarding, the personnel. For Clarkson I knew he wanted to get a shot up. So, I knew he wasn’t going to pass the ball, so I knew that was the perfect opportunity for me to come over for help-side defense," Carter said. "I just kind of do whatever I can to help the team win and I feel like being a defensive anchor right now is something I have to do just to help this team win.” 

3. Gen Z looks up stats differently

Speaking of Wendell Carter Jr., the 19 year old said the three stats he pays attention to when evaluating his game are: Plus-minus, rebounds, and blocked shots. But don’t expect the Gen Z, Duke stud to look those up in a box score. Nope, he’ll just scroll through his IG page, duh. (@wendellcarterjr)

“I’m seeing them on Instagram and on Twitter, but I don’t really try to look for them," Carter said. "I’m not going to lie. After the games I don’t really try to pay attention to my stats, but if I’m scrolling through my Instagram I’ll probably see them at some point. I’m not going to just scroll past them and pretend like I don’t see them. I’m going to look at them.”