Four observations from Bulls' preseason win over the Cavaliers

Four observations from Bulls' preseason win over the Cavaliers

A few observations from the Bulls’ 118-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night at the United Center.

Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers: It’s become a mantra for the preseason so far, as the Bulls can’t seem to help themselves at giving the ball away to the other team. A 22-turnover performance against a Cavaliers team that won’t be anywhere near the squad the Bulls will see when they meet up in the regular season. Starting with Rajon Rondo, who had six turnovers after having five in each of his first two preseason games.

It was a big factor, along with general lethargy that contributed to a 14-point lead for the Cavaliers in the first half.

“It was ugly. It was ugly,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We were trying to play like the Harlem Globetrotters out there. Between the legs, behind the back, looking the other way before making the pass.  Eleven assists, 16 turnovers in the first half.”

Most of them were unforced, not caused by any pressure defensively. Being an ongoing theme, one wonders if the Bulls will just flip the switch when the regular season begins, but given the margin for error the Bulls have, it could be alarming.

“I’m the point guard so it starts with myself,” Rondo said. “I have to do a better job of taking care of the ball. I think we tried to make the home run play. Or the pass that weren’t there.”

Rondo got it going in the third quarter when the Bulls woke up, hitting both of his triples on the way to a 20-point, six-assist and six-rebound performance. Hoiberg called his 10-point third quarter Rondo’s best of the preseason.

“One thing I don’t wanna take away is his basketball instincts,” Hoiberg said. “He made a couple great passes to the corner and he made them at the right time. Sometimes he holds it  a split second too long. Or he doesn’t hit the open man. It’s not just him, we had several guys doing it tonight.”

So…the balancing act continues.

Who are these guys?

The Cavaliers were without most of their top players. Well, all of their top players, as nine members didn’t make the trip to Chicago, staying home after a preseason game in Cleveland Thursday night.

No LeBron, no Kyrie, no Kevin Love, not even a guy like Iman Shumpert made the trip, which in essence makes it hard for the Bulls to evaluate themselves against actual NBA competition.

Jordan McRae, Kay Felder, Jonathan Holmes and John Holland, not exactly household names, took it to a Bulls team that was only without Jimmy Butler for most of the night, as the Bulls didn’t take a lead until it was 79-77 in the third quarter.

Whether it was the opponent or the grueling days of practice, only the Bulls know.

And in a copycat move that isn’t quite copycat, the Bulls are leaving at least Butler, Dwyane Wade, Rondo, and Taj Gibson back from Milwaukee for their preseason game tomorrow night.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

We know this guy:

It’s getting harder and harder for the Bulls to ignore Taj Gibson’s play, especially with the starting lineup. Gibson put together another double-double in 20 effective minutes, scoring 18 with 11 rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot.
With Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis again being ineffective in their time, specifically Mirotic, one wonders if the Bulls will have an issue on their hands in a couple weeks when the regular season begins.

Mirotic is the best fit in theory; in application, Gibson is the better player who adds a dimension of defense to the first group, setting clean screens for Rondo and Dwyane Wade and rolling hard to the basket.

He plays with an awareness on both ends and his consistency of playing alongside the other veterans cannot be overlooked.

More Zip:

One player who has shown he can play, at least in the preseason, is rookie second-round pick Paul Zipser. In 25 minutes, Zipser scored 18 points with five rebounds, including a pair of 3-pointers as the Bulls shot 41 percent and hit nine overall. He scored on cuts to the basket, hit a pull-up jumper with a hand in his face and came from the weakside to block a shot in transition.

“He does a little bit of everything for you,” Hoiberg said. “He has toughness and plays with a swagger. He has versatility. He made good, simple plays. He’s going to have a chance.”

Zipser will start Saturday night in Milwaukee with many of the veterans staying back or making the drive up at some point to show support. But with so much uncertainty, Hoiberg could be keying in on the guys who are making the “good, simple plays”.

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut


Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

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 scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that 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.