Bulls

Hoiberg encouraged by Bulls' ending 100-points-allowed streak

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Hoiberg encouraged by Bulls' ending 100-points-allowed streak

Lost under the glut of injured bodies and duct tape used to hold the Chicago Bulls together was a little bit of light in their 100-90 win over the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night.

Besides the win, just the score probably made some Bulls fans smile for a half-second, considering they held an opponent under 100 points for the first time since Jan. 28, a 114-91 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

Since then, one could argue the Bulls won in spite of their defense, on the occasion they did. Going 16 straight games can lead to a belief about defense leaving the building when a grumpy but effective coach was fired last May.

If not for Jimmy Butler’s absence, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg could almost breathe a sigh of relief by the return of defense to the United Center, especially considering who was doing the defending.

Pau Gasol blocked five shots, leading to a throwaway comment from Gasol about his reputation, saying, “For a poor defender, that’s not bad.”

Forward Nikola Mirotic was in his second game back after missing nearly a month, was praised by Hoiberg after reviewing the game film.

“We played a really smart game on the defensive end,” Hoiberg said. “I thought Niko really for us was the player of the game on the defensive end. He did a great job all night long of being in the right spot and plugging. “

[HONDA ROAD AHEAD: Big tests upcoming for Bulls]

Mirotic is still under a minutes restriction but played a few more than expected (20), hitting two triples on the way to 14 points and six rebounds. But helping shut off driving lanes for the wiry Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton was crucial in the Bulls being able to overcome another high turnover game to win their second straight.

E’Twaun Moore was a standout defensively, guarding Middleton physically and without fouling—an assignment that would’ve belonged to Butler had he played.

“We played personnel really well,” Hoiberg said. “Mike (Dunleavy) played Giannis about as well as you can play him by getting off him and making him take jump shots. We guarded Parker well. We didn’t allow a lot of slashing, which they get a lot of points off of. They average 50 in the paint and we held them 10 below that.”

Before anybody gets too giddy, the Bulls have two teams capable of putting up 110 in their sleep—including the Miami Heat, who gave the Bulls a healthy dose of medicine with 129 points last week.

The San Antonio Spurs welcome the Bulls into Texas with a 30-0 home record, so the Bulls could go right back to .500 just off the caliber of their competition. Still, though, Hoiberg is encouraged by the last two games.

“If we would’ve taken care of the ball and not given them some runouts and rebounded, it could’ve been a really, really good defensive game,”  he said. “We’ve taken steps in the right direction. I thought we guarded Houston. They went on a run late to score 100 on the nose on us.”

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

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USA TODAY

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.

Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”

The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”

Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.

He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.

“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”

After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
 
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
 
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
 
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
 
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
 
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
 
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
 
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
 
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”