Bulls

Hoiberg 'not going to sugarcoat' Bulls' loss to Knicks

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Hoiberg 'not going to sugarcoat' Bulls' loss to Knicks

The Bulls' playoff chances took a substantial hit for the second straight night.

Playing the latter end of a home-and-home with the lottery-bound New York Knicks, the Bulls suffered their second straight loss, 106-94, Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. It came on the heels of Wednesday's surprising home loss to those same Knicks, now 30-43, that has dropped Fred Hoiberg's group 1.5 games behind the idle Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 seed in the East.

Derrick Rose continued his stellar play with 30 points and three assists, while Jimmy Butler added 19 points and three steals. But for the Bulls, playing without Pau Gasol, a sluggish start and another lack of defensive energy doomed them against a team in which they should have handled.

Instead, the Knicks raced out to a nine-point lead, shot better than 51 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Bulls, 45-34. Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points on 9-for-17 shooting and rookie Kristaps Porzingis again torched the Bulls for 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Knicks, ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency, hadn't scored 100 or more points in consecutive games since March 5.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's two extremely tough losses. And for me, looking at the winning streak we had when we won three and won four out of five, we came out with a defensive mindset in the first quarter and we set the tone. And the last two nights that hasn't happened."

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The Knicks came out firing, hitting 58 percent and connecting on five 3-pointers to take a four-point first quarter lead. Anthony scored 10 of his points in the opening stanza while Porzingis, who torched the Bulls for 29 points on Wednesday, added five. The Bulls managed to keep New York at bay in the second quarter but couldn't capitalize, shooting just 30 percent while missing nine of their 10 3-point attempts in the quarter.

The offense was stagnant, minus Rose, most of the night without their facilitator in Gasol. The 7-footer missed the game with swelling in the right knee that caused him to miss four games earlier in the month. Hoiberg said before the game he doesn't expect Gasol to miss any more games, but his absence was noticeable.

The Bulls were forced to start little-used Cristiano Felicio, who grabbed just a single rebound in 21 ineffective minutes. The Bulls had just 15 assists on their 37 made field goals, as Rose was forced to go into attack mode early with the Bulls trailing; Rose's three assists were his fewest since March 1.

The lack of ball movement compounded when the lack of defensive pressure reared its head in the second half. New York outscored the Bulls in the third quarter for a second straight night, and the Knicks capped off their offensive outburst when point guard Jose Calderon threw an alley-oop from the opposite free throw line to Derrick Williams for a two-handed slam. The Bulls' lone glimmer of hope was when they cut the deficit to 11 with a little more than four minutes remaining.

But out of a timeout, Calderon and Anthony his consecutive 3-pointers that pushed the lead back out to 17 and end any hope of a Bulls' comeback.

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The Bulls finished their last real easy portion of the season - in which they played six straight games against teams with sub-.500 records - with a disappointing 3-3 record. They'll now play six of their next eight on the road, with six of those games coming against teams currently in the playoff picture.

"The big thing is to keep swinging. We've got a lot of basketball left to be played. And you can't walk out of here with your head down and feel sorry for yourself or it's going to compound these last 11 games," Hoiberg said. "You've got to come out together. I told them to look in the mirror, what they can do to help this team find its way out of this two-game tough stretch that we've had and bring it the rest of the season.

"That's all we can do right now is control what we have in front of us."

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

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USA TODAY

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

Denzel Valentine’s troublesome left ankle is going to keep him on the sideline for at least the next two weeks. Fred Hoiberg said Saturday before the Bulls’ home opener against the Detroit Pistons that Valentine is suffering from a bone bruise in the ankle he sprained on the second day of training camp. Valentine will be evaluated in two weeks.

“It sucks because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what’s going on I at least have a time frame and be patient with it; it’s bad news but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.”

Valentine had been practicing earlier in the week and appeared close to a return after spraining the ankle on Sept. 25. But the third year wing complained of discomfort in the ankle and missed practice on Friday. A scan of the left ankle revealed the bone bruise, and Hoiberg wouldn’t speculate on when exactly Valentine might return.

It’s the same ankle Valentine had surgery on in May 2017. Valentine also missed the last two weeks of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Valentine or the Bulls, who are in desparate need of help both in the backcourt and on the wing.

Though Valentine isn’t a true point guard, he averaged 3.2 assists per game off the bench last season. The Bulls could use that kind of production when Kris Dunn returns on Monday, as Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t exactly showed promise in the early going.

Instead, Valentine is on the mend and it’s unclear when he might return. Given he’s had surgery on the same ankle before, the Bulls will be cautious upon his return.

“I’m a fighter, I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt," Valentine said. "I can’t sit here and be negative, I just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

The Bulls are still scrambling to add depth at point guard and found another body to throw in the rotation.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Bulls "are planning to sign" Shaquille Harrison. Harrison was waived by the Suns on Monday.

In order to complete the move, the Bulls are reportedly waiving center Omer Asik.

Harrison went undrafted out of Tulsa in 2016. The Suns signed him and sent him to the then NBA D-League. Last season, the 25-year-old from Kansas City played in 23 games and made two starts in the NBA. He averaged 6.6 points and 2.4 assists in 16.7 minutes per game.

The Suns signed Jamal Crawford earlier this week and waived Harrison. The Bulls apparently have swooped in.

This move comes just six days after the Bulls added Tyler Ulis, who was also waived by the Suns. Ulis didn't play in the season-opening loss at Philadelphia.

Kris Dunn will miss his second straight game Saturday against the Pistons. His absence against the Sixers showed the lack of depth at guard for the Bulls. Cam Payne started at point guard and split minutes with Ryan Arcidiacono. Payne went 0-for-4 in 21 minutes and led coach Fred Hoiberg to say potential lineup changes are "still up in the air."

Harrison can now join Payne, Arcidiacono and Ulis in a battle for backup minutes at point guard when Dunn returns to the lineup.