Bulls

Goodwill: Game 3 provides Bucks, Bulls playoff lessons

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Goodwill: Game 3 provides Bucks, Bulls playoff lessons

Playoff lessons are excruciating, painful and often illuminating, schooling that takes no prisoner and no one is held captive.

Many times, you’re in school without the slightest idea you’re the next student, which can be the beauty and curse of it all. Historically, the Bulls’ Game 3 double-overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks will likely be Exhibit A for their playoff education for the young Bucks, a group of 20-somethings with nothing to lose—except they lost a game they could have easily won.

But this was the rare occasion where a game doled out disparate lessons to both combatants, as the Bulls are still learning about each other, pushing their collective selves to limits with unknown endings.

“We’re playing against a hungry team, they’re pushing us,” Bulls guard Derrick Rose said. “Tonight was a great example with how hard they play. They’re forcing us to play, which we needed that. Finding ways to win games, that’s why you gotta love the playoffs because every game is gonna be different.”

Bucks coach Jason Kidd has been on both sides of this, as both the steady hand guiding a team through the storm and also the wide-eyed youthful player who had to sip from every cup the playoffs had to offer.

He wasn’t exhausted after the game; Instead, while he was obviously disappointed in the outcome, he looked like a man who wouldn’t get caught in the moment, knowing “my pups” are dealing with such an experience for the first time.

“I think they all did. It’s just understanding the time and the moment,” said Kidd when asked if his players tried to do too much individually. “This group has to go through it. I thought they handled themselves well being down, executing. Sending the game to overtime, they gave us a chance to win. This was a good game for us to learn.”

[RELATED: Vintage Rose propels Bulls to Game 3 victory]

Most times, games like these are a demerit against a veteran club because it indicates a lack of seriousness, taking an opponent lightly in their environment, as the Bulls fell behind early by 18 to an emotional Bucks team ready to charge its way back into the series.

Blown defensive assignments were plentiful, as even Rose was about to run a play midway through the second quarter when Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was barking for a timeout after the Bucks’ onslaught put the Bulls in “critical condition.”

“We were fortunate to dig our way out of the hole,” Thibodeau said. “We were back on our heels a little bit, then I thought our reaction to the ball (was slow), we didn’t finish our defense.”

The Bucks were relentless, exploiting every opening the Bulls gave them. When Joakim Noah lost his man on defense, Jared Dudley slipped behind him for a layup. When Pau Gasol didn’t box out John Henson, the young big man took the elevator up three floors—and over three Bulls—for a left-handed putback dunk that sent the Bucks section of the BMO Harris Bradley Center into a lathered frenzy.

It was alarming for the Bulls.

That, and their inability to close with an eight-point lead with a little over 90 seconds remaining will give Thibodeau the kind of nightmares between now and the end of spring, as he’ll somehow believe more preparation is necessary for such an exercise.

“To build the lead I thought was really good, correcting the rebounding,” Thibodeau said. “And then losing that lead down the stretch was disappointing.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The missed free throw from Derrick Rose, the one he lamented with a seven-letter word not fit for publication, that missed assignment that resulted in the second of back-to-back 3-pointers from Bucks marksman Khris Middleton, it was ugly.

But it was necessary, the kind of medicine you don’t like taking, but the ‘tussin made you better.

“I was ready. You learn from your mistakes,” Rose said. “We were up. When Middleton hit the first three, I switched onto him. I knew what play they were running, I just didn’t act on it. It led to overtime so just learn from my mistakes. I’m happy to be here and happy that my teammates believe in me.”

They followed him, and Jimmy Butler provided more fire in the second overtime, playing free safety for a steal and dunk that finally signaled the Bulls had learned their lesson on this night—that their wake-up call merely came 30 minutes after the game began, that they’re developing competitive character through experience they don’t have as a group.

“It shows the kind of team we are,” Rose said. “Offensively, we can get things clicking very quickly. We definitely didn’t want to be in that type of situation early in the game, giving them momentum. We were only down four at halftime. Just talking to each other in the locker room, to tighten up, make them work a little bit harder.”

For the Bucks, it’s important for next year.

For the Bulls, it’s important for the next two weeks.

Because they can’t afford these lapses against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And Thursday was another step in the “Getting to know you” phase of their relationship with each other—with Judgment Day approaching faster than they want it do.

It makes the ‘tussin go down smoother.

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:


Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen.