Bulls

Lifeless Bulls fall to Cavaliers in series-clincher

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Lifeless Bulls fall to Cavaliers in series-clincher

Whether it was surprising or shocking, the Bulls’ season ended with a dud in a manner nobody expected, allowing the Cleveland Cavaliers to dance over their home floor for the better part of the second half in a desperation game.

After telling anyone who would listen they were one possession away in the last two losses, the Bulls left no doubt in their season-ending 94-73 loss at the United Center Thursday night, in perhaps their worst home showing of the season.

Now the speculation begins about everybody’s future, starting with coach Tom Thibodeau, as many expect he and the Bulls to part ways this offseason—and the season ended with the Cavaliers exercising tenets that used to be a hallmark of vintage Thibodeau squads.

It wasn’t a LeBron James classic game or classic finish, nor did Kyrie Irving hobble around after hitting kill shot after kill shot. It was “the others” who led the way for the Cavaliers, the players who did all the little things many believed Bulls would be better at.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Like effort, which produces extra possessions or unknown heroes like Matthew Dellavedova, whose 19 points was good enough to outscore every Chicago Bull except Jimmy Butler—and Butler had to take 22 shots to get that.

Dellavedova, who was nothing more than a nuisance after Game 5 due to his scrum with Taj Gibson, became a Cavaliers folk hero as he helped put the Bulls away.

Dellavedova, J.R. Smith and James Jones hit three triples each, while the Bulls mustered just four as a team.

“I thought their bench played really well,” Thibodeau said. “When you couple the bench with LeBron, he’s going to make you pay.”

They barely had enough life to produce more than a spark, but nobody expected their most lopsided effort when they needed it most. They scored 31 in the first quarter, but only combined for 29 in the next two quarters, shooting 32 percent while the Cavs ran away with it.

The turnovers and missed opportunities added up, coupled with the mistakes of allowing standstill shooters to beat them doing the only thing that makes them useful on a patchwork Cavaliers roster.

The game-turning fouls at the most inopportune times, illustrated by Nikola Mirotic unnecessarily clotheslining Cavaliers forward Iman Shumpert with 5:19 left in the first half and the Bulls trailing by one.

[MORE: LeBron lauds Dellavedova's, Thompson's effort in Game 6 win]

It riled up Shumpert, who scored the next two possessions after his flagrant foul free throw, and led to the Cavaliers rushing the Bulls for a 20-2 run to end the half. All with Irving on the bench after injuring his left knee early in the second quarter and James returning to Earth after his superhuman effort in Game 5.

“The 2nd quarter has been a problem for us the whole series,” Thibodeau said. “That (sequence) took a lot out of us, but I thought the fight was in there in the third.”

When your opposition scores five points in the first seven minutes of a quarter you have to win, yet extend their lead, it’s no wonder the Bulls are going home. Same goes for allowing Tristan Thompson to muscle his way up, around and through Bulls defenders for 17 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.

Derrick Rose started out fast, as he did in game 5 but sputtered afterwards, finishing with 14 points and six assists. Pau Gasol gave the Bulls a temporary boost by his presence, but it was nothing more than ceremonial as his teammates didn’t show up.

“I want to say this about Derrick: This was a long year for Derrick,” Thibodeau said. “The good thing is, I think he has regained his confidence. You have to remember, he hasn’t played in three post-seasons. Getting this experience is really good for him.”

[ALSO: Shumpert hitting his stride in unexpected role for Cavs]

James, a fixture in not only the postseason but is becoming the face of June, orchestrated things to the tune of 15 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, while Irving only played 12 minutes before injuring his left knee.

He wasn’t needed, and the Bulls enter into an offseason with a meek effort that saw them get outrebounded by 21, shoot 37 percent from the field while allowing 12 3-pointers from the visitors.

With no doubt being left by both the Cavaliers and Bulls, they can enter into an offseason with nothing else but clear directives on what’s to come—starting with the man on the sidelines.

“Until they tell me I’m not, I expect to be here,” Thibodeau said.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.