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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.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.