Bulls

Minus turnovers, Bulls feel they're in good shape vs. Bucks

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Minus turnovers, Bulls feel they're in good shape vs. Bucks

Mike Dunleavy opened his arms and jokingly looked to the heavens when the suggestion about solving the Milwaukee Bucks’ aggressive defense was presented in simple form at Sunday afternoon’s practice.

Take the double-team, move the ball twice and open shots will be plentiful.

“Ahhh, yes. Brilliant,” Dunleavy said. “That, in theory is what we're trying to do. Make that ball move, get it out of the double team and take advantage of 4-on-3 on the weak side.”

[MORE: Goodwill: Bucks' improvement through series should alarm Bulls]

Dunleavy is clearly a recipient of crisp ball movement, as he’s shooting a torrid 57 percent from three in the four games this series, only making two two-pointers.

But getting those open shots is clearly easier said than done, as evidence by the Bulls’ comedy of errors, turning the ball over 28 times in their 92-90 Game 4 loss to the Bucks, where a win could’ve enabled the Bulls to get some much-needed rest before the second round.

Trying to force their individual offense led to a lot of the turnovers, as the Bucks want the Bulls to shoot perimeter jumpers, and have the long athletic wings to cover a lot of ground after double-teams.

“Well, in general, we looked at all our turnovers and some were their defense and some were not making the right read,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Usually, if you hold onto it too long or dance with the ball or try a risky pass, it will lead to a problem. Hit the first open man. Be sound with the ball. When we did that, we got good shots.”

How rare are 28 turnovers in a playoff game? It’s the third-highest amount in a playoff game in the last 25 years, trumped only by Indiana’s 33 in 1995 and Miami’s 32 in 1997 — the latter coming against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.

If you didn’t cry about it, well, you sort of had to laugh. There was probably no snickering in the Bulls’ film session, where Thibodeau put every turnover on display for his team to see, but Dunleavy recognized how comical it could appear.

“When you turn it over 28 times, there's some pretty amazing ways to do it,” he said. “At some point you start becoming creative. It was pretty amazing the way we turned it over. Hopefully we fix it.”

When asked what he saw, Dunleavy voiced what everyone watching on TV witnessed as the Bulls struggled with the fundamental attribute of setting up their offense for good shots.

“Just a little of everything,” Dunleavy said. “One, let's say we want to get it in the post. We've had trouble getting it in there, had turnovers there. Then making that first pass out, had issues there. Then lastly when we get it out are we making the next pass or dribble into the paint and get caught in traffic? That sums it up.”

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The Bulls certainly take their turnover issue seriously, as the Bucks’ high-risk, high-reward style of defense leaves plenty of holes for the Bulls to be effective. When you shoot 49 percent from the field and 56 from 3-point range, it usually births a sense of optimism that if they clean that up, they’ll be fine in Game 5.

After all, before Derrick Rose’s final turnover on the Bulls’ last possession, they were in position to win the game despite the errors. Rose had eight turnovers, while the Bucks have taken Pau Gasol (five turnovers, five field goals in Game 4) out of the series essentially from an offensive standpoint, not allowing the Bulls to run offense through him.

“I thought overall we've rebounded the ball well,” Dunleavy said. “When you turn it over 28 times you won't miss the shots to hit the glass. Our possessions it's either a good look, we're shooting close to 50 percent or it's a turnover. Hopefully like I said we can take care of the ball.”

They know the solution, it’s just up to them to implement their game plan to move onto the next round.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.