Bulls

Ex-Jazz step up for banged-up Bulls

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Ex-Jazz step up for banged-up Bulls

To a man, the Bulls (34-9) use the phrase no excuses so often, it might as well be their motto, especially in this challenging campaign in which theyve been cursed with multiple injuries.

Saturday night they embodied it, easily handling the Jazz (19-21), 111-97, at the United Center, even without the services of starters Rip Hamilton (right-shoulder injury), Joakim Noah (sick) and All-Star Luol Deng (resting his left wrist, in which he previously tore ligaments), as well as key reserve C.J. Watson (sprained left ankle).

After both teams struggled with their shooting to begin the contest, the Jazz went to their veteran inside duo of Paul Millsap (26 points, seven rebounds) and Al Jefferson (16 points, eight rebounds), who each delivered on their early opportunities. For the Bulls, sharpshooter Kyle Korver (26 points, 6-for-11 three-point shooting, seven rebounds, six assists)starting in Dengs placebounced back from a tough ending to Thursdays loss, in which the normally-reliable marksman missed multiple open looks at the end of the game, to power the Bulls in the opening period.

Another ex-Jazz player, Carlos Boozer (27 points, 13-for-17 from the floor, eight rebounds), also got off to a quick start against his former team, continuing the trend of knocking down his mid-range jumper with accuracy, enabling the hosts to erase Utahs slim cushion. After a quarter of play, the score was tied at 22.

Behind Boozer maintaining his hot handbefore picking up his second foulthe Bulls jumped out to their own slight edge early in the second quarter, as the Jazz could muster little offense besides the aforementioned post tandem. One bench mainstay and two reserves not usually in the rotation, Bench Mob stalwart Taj Gibson and the seldom-used pair of John Lucas III and rookie Jimmy Butler, energized the home team and its crowd, with feisty, aggressive play that kept the Bulls ahead.

Thibodeau eventually reinserted Derrick Rose (24 points, 13 assists) into the contest and the reigning league MVP immediately made his impact felt as both a scorer and playmaker, following a relatively dormant initial stint of action. With Boozer keeping up his aggressiveness, the two regular starters staked the Bulls to a 48-41 halftime lead.

Playing a more up-tempo style after the intermission, the Bulls built a double-digit advantage on Roses back, as the dynamic Englewood native was nearly unstoppable in transition. Though Josh Howards (15 points) scoring added some diversity to the visitors offensive attack, the hosts stout defense ensured the gap between the two teams remained to the Bulls satisfaction.

Boozer also continued his strong play, as did the third former Jazzman on the Bulls, swingman Ronnie Brewer (11 points), who was his typically active self after a mostly silent first half. However, the story of the period was Rose and Boozer, who combinedoften in pick-and-roll scenarios, but also individually, with Boozers mid-range game and Roses penetrationto dominate their overmatched opposing defenders and propelling the Bulls to a comfortable 79-63 lead at the end of the third quarter.

In the final stanza, the Rose-Boozer partnership, along with able assistance from Korver, again buoyed the Bulls, who kept up their large margin of separation over the Jazz. The red-hot Korver erupted as the period waned on, knocking down a trio of long-range jumpers, which delighted the audience, who received free Big Macs when the Bulls hit triple digits on the third of his three-pointers.

The three-headed monster of Rose, Boozer and Korver continued to pick apart the visitors, until Thibodeau mercifully went to his shortened bench with the game in its final moments. The short-handed squad survived its prelude to consecutive games against much more high-profile guests to the Windy City, New York and Miami, intact.

NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

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USA TODAY

NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

One thing we know for sure about the 2020 NBA Draft: no team executives will be losing sleep on the eve of the lottery hoping to land the first or second pick like a year ago when the top prizes where generational power forward Zion Williamson and point guard extraordinaire Ja Morant.

Matter of fact, teams might prefer not to land one of the top three picks so they can pay less guaranteed money to a player who may not have a huge impact,

As we get closer to the start of conference tournaments around the country, no player has really distinguished himself as the clear cut No. 1 choice. Georgia’s Anthony Edwards gets credit for being available to play all season, but his poor shooting percentages from the field and the 3-point line for a bad college team hardly scream top overall pick.

Injuries and eligibility questions have kept a few of the top prospects off the court, so NBA executives will put more emphasis than ever on the information they gather during the draft combine and individual workouts.

Here’s a snapshot at where things stand in late February with our fourth mock draft.

Bulls rule out Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison and more vs. Hornets

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USA Today

Bulls rule out Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison and more vs. Hornets

The Bulls' injury housekeeping continues.

After Wednesday afternoon practice, Jim Boylen ruled out Otto Porter Jr. (foot), Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle), Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) and Denzel Valentine (hamstring) for Thursday night's matchup with the Charlotte Hornets.

Porter (full) and Carter (limited) both participated in practice. Carter had repeatedly expressed a desire to return in the Bulls' first game out of the break, but it appears he's not quite there yet.

While Boylen said he hasn't decided on starters for the Hornets game yet, he made a point to add that Daniel Gafford has "got his legs back" and that his rim protection will be much-needed to remedy the team's precipitous defensive slide — in five games since Kris Dunn went down with an MCL sprain, they're dead last in the NBA in defensive rating (123.2).

Hutchison had filled in nicely for Dunn over the five games leading up to the All-Star break, but something evidently re-flared up in the shoulder that caused him to miss 17 games between November and January of this season. With 19 appearances in a row dating back to Jan. 6, Hutchison was one game away from matching his career high for consecutive games played. Alas.

"We have struggled with new guys playing and some of our experienced guys not out there. So, we will just keep hammering away at it," Boylen said of the team's recent defensive woes. "I think we all know our system is solid and been productive, but personnel is a big part of that. So, we'll just keep working on our guys in that system and keep trying to perfect it."

This news dump comes on the heels of a report from the Bulls this morning that extended Dunn's reevaluation timeline to four-to-six weeks after an MRI and reexamination on his right knee on Feb. 14. The Bulls get the benefit of three straight under-.500 opponents (Hornets, Suns, Wizards) out of the break, but if guys don't start getting back soon, matters could devolve.

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