Bulls

Fred Hoiberg tossed as Bulls blow 19-point lead in loss to Clippers

Fred Hoiberg tossed as Bulls blow 19-point lead in loss to Clippers

LOS ANGELES — It was a battle of validation at Staples Center, as the Los Angeles Clippers sought to fight against the narrative that time has passed them by while the Bulls were out to prove they were as good as their record suggests and that this pattern is sustainable.

Dwyane Wade’s shooting was somewhat sustainable, as the Bulls jumped out to a 19-point lead but the Clippers roared back on the second night of a back-to-back to pull away late with a 102-95 win that the Bulls and maybe even Fred Hoiberg will kick themselves over.

“This is a great team that’s playing the best basketball in the league. We fought them and gave ourselves a chance,” Hoiberg said.

Jimmy Butler bodied up on Blake Griffin with 20.8 seconds left to force an awkward jumper at the top of the key but Griffin seemed to flail his legs to earn the attention of the officials to force a foul call.

The ensuing free throws made it a four-point game, and after the Bulls failed to convert on the next possession, Hoiberg was so incensed with the call he was ejected for the first time in his career as a coach — although he barely raised his voice.

[RELATED: Bulls shocked at Fred Hoiberg ejection]

It completed a night that began promising but ended terribly as Griffin scored 26 points with 13 rebounds and five assists while Chris Paul scored 19 with eight assists.

The fourth quarter was disastrous, as the Clippers played like a team that’s been together for years and the Bulls played like a jumbled bunch with little direction. The effort was present, but the execution was lacking.

“We had a lot of fight, we didn’t give up,” Butler said. “The Clippers are playing extremely well right now. I liked the way we played. I don’t like the outcome but we can’t win them all.”

They resorted to way too many 3-pointers when things got tight and for some reason, Hoiberg stuck with the struggling Bobby Portis for the entire fourth quarter.

Mareese Speights lit up Portis and the Bulls for 16 points, including 11 in the fourth in what became a game of chicken between coaches Hoiberg and Doc Rivers. Robin Lopez had been having a good night, keeping DeAndre Jordan off the glass while scoring 10 points with six rebounds, but when Rivers turned to Speights, Hoiberg wanted to match Speights’ perimeter mobility.

“With them spacing the floor, having Taj guard Griffin, we felt we needed a guy that could close to Speights and we felt Bobby was that guy,” said Hoiberg, a man seemingly with not a lot of options at that point anyways.

The Bulls shot just four for 18 in the final 12 minutes, as their efficiency essentially dropped in every quarter after the hot start. Shooting two for 11 from three compounded matters, especially with no Jordan in the game to protect the rim.

Had they gone to the basket a little more, one wonders if Rivers would’ve been forced to pull Speights.

“I thought we had some good looks, they were taking the paint away,” Hoiberg said. “But I thought we had some good ones we didn’t knock down.”

Wade hit five triples to score 28 and Butler worked himself into a game at the foul line despite shooting five for 18, and scored 22 points. Rajon Rondo returned from a two-game absence to score nine with 10 rebounds and eight assists in 35 minutes.

“He was in a great rhythm, hit his first couple, especially for a guy who’s not a shooter,” said Hoiberg of Wade. “Dwyane did that tonight, kept himself in a good rhythm.”

Wade wasn’t impressed with the first half lead, especially against a Clippers bunch that knows how to read a game and methodically claw themselves back into it. Wade’s triple at 7:18 left in the second gave the Bulls a 45-26 lead that quickly evaporated before halftime.

“In the NBA, leads are whatever,” Wade said. “I’m not all about the 20-point lead in the first half, especially on the road. A team is going to come back and the game is going to turn in their favor at some point.”

The Bulls’ bench was a problem yet again, as Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, Isaiah Canaan and Jerian Grant couldn’t muster much of anything offensively, and couldn’t help the Bulls hold onto a slim lead.

The one time Portis hit a triple after a wild scrum, he euphorically jumped around in joy.

The next time down, Speights calmly knocked down a triple to negate Portis’ one positive contribution.

It wasn’t like the Clippers’ improved bench had their way with the Bulls, as Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and others matched the Bulls’ futility — except for Speights’ 16 points.

And then Crawford, the former Bull who played with Hoiberg on some forgettable Bulls teams in the early part of the millennium, essentially put the game out of reach with a triple to make it 92-87 with 3:14 left.

A reverse layup later helped create a little more distance as the Bulls’ futility prevented them from capitalizing on a hot start, as they dropped the third game in their circus trip — and lost a little composure along the way.

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

This is the first entry in our "8 for 38" series, where will be looking at eight different under-the-radar NBA prospects that the Bulls could snag with their No. 38 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Charles Bassey/ 6’11’’/ 275 lbs./ Freshman/ Western Kentucky  

Bassey is a a well-regarded five-star recruit from Nigeria, who played his college ball at Western Kentucky University. He is a physical force on the court but definitely is a raw prospect at this stage of his development.

Bassey came into the season as an assumed first round talent, however, his stock has dropped after his impressive freshman season still revealed holes in his game that will definitely be exploited at the NBA level. All that being said, he was quite the prospect at WKU.

Strengths:

In his lone season at WKU, Bassey averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 62.7 percent shooting from the field. His impressive double double average was built on his insane dominance inside the paint.

He shot an astounding 77.4 percent on shots at the rim and that number is even higher on non-post up shots around the basket. Bassey has a rudimentary hook shot that he can hit over his left shoulder but his postgame isn’t the hub of his offense. He generates most of his points by finishing on pick-and-rolls and using his faceup game.

Bassey’s physicality leads to him setting hard screens, and when he doesn’t set a hard screen, he slips to the basket quickly where he takes advantage with his soft touch when looking to score. It is tough for help defenders to knock Bassey off his path when he is rolling to the rim, as his immense lower body strength allows him to displace smaller players.

When Bassey faces up from 15-feet and in, he uses the aforementioned soft touch to convert on 40.8 percent of his 2-PT jump shots per Hoop-Math.com. On top of that, he generally has the speed to blow by most big men.

Bassey’s biggest strength from day one in the NBA will be his motor. He clearly gets fired up for big matchups, as he showcased when he dominated Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who ended up winning the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the country’s best center. In their late December matchup, Bassey helped hold Happ to a very inefficient 20 points on 23 shots.

In that same game Bassey finished with 19 points (7/8 FG, 5/5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks. He has arguably had better games, but the all-around versatility showcased in the stat line above is outstanding.

Bassey has flashed the ability to make nice passes before:

Since Bassey’s NBA offense will be centered around pick-and-roll plays, further developing his decision making on the short-roll will be a boon to whatever team drafts him.

On defense, Bassey already shows the ability to be an asset in the right system. When he is allowed to play in a traditional defensive system that has the center dropping back in pick-and-roll coverage, he swallows up shots with his 7-foot-3 wingspan.

Weaknesses:

The gigantic weakness Bassey showcased this season was an inability to function as a switch defender. He was great when it comes to protecting the rim--he averaged 2.4 blocks per game-- but he was consistently beat off the dribble by guards.

Of course it is rare to find any center--let alone a young one--that has the legitimate ability to function at a high-level when it comes to switching on to smaller, faster players. But that is precisely what makes Bassey the exact type of center you can find easily.

This is why a player of his talent level can slip into the second round.

Another big issue for Bassey is hands, or more specifically, the inability to hold on to passes when diving to the rim. As mentioned above, pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop basketball is how Bassey will carve out a niche in the league. But he occasionally struggled to hold on to the ball on throws that many would not even consider to be “tough passes”.

In the above strengths section it is mentioned how Bassey has some untapped potential as a passer, but he will never cash in on that potential if simply possessing the ball is a difficulty for him. He isn’t as explosive as usual if there are multiple defenders crowding him and raking at the ball, which happens often.

Over 1,067 minutes Basey amassed 24 assists as compared to a whopping 97 turnovers.

Long term outlook:

I believe Bassey will have a long NBA career due to his finishing in the paint and ability to block shots.

Bassey ran roughshod over his mostly Conference USA opposition on the season.

His 62.7 percent shooting from the field and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes were a few of the many things that showed that Bassey is at least ready for the physicality of the NBA.

But to become much more than a solid journeyman center, Bassey will have to hone his perimeter jump shot to the point that he can become a solid 3-point threat. He shot 45 percent on a very limited 20 attempts from 3-point range and converted on 76.9 percent of his free throws, an enticing set of numbers that show the type of player he could be in the future.

Whether or not Robin Lopez stays, the Bulls will be short on center depth next season.  After Wendell Carter Jr. went down for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, we saw the Bulls play ultra-small lineups that got beat up on the glass often as Jim Boylen was still reluctant to play Felicio more than 15 minutes per game.

Adding a high-upside prospect like Bassey helps Boylen and co. avoid over-using lineups with Lauri Markkanen at center, which helps keep Markkanen fresh and theoretically improves the overall team defense. 

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

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NBC Sports Chicago

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

 

Michael Jordan is no stranger to amazing comebacks.

The man widely agreed upon to be the greatest player of all time, won six NBA Championships, with three of them coming after a full season sabbatical in which he played minor league baseball with the White Sox affiliate. And of course, MJ had his even later comeback with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003, in which the year 40-year old Jordan averaged 21.2 PPG over two seasons to close out his career.

That is why Jordan’s effusive praise of Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory should not be taken lightly in the greater context of sports history.

In an article written by The Athletic’s David Aldridge, Jordan talks about how he holds Woods’ 2019 Masters win in extremely high regard, calling it “the greatest comeback I've ever seen."

Jordan, a famously avid golfer himself and a friend of Woods, stated, “I’ve been a fan for I don’t know how long.....I never thought he’d get back physically.....He didn’t think he’d get back physically.”

Major success had escaped Woods--who only had one victory in 2018--due to a litany of back injuries and subsequent surgeries.

With Woods having a major victory under his belt for the 2019 season, he certainly has momentum rolling in his favor. That momentum could carry Woods to another major run of PGA Tour success, and MJ agreed that Woods’ belief in himself was perhaps the biggest factor in his 2019 Masters win.

“No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He's probably the only person who believed he could get back.”