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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."

[BULLS PGL: Clear lack of leadership in Bulls' locker room]

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.

[WATCH: The story behind the Bulls' iconic player introductions]

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."

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."