Bulls

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."

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.