Bulls

Nuggets run Bulls out of the building, end four-game win streak

Nuggets run Bulls out of the building, end four-game win streak

It got ugly and it got ugly in a hurry as Fred Hoiberg was ready to initial for a timeout before Jamal Murray's triple found an easy home in the bottom of the net after a Bulls turnover.

The onslaught happened quick for the Denver Nuggets and the Bulls were unable to counter with a reasonable response as their defense failed them miserably in the second half of their 125-107 loss—the first sign of serious defensive slippage since the trade of Taj Gibson as their season-high four-game winning streak was snapped.

And to make matters all the more optimistic, the Golden State Warriors and L.A. Clippers are the next two opponents to grace the United Center floor.

Jimmy Butler going three for 13 in 35 minutes definitely shouldn't be ignored, as was the Bulls inability to muster second-half offense after leading by three, but the Nuggets ran the Bulls ragged with ball movement and open threes all night.

"I haven't been in rhythm for awhile now," Butler said. "It's okay. We gotta a few more games, I'll find a rhythm and make some shots. I'm not worried about it, we got another one on Thursday."

Nikola Jokic dominated the stat sheet and the game with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a showing that had the versatile center operating as a hub, creating open shots for Danilo Gallinari (22 points) and Wilson Chandler (20 points), among others.

"They do a good job of shooting and cutting around Jokic," Hoiberg said. "Some of the 3's were contested but I agree we did not run them off the line."

And when he received too much room on the perimeter from Robin Lopez or Cristiano Felicio, he unleashed one of his three triples as the Nuggets hit 13 of them, many during the decisive third and fourth quarter run when they pulled away.

Shooting 56 percent from the field and 43 from 3, the Nuggets made easy work of the Bulls once they figured out the Bulls' early defense, putting up 103 points in the final three quarters.

"We stopped getting stops, it was either a layup or a 3," said Rajon Rondo. "We gotta run them off the line. They get paid a lot of money to shoot the ball. Those guys, we knew going into the game what the scouting report was. We didn't stick to the plan."

A 9-0 run gave the Nuggets an eight-point lead in the final minute of the third quarter led by Jokic, as all five Nuggets starters were in double figures and they were shooting well over 50 percent, quickly erasing a 68-60 Bulls lead.

The Bulls' defense was little more than indifferent in the middle two quarters, giving up 69 points. And the Nuggets' onslaught stretched to start the fourth as they took a 96-83 lead in the first 90 seconds, with their ball movement creating open shots on the perimeter.

"Our movement was terrific in the first half, we were getting the ball up the floor," Hoiberg said. "We lost all that. The shots we missed deflated us."

Hoiberg said the Bulls' slagging offense led to a porous effort on the defensive end, which is an easy way to lose against the third-best scoring offense in the NBA (110.8 points per game).

"It's easily correctable. Just guard," Butler said. "Take your matchups as if it's just you and them. If you get beat, the help is gotta be there. If we guard, we're okay."

The Bulls were surviving early with the play of Rondo, who scored 19. Dwyane Wade scored 19 but nine came in the fourth when the Nuggets all but ended things in the first few minutes of the period.

"I thought Rondo was great for us," Hoiberg said. "When he's in the game our pace just goes up a notch. He's getting guys shots, he's throwing the ball down the floor."

The Bulls' early offense was at a crawl until Rondo started running the show, as the speed quotient increased ten-fold in the first half. He hadn't been that aggressive in weeks and it was necessary with Butler having a slow start and Cameron Payne being eased into running the offense.

"Just the pick and roll. I was trying to get into the paint," Rondo said. "Our bigs did a great job setting screens for me and I was able to get into the paint to make plays for myself or my teammates."

The balance between development and winning games is certainly met at the intersection of Rondo and Payne, with Rondo being a good option for helping the Bulls maintain their playoff standing.

Payne looked unsure during his time in the first half and missed his first seven shots from the field in his home debut, only making a triple after the game had been decided.

The speed and athleticism of the Nuggets confused the Bulls throughout, as one has no idea if this is the Bulls team that will be seen for the rest of season or if this was a telling and alarming blip on the radar.

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:


Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen.