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Early playoff exit leaves foul taste for Bulls

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Early playoff exit leaves foul taste for Bulls

PHILADELPHIA After a season like this, would you expect anything less?

Yes, the Bulls lost Game 6 of their first-round playoff series with the 76ers, 79-78, Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, but in the spirit of a campaign in which they continually battled through tremendous adversity, they did so with dignity and heart.

With 2.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Sixers All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala stepped to the line after rebounding Bulls center Omer Asiks missed free throw and pushing it the length of the court, then getting fouled on a layup attempt and with the Bulls up by a point, calmly knocked down a pair of shots from the charity stripe.

It wasnt over yet, however, as Bulls point guard C.J. Watsons last-gasp heave hit the back of the rim at the buzzer, but fell short, concluding a grind-it-out battle between two similar teams.

For the second consecutive game, Luol Deng (19 points, 17 rebounds, two blocked shots) got off to a hot start, opening the games scoring and pouring in eight points in the first period while maintaining an aggressive offensive approach. Rip Hamilton (19 points, eight rebounds) also found his touch in the early going, but perhaps the most surprising moment of the first quarter was Asik (10 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) starting for the third consecutive game, though the injured Joakim Noah was available and dressed on the Bulls bench knocking down a deep jumper.

Philadelphia recovered, led by point guard Jrue Holiday, who drained a pair of three-pointers early, as well as Iguodala (game-high 20 points), whose biggest contribution might have been an inadvertent elbow to the side of Dengs face, drawing blood and causing his All-Star counterpart to temporarily exit the contest the small forward would return in the second period after receiving stitches and slowing down his scoring. Following a Lou Williams jumper in the waning seconds of the first quarter, the Sixers held a 24-22 lead.

Chicagos reserves led the charge early in the second stanza, as John Lucas IIIs scoring and Taj Gibsons (14 points, five rebounds, two blocks) energetic play on both ends, as well as more exploits from Asik fluidly catching a bullet pass and finishing with a dunk, plus the foul, then making the ensuing free throw to complete the traditional three-point play got them a slim cushion. But the Sixers stole the momentum right back, as a technical foul on Gibson, contributions from reserve forward Thaddeus Young, an afterthought in the series as of late, and the hot shooting of guards Holiday and Williams, the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, bought them some separation.

In all, the hosts went on a 11-0 run, changing the tenor of the game and with it, igniting the home crowd, which came alive and turned the Wells Fargo Center into the hostile environment for road teams Philadelphia audiences have been notorious for over the years. The Bulls eventually quashed the spurt, mostly behind Gibson whose improbable triple off the glass to beat the shot clock would have been the second three-pointer of his career, was ruled to be after the buzzer during the break but the visitors still went into the intermission facing a 48-40 deficit.

The third quarter didnt start well for either squad, but while the Sixers werent exactly offensively proficient, they were better than the Bulls, who didnt record a second-half field goal until nearly five minutes into the period. Most of the visitors scoring struggles could be pinned squarely on Carlos Boozer (three points, 13 rebounds), as the power forward missed 10 of his first 11 shot attempts though, in fairness, he also corralled 13 rebounds during the same span and Philadelphias lead swelled to double digits, as the Sixers like Iguodala got into transition for thunderous fast-break finishes.

But despite the raucous crowd and all of the home teams momentum, the perimeter trio of Deng, Hamilton and Watson (10 assists), who made more of an impact with his playmaking than with his scoring, made the deficit manageable again, aided by the Sixers poor shot selection and general inability to score.

During the 16-4 Bulls run, Deng, taking the role of go-to scorer for the second straight contest, and Hamilton, playing a sidekick role, scored off jumpers, drives, on offensive rebounds and in transition, and with Chicagos stout defense backing them, the game was tied at 63 apiece heading into the final stanza.

The Bulls scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to make it a 20-4 extended run, but it was their defense an incredible stand led by the shot-blocking of Asik and Gibson denied the Sixers a bucket on four point-blank chances during a single possession that was most crucial. Philadelphia didnt fade away, however, and with the crowd on its feet and just under the midway mark in the quarter, Iguodala knocked down a three-pointer to tie the contest at 70.

A long ball from Williams with just over four minutes remaining regained the lead for the Sixers, but it was short-lived, as a Deng layup off a well-drawn inbounds play out of a timeout gave the Bulls a 74-73 advantage, which the Bulls maintainedvia multiple offensive reboundsinto the games stretch run and then extended to a three-point spread after Gibson made a pair of foul shots with 2:03 left.

After seemingly going an eternity without scoring, Philadelphia cut it to a one-point deficit with 43.9 seconds to go, as center Spencer Hawes finished a reverse layup in traffic, but following a timeout, a dunk by Asik, not exactly renowned for having a great set of hands, made it 78-75 in the Bulls favor with 25.8 seconds remaining.

On the ensuing possession, Young scored on a driving layup with 12 seconds on the clock and the Bulls pushed the ball before it again ended up in Asiks hands, and the center was fouled with seven seconds left. The woeful free-throw shooter missed both of his attempts and Iguodala corralled the second shot, drove the ball the distance of the court and was fouled with 2.2 seconds left, setting up the dramatic conclusion.

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Miami Marlins center fielder Monte Harrison made a bit of history on Aug. 4, when he laced up for his first ever MLB game.

With his debut, he and older brother Shaq officially became just the sixth MLB-NBA brother duo in league history. The most recent? Klay and Trayce Thompson, the latter of which appeared in his last MLB game on June 20, 2018 for the White Sox. Chicago ties all around.


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Shaq used his trademark brand of heart and hustle to work his way up from two 10-day contracts with the Phoenix Suns to a multi-year pact with the Bulls. Monte's path to the majors began in 2014 after the Milwaukee Brewers plucked him in the second round of the Amateur Draft from Lee's Summit West High School in Lee's Summit, Mo. He was jettisoned to Miami as part of the Christian Yelich trade in 2018. 

In 2019, Monte played 58 games between Miami's High-A and Triple-A affiliates, slashing .270/.351/.441 with 9 home runs, 24 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He's been known to flash some leather, too, and entered this season the club's tenth-ranked prospect.

Since his call-up, he's appeared in four contests (three starts) with the Marlins, and is just 1-for-10 at the plate with five strikeouts. But we'll forgive some early-career stumbles. His first big-league base-knock, which came on Thursday, was perfectly emblematic of what Bulls fans have come to expect from the Harrison household.

Yup. A cue-shot infield single. Exit velocity: 44.3 mph. Expected batting average: .190. But he beat it out. And followed it up with a stolen base. You can't script this stuff.

"I don’t know what my mother did, a lot of prayers, a lot of believing, and trust in us," Monte said after his debut on Tuesday, via Bob Nightengale. "We just worked our ass off.''

That much is evident.

RELATED: How Bulls’ Shaq Harrison impacts games, even with limited playing time

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Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

With the NBA restarting with 22 of its 30 teams, there was buzz in early July of a second bubble coming to Chicago for the eight teams excluded to get in organized team activities and possibly scrimmages.

Now, it appears those talks have significantly slowed, if not stalled entirely.

The Athletic reported Tuesday that there is "significant doubt" the second bubble concept will come to fruition, but Friday, that bringing the "Delete Eight" teams into the Disney campus has been discussed. Any agreement — whether it be a full-on bubble or respective, in-market OTAs — would require stringent safety protocols and need to be agreed upon by the league and NBPA.

On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down the latest scuttlebut:

Well, the latest is, you really got only one shared goal between these eight teams and that is to get some kind of formal group activities authorized by the league and the players association.

How that plays out and the form that takes, there are different goals. There are some teams that wouldn't mind doing a bubble. There are other teams that would rather stay in their own practice facilities and not travel. There are other teams that want to do regional scrimmages against another team. And complicating this is that Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players association, is on record as saying: Unless there are the exact same safety protocols going on in Orlando for the second bubble, it's a non-starter for her.

The league's attention mostly has been in Orlando, obviously, and that was a signficant financial undertaking. So you'd also have to factor in that, what kind of financial undertaking would they commit to these eight teams. It did look like there was some positive momentum for, not a bubble, but for each team to be able to hold some sort of offseason training sessions, group sessions in their own facilities, like OTAs in the NFL.

And I don't think that's dead, but there's certainly not as much optimism as there was maybe a week, ten days ago for that. I mean, it's fluid, and there's nothing definitive yet, but you may be staring at that dreaded eight month window between formal group activities for these eight teams. 

In the episode, the crew also breaks down the week in NBA bubble action, talks Jim Boylen and more. Listen here or via the embedded player below: