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Mr. Clutch: Rose's buzzer-beater rescues Bulls

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Mr. Clutch: Rose's buzzer-beater rescues Bulls

MILWAUKEE - Cold-blooded. Thats the only way to describe Derrick Roses performance Wednesday night, particularly his game-winning shot at the buzzer.

Love it. As a kid, those are the things that you dream about and it felt good, man, said a happy, yet calm Rose afterwards. Youre on the road, playing against a team thats giving you their all and you hit a nice shot like that.

Facing an opponent that was tired of getting bullied, the Bulls (33-8) needed every bit of Roses marvelous all-around performance to hold off the Bucks (15-24), 106-104, at the Bradley Center.

What can you say? Another big shot, played hard all game, big play after big play. Jo had a great game, big tip-in late and our defense wasnt very good, but I thought Taj gave us a good lift, Carlos got some scores for us, Ronnie was real solid, bench came in, did a good job, but weve got to get our defense going, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. It was a great play by him. He took the clock down, he didnt leave any time because you felt like, whoever had the ball, they were going to score next and thats not usually our style, but I give them a lot of credit.

Despite Roses brilliant showing, a pesky Milwaukee team, buoyed by a career-high night from unheralded forward Ersan Ilyasova (32 points, 10 rebounds), hung around for the entire contest and it wasnt until the contests final moment that the visitors were ensured of their eighth consecutive victory.

At the outset of the contest, it was a spirited, fast-paced, back-and-forth affair, mostly devoid of defense in front of a crowd that was least half filled with fans who had made the relatively short trip from Chicago. Perhaps former Bulls big man Drew Gooden (27 points, six rebounds) was inspired by their presence, as he dominated in the early going, carrying the home teams offensive load with 16 first-quarter points.

The visitors, as usual, were led by the scoring and playmaking stylings of Rose (30 points, 14-for-14 free-throw shooting, 11 assists, eight rebounds), as the reigning league MVP sliced his way into the lane at will to either finish strong at the rim or dish off to his teammatessuch as Joakim Noah (20 points, 10 rebounds), who converted chances around the basket, Carlos Boozer (15 points, six rebounds), whose mid-range jumper was accurate in the early going, and Ronnie Brewer (seven points, five rebounds, five assists), once again starting in place of the injured Rip Hamiltonto propel his team.

Milwaukee countered with swingman Carlos Delfino to aid Gooden, but at the conclusion of the opening period, the Bulls held a 33-30 edge.

Led by the energetic and determined play of Taj Gibson (10 points, seven rebounds)including a half-court alley-oop finishthe Bench Mob made a push at the beginning of the second quarter to give the Bulls some breathing room with an 8-2 run. The hosts, however, fought back behind the reserve perimeter trio of Beno Udrih (11 points, seven assists), Mike Dunleavy (eight points, eight rebounds, five assists) and Shaun Livingston, to once again make it a close-knit affair and eventually, take the lead.

Thibodeau reinserted his regulars and his squad responded by not only regaining the lead, but creating some separation, mostly as a result of Roses penetration, the burgeoning post-up game of Noah, who logged his first career triple-double when the Bulls faced the Bucks in Chicago on Feb. 22, and improved defensive focus. At the intermission, the Bulls took a 55-50 advantage into the tunnel.

Chicagos defensive intensity waned after the break, but with continued offensive efficiency, the visitors maintained their slim cushion over the Bucks, who ran their offense through big men Gooden and Ilyasova.

Those guys, they scored a lot. Their frontcourt scored a lot of points. Its kind of unacceptable, said Noah. Ilyasova is just playing great. Hes rebounding the ball, hes very active, he shoots the ball well, hes a good defender, he can switch and he can do a lot of things out there.

Boozer, Noah and Rose remained the Bulls offensive focal points, as mid-range shooting, strong interior play and effective floor generalship, respectively, were the individual bread and butter for the triumvirate.

But Milwaukee kept coming and with the Bulls having ball-security issues, Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings (11 points, six assists) coming alive, Ilyasova finding his groove and second-year reserve big man Larry Sanders providing a jolt of energy off the bench, the contest was too close for comfort.

Through three periods, the game was tied at 73 apiece and the visitors were in for a battle heading into the games final stanza.

Milwaukee plays tough. Every night they play tough, said Thibodeau. Gooden and Ilyasova played great for them. Jennings didnt shoot a high percentage, but he was in the paint. Udrih was in the paint. We turned the ball over, which I thought really hurt us. It put them in the open floor and that gave them too many easy baskets17 turnovers, 25 pointsso we made it hard on ourselves, too.

Added Luol Deng: Theyre playing well. They just beat Philly. Its hard to beat a team four times in such a short time, so weve been seeing them a lot. I know theyre sick and tired of us coming in here, winning and beating them at home, and they really came out tonight and fought hard. Plus, theyre trying to get to the playoffs. We played hard, but I really thought throughout the game, in spurts, they played a lot harder than us. We just hit big shots to win the game.

Chicagos reserves held down the fort early in the fourth quarter, but even after Thibodeau got his starters back into the contest, the Bulls couldnt pull away from their pesky hosts. Meanwhile, Ilyasova continued to dominate for the Bucks, hitting an array of bucketsjumpers and layups alikeand put the home team up with just over four minutes to go by hitting a three-pointer that made it 93-91, suddenly making it a reality that the divisional rivals could pull of the upset.

But going into the games stretch run, Rose went into takeover mode, spurring MVP chants from the crowd, Noah cleaned up on the glass and Deng (12 points), battling an injured left wrist that clearly affected his ballhandling, knocked down big shots in clutch situations to create a gap between the Bulls and their scrappy opponents.

However, the never-say-die attitude of the Bucks, coached by former Bulls head coach Scott Skiles, paid off and after a call awarding possession to Chicago was reversed, Udrih hit a layup to even the contest at 102 all with 42.9 seconds left.

Rose was sent to the line with 32.5 seconds to go and drained a pair, but on the subsequent possession, Ilyasova rebounded a Jennings miss to tie the game at 104.

Following a timeout with 18.1 seconds remaining, the Bulls got the ball into Roses hands, he let time drain off the clock and knocked down a step-back jumper over Jennings at the buzzer, sending the Chicago portion of the crowd into hysterics, while silencing the Milwaukee loyalists, all while wearing his trademark deadpan expression on his face as his teammates mobbed him upon the ball going through the net.

Its great, man. Its a great feeling. If anything, were just happy that we got the win and trying to keep this thing going. Were playing pretty good, got to polish some things up still on the defensive end and play together, said Rose. It gives me a lot of confidence, man. I remember a few years back, I was missing those shots. I think its a thing where you just learned from it, knowing what they give you. My last couple end-of-game shots have been floaters. Seemed like he was backing up a little bit and I just pulled up.

Beyond Roses shotthe Chicago natives first true buzzer-beater to win a game with all zeroes on the scoreboardDeng saw the win as another step in the teams development.

I always say weve just got to find a way. Were getting better at it this year compared to last year and as the years going on, were really getting better at finding ways to win," Deng explained. "The way the game was going, we had turnovers and it shows a lot of maturity, each individual and also as a team. Were really getting better and its going to help us later on in the playoffs. I thought last year, just losing to Miami, there were certain times as a team, where we didnt step up to what was going on at the end of the game and I think were better at it this year."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Special guest 5-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Special guest 5-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Jason Goff is joined by Chicago native and former NBA star Tim Hardaway

1:10       On how a Chicago kid went to play college basketball in Texas

6:15       On growing up a Bulls fan

9:20       What did Chicago basketball make Tim?

16:30    On starting his NBA career in Golden State

22:30    On the 90’s dynasty era Bulls and what he appreciated about them

25:25    Which players did he enjoy playing against the most

26:50    On today’s game and the point guard position

29:15    On the influence of analytics on today’s NBA

34:15    On balancing what a player’s skills are vs what the system wants

38:00    On Zach LaVine and his ceiling as a player

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

Bulls Talk Podcast

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What to watch for: Bulls look to extend two-game win streak with Warriors in town

What to watch for: Bulls look to extend two-game win streak with Warriors in town

The Bulls get a shot at revenge against the lowly Warriors Friday night in Chicago. The game tips at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here's what to watch for:

Warriors’ last five (1-4)

  • Dec. 4 — L at Hornets: 106-91

  • Dec. 2 — L at Atlanta: 104-79

  • Dec. 1 — L at Magic: 100-96

  • Nov. 29 — L at Heat: 122-105

  • Nov. 27 — W vs. Bulls: 104-90

One storyline for each team

After defeating the Bulls 104-90 in San Francisco on Nov. 27, the Warriors embarked on a five-game road trip that has featured visits to Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, and now Chicago. Their first four stops ended in losses of varying severity to competition of varying quality (though mostly subpar). Tonight, they cap that swing with their fifth game in eight nights against the Bulls. D’Angelo Russell is back — he returned in their last game against the Hornets and dropped 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting — but that’s about all Golden State has going for them right now.

This goes without saying, but the Bulls need to pounce on this game — an eminently winnable one — especially with a road-and-home back-to-back against the Heat and Raptors looming early next week. In each of the two games of their current win streak (against the Kings and Grizzlies) they’ve gotten out to commanding first-half leads, then allowed their opponent to claw their way back late in the game. Their offensive execution down the stretch of the last two has been sublime (thanks, Zach LaVine), but substantive progress would mean a comfortable win, at home, tonight — especially having already lost to this Warriors team this season.

In the event that this game isn't comfortable (which feels more likely), look out for another Zach LaVine takeover. He's averaging an NBA-leading 10.3 points per game in fourth quarters since Nov. 23 (Charlotte game), shooting 54.3% from the field (5.8 attempts) and 68.8% from three (2.7 attempts). Him catching fire isn't something you want to miss.

Player to watch: D’Angelo Russell

Russell presents a challenge unlike any the Bulls faced when they played this team a little over a week ago. He's a crafty ball-handler, and can pull and drain from long-range from any spot, at any time and under any amount of durress. When he plays, the ball is in his hands a staggering amount — per Cleaning the Glass, his 34.8% usage rate is in the 98th percentile of ball-handlers in the league.

The Bulls have the personnel to hone in and give him fits, between Tomas Satoransky and Kris Dunn — if their length and activity can get Russell out of rhythm, the rest of the Warriors mistfit-laden roster will have to beat them. Granted, Golden State has done it before, and in convincing fashion for that matter. But the Bulls hope two straight encouraging performances in a row are an indication of things to come. This is also a great game to monitor how the Bulls defend Russell's pick-and-roll; he's currently averaging 3.3 turnovers per game.

Final point: Russell's misadventures on the defensive side of the ball are well-documented, so look for LaVine and Satoransky to attempt to feast on that end, as well. The Bulls mustered only 90 points against the Warriors 27th-rated defense on Nov. 27, but LaVine and Satoransky were lone bright spots, accounting for 45 combined points and seven threes.

Matchup to watch: The paint

One of the smudges on the Bulls' 106-99 win over the Grizzlies on Wendesday was the performance of Jonas Valanciunas, who totaled 32 points and 13 rebounds in his first game back from illness. He was absolutely bruising, and the Grizzlies racked up 52 points in the paint (compared to the Bulls' 32). That number is well above the Bulls' season average of 49.9 points allowed in the paint per game, which ranks 23rd in the NBA.

That figure might surprise some, given that the team anchors its defense with a versatile and heady center in Wendell Carter Jr. and a jumpy shot-blocking backup in Daniel Gafford. Jim Boylen has pointed to isolated blocks from Gafford and Carter, as well as 'our guys competed'-isms when asked about their struggles in that department. The Warriors have a roster stilted towards bigs and interior forwards, and notched 52 points in the paint in their last matchup with the Bulls, behind solid performances from Eric Paschall, Omari Spellman and Marquese Chriss. Thad Young missing tonight's game with a personal issue won't help here.

Further, these aren't your mother's Warriors. They're not a prolific shooting team and don't have the same plethora of perimeter shot-creators they once did. They're going to try to out-muscle the Bulls tonight, as they did on Nov. 27, and it's worth monitoring how much resistance the hosts put up.

Injury/miscellaneous updates

Bad news on the Otto Porter Jr. front today: The Bulls starting small forward and most solid wing defender suffered another setback, as a repeat MRI revealed a continued bone edema (i.e. swelling). He’ll be re-evaluated in another two weeks. Chandler Hutchison is still working out and running — and getting better each day, according to Boylen — but there’s still no precise timetable on his return.

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