Bulls

Goodwill: Bucks' improvement through series should alarm Bulls

tajywoo042515.png

Goodwill: Bucks' improvement through series should alarm Bulls

One game can make all the difference in the world between a lesson you needed to learn and one that was totally unnecessary and damn near alarming.

As much as the Bulls needed to be pushed in Game 3 of their series against the Milwaukee Bucks, they needed to push back and put the Bucks to sleep so they could get some rest.

Instead, Derrick Rose fell asleep for a split second, and of course he’ll be blamed for that mistake as the Bulls got what they deserved in their Game 4 loss to the Bucks.

But there were plenty of fingerprints on this loss, from the players on down.

All those turnovers, the mistakes, the luck it took to get them back in a game they had no business being close in—it was seemingly poetic justice. Why? Because the Bucks seem to be learning on the job better than the Bulls, getting closer and closer every game.

You could almost make the case they've figured out the Bulls, and the ugly 28 turnovers are merely a manifestation of chickens coming home to roost. From being overwhelmed to competing to causing a scare to finally, breaking through by picking at an old Bulls' wound.

“We have to do a much better job of taking care of the ball, individually and collectively,” said one of the Bulls’ invisible men, Pau Gasol. “That was the key tonight. 28 turnovers. 28 (fewer) shots that we gave away. In a two-point game, it’s a big difference, right? It’s unfortunate we didn’t close it out tonight.”

The Bucks are certainly taking calculated chances with personnel and scheme, and it paid dividends Saturday night. Jimmy Butler continues to get loose, but they've centered everything on stopping Gasol this series, believing the most consistent Bull is the one they can’t afford to give any leverage to.

Jason Kidd is mixing and matching with what he has, using smaller lineups to combat the Bulls’ size. And in a game where the Bulls shot 49 percent from the field and 56 from 3-point range and still lose, it tells you the Bucks are playing a game of chicken that paid off for one night.

 “I feel bad more for my teammates than myself,” said Rose, who committed eight turnovers. “Learning experience for me, like I said. Yeah, just gotta learn from it. It’s a hard one. 27 (actually 28) turnovers, I feel like I had 20 of them. Felt like 20. Only thing I can do now is learn from it, watch film and come ready next game.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoffs, Bulls fans!]

You wonder if this is just a blip on the screen or a sign the Bulls won’t have everything in their favor when they need it most. They won’t need it now, but they could have sent a message to the Cleveland Cavaliers of their intentions with a resounding, but tested, sweep.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau yelled in a loud arena for a timeout before the Bulls’ final offensive possession but they couldn’t hear him, spreading the floor for Rose before he turned the ball over.

Then the Bucks heard their coach bark for a timeout, setting up the final possession. In a series between a veteran team and young one, that scenario should be reversed.

“We gotta be ready and bounce back Monday and make sure we set the tone, to be the aggressor,” Gasol said. “We gotta take that commanding position because we’re letting them be too proactive and dictate a lot of what’s happening.”

Gasol’s words—likely birthed from the frustration not being involved in the offense as the Bucks have gotten more and more physical with him as the series has progressed—shouldn’t ring hollow.

He’s a championship player who came here for that very reason and the Bulls can adjust to put this thing away Monday night. But the Bucks’ inability to fear should have been the perfect primer.

“They’re active, they scramble,” Gasol said. “They’re aggressive to the ball so they force you to move the ball and find the open guy on the weak side. That’s what we have to be willing to do, get the ball, move it and find the open guy. And crash the glass, we only have five offensive rebounds. We had the bigger lineup the whole game. We should try to be aggressive on the boards. It didn’t quite happen and they spread us out with shooters. Mayo and Dudley did with threes.”

Using perspective, it won’t cost the Bulls this series. The Bucks will be formidable down the road but aren’t going to pull off some improbable comeback, nor will the Bulls collapse at the seams—they’re too battle tested, with their foundation built on too solid of ground for something historic to happen.

And they’ll probably blow out the Bucks at home before the inevitable happens.

“I'm not thinking about Cleveland and Boston,” Thibodeau said. “I'm thinking about us and what we have to do to improve and correct and just think about the next game. We're going to have to do a lot better and get it done quickly.”

Because Cleveland is waiting.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

wendell.png
AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

lorin_bears_pats.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.