Bulls

Gibson: Bulls need to impose their will in Game 3

752800.png

Gibson: Bulls need to impose their will in Game 3

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Many have tried to break down the Bulls' surprising and disheartening Game 2 loss to the 76ers at home Tuesday. A lot of analysis went into what the Bulls did wrong and what they didn't do right.

But for forward Taj Gibson, any analysis came down to just one word -- will.

"The lack of defensive play the last game was bad. But it's always going to come down to will," Gibson said We've seen each other many times this year. So it's all going to come down to will, who wants it more."

The Bulls streaked out to a 55-47 lead at halftime Tuesday night but got annihilated in the third quarter, surrendering 36 points and 68.2 percent shooting (15-for-22) to the Sixers while draining just 5-of-20 shots (25 percent) for 14 points.

Philadelphia picked up 11 fastbreak points in the third quarter alone.

"We have to adjust to the speed and quickness of the game," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the team's practice on Thursday.

"We just kinda slumped," Gibson said. "It happens. They got out on break and we didn't get out on transition. They capitiliazed on a lot of fastbreak points...They got a lot of offensive rebounds, a lot of kick-outs. They just beat us up on the boards really."

The Bulls dominated on the boards in the first game 47-38 and started out with a 20-16 advantage in the first half of Game 2. However, in that dreaded third quarter, the Sixers pushed the Bulls around inside and outrebounded Chicago 14-5.

Thibodeau preaches rebounding as one of the main keys to every game and his counterpart in Philadelphia, Doug Collins, took a page out of that book for Game 2. Collins fiddled with his lineup and made rebounding a point of emphasis for his team after the Sixers' loss in the series opener.

The 76ers were especially focused on trying to take away the Bulls' offensive rebounding. Chicago pulled down eight offensive boards in the first half of Game 2, but managed just two in the entire second half, a big reason for the offensive inefficiency. But Gibson wasn't ready to make excuses.

"Offensive rebounds are important, but we have to do other things. There's so many different aspects to helping a team win and helping us succeed," the third-year power forward said. "Offensive rebounds have been our key all year long. We're a strong rebounding team, from the bench to the starters. Not having those were big, but it's all about effort."

After dropping a demoralizing game at home, the Bulls will now have to win on the road to take the edge in the series. They have lost back-to-back games just one time since the beginning of the 2010-11 season.

"Nothing really changes," Gibson said. "Everything is still the same. We've been in this situation before last year with Atlanta in the second round. We just tend to look at it as another game that we have to play harder in and adjust in and we're just looking forward to the challenge.

"It's been tough, but we have to come with effort, play a little harder and things will be fine. It's playoffs. Nothing's easy. They just wanted it more than us last game, so we have to take it up a notch."

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 famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the 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.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

shaikentucky.png
USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.