Bulls

In house that Jordan built, Warriors look capable of hitting Bulls' 72-win mark

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In house that Jordan built, Warriors look capable of hitting Bulls' 72-win mark

Draymond Green and Stephen Curry were finishing their pregame stretches in front of the scorer’s table Wednesday night at the United Center when they heard a familiar sound.

The Bulls’ well-known introduction music, “Sirius” by Alan Parsons Project, began playing as public address announcer Tommy Edwards prepared to reel off the names of the five starting Bulls.

It was then that Curry, getting goosebumps, looked at Green. And Green, with a smile, darted back at Curry.

“I don't know what the song's called. I call it the Jordan song. Every time I hear it I think, 'No. 23, Michael Jordan!' is about to be said. That’s what the song is to me," Green said. "I looked at Steph and I’m just like ‘Yo,’ and he looked back like, ‘Man.’ That song gets me every time."

Only time will tell whether the Golden State Warriors will topple one of the league's most historic records, the 72 wins the 1996 Bulls accomplished that helped make "the Jordan song" recognizable to an entire generation of basketball fans. But Luke Walton and the Warriors aren't concerned with breaking that record. Yet. For the defending champs, every night is a chance to get better, not move one win closer to 73 wins.

On this night they accomplished both, dazzling those in attendance - including more than a fair share wearing No. 30 Curry jerseys - with yet another textbook performance in a 125-94 victory over the Bulls.

As they have done all season, pushing the Warriors to an NBA-best 39-4 record, the usual suspects were at their best. Curry scored in a variety of ways, including his patented 28-footers, contorting layups and pull-up jumpers. Green led the charge on fast breaks, dishing out nine of the Warriors' 38 assists that helped lead to 21 transition points. Klay Thompson drained three 3-pointers and played staunch defense on Jimmy Butler, who scored just four points in the first half. Andrew Bogut grabbed six of the Warriors' 12 offensive rebounds, and the bench scored 49 points.

[MORE: Curry, Warriors embarrass Bulls in measuring stick game]

They exposed mismatches - Pau Gasol had one point on 0-for-8 shooting while being guarded by Green - moved the ball seamlessly - 38 assists were two off their season-high - and lived with allowing Derrick Rose, who scored 29 points, to score without initiating much real offense; Rose finished with two assists.

"The things we said we needed to get back to, we’ve done," Green said. "And we’ve just got to continue to build on them."

At Wednesday's shootaround Gasol admitted that if the Bulls allowed Golden State to "play their game...they could tear us apart."

The Bulls played as the aggressor early, forcing the Warriors into five well-contested 3-pointers that all missed. An early four-point Bulls lead had the United Center crowd of 23,152 - a season-high - buzzing at the thought that perhaps the Warriors had taken the foot off the gas. They were playing their seventh road game in their last nine contests, had reclaimed their title as league's best following a drubbing of LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland and may have been prone to a letdown.

Not this team.

Curry went toe-to-toe with Rose, who scored 10 of the Bulls' first 12 points, by adding 10 of his own and dishing out six assists for the Warriors, who shot 60 percent despite missing six of their first seven shots. Curry leading the charge began a 20-4 run to close the opening stanza after a Jimmy Butler jumper tied the game at 14 apiece. The offensive flow came as a result of clamped down defense, as the Bulls missed nine of their final 10 shots in the quarter and committed four turnovers, which Golden State turned into eight easy points.

And when Walton, still serving as head coach while Steve Kerr recovers from two offseason back surgeries, went to the bench the production didn't skip a beat. Shaun Livingston took advantage of the smaller Aaron Brooks guarding him and scored six points in the second, as the Warriors pushed the lead to as many as 21 early in the quarter. The Bulls cut into the 19-point halftime deficit in the third quarter, using 10-2 run to pull within 11, which against the Warriors felt like an accomplishment in itself.

The Warriors' lull in the third took another potential downturn when Green was accidentally struck in the face by Taj Gibson and was forced to leave the game. The bench came in to end the third quarter and helped push the lead back up, highlighted by a Leandro Barbosa underhanded alley-oop to Andre Iguodala, who finished in transition with a two-handed slam. The Warriors' bench outscored the Bulls' 49-35, and six of the seven Warriors reserves finished with a positive +/- rating.

"It’s huge because the starters, we built a solid lead but they came in and built on it, which is huge when everybody’s clicking, every line that we have out there," said Curry. "Where they take the energy we set and run with it and really keep the pressure on the opposing team. Just a total team effort."

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Green returned to begin the fourth quarter and handed out four assists in the period, finishing with six points, 10 rebounds and nine helpers. Thompson, who had been quiet through three quarters, scored 11 of his 20 points and Curry sealed the game with a trademark step back 3-pointer, his 25th points of the night to go with 11 assists. Less than two minutes later both teams emptied their benches.

It was another sign that the Warriors, who began the year with an NBA-record 28 straight wins, are fully back on track. Two losses the previous week, to Denver and Detroit, certainly weren't cause for concern. But they also didn't accomplish Green's goal of getting better each night. On the heels of a 34-point win in Cleveland, the Warriors didn't let up on the final game of their road trip and put together one of their most impressive of their 38 wins this season.

And in the house M.J. built, in the building that historic 72-win team set records and won a title, the Warriors looked the part of a team that could accomplish the same.

"We’re a mature team and we kind of have that chip back on our shoulder," Green said. "I think it kind of fell off. We’ve been playing with that the last two games, and it’s exciting because before these last two games, I don’t think the last seven games before that. We weren’t really playing that well. The last two games have been pretty fun."

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."