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.

Tomas Satoransky's key to finding footing with Bulls after adverse 2019-20

Tomas Satoransky's key to finding footing with Bulls after adverse 2019-20

NBC Sports Chicago is breaking down the 15 full-time players on the Bulls' roster. Next up is Tomas Satoransky.

Past: Zach LaVine | Coby White

2019-20 Stats

9.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.9 RPG | 43% FG, 32.2% 3P, 87.6% FT | 16.5% USG

Contract Breakdown

Age: 28

July 2019: Signed 3-year, $30 million contract (partial guarantee on third season)

2020-21: $10,000,000 | 2021-22: $10,000,000* 

*$5,000,000 guaranteed, fully guaranteed on June 30, 2021

(via Spotrac)

Strengths

Satoransky is always available and a wonderful team player — he and Coby White were the only Bulls to appear in all 65 of the team’s games, and Sato led the Bulls in assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.72) in 2019-20. His advanced feel for the game and willingness to jabber on the floor make him an effective traffic director, and his 6-foot-7 build allows him to see over the tops of defenses to find teammates.

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When he’s “on” offensively, that translates into an effective drive-and-kick game, and his track record is one of an good spot-up shooter. He’s a veteran, solid team defender and one of the more congenial guys on the team. Not a break-down-the-defense player, which factored into him having a limited impact on the Bulls' offense this season, but a capable glue guy on the floor and off it.

Areas to Improve

Though Satoransky posted career-high counting stats across the board in his first season as an NBA starter, his inaugural campaign with the Bulls didn’t live up to his or the team’s expectations after his signing was widely lauded in the 2019 offseason. The highs were high, but they were too few and far between by season's end. White usurped him in the starting lineup in the Bulls' final game before the hiatus, via a combination of the rookie’s torrid play and Satoransky’s uneven production. In line with his character, Satoransky handled the demotion with grace.

The quickest way for Sato to right the ship is to bounce back in the shooting department. A huge part of his sell as a free agent signing was his ability to complement Zach LaVine in the starting backcourt as a facilitator and off-ball scoring threat. The former panned out at times, the latter not as much. Satoransky entered 2019-20 a 44.5% catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter (1.5 attempts per game) in his past two seasons. In 2019-20: 32.9% on 2.6 attempts per, and he made just 26.8% of all of his long-range looks from December on. 

The good news: He’s reportedly working with renowned shooting coach Stefan Weissenböck this offseason, who Satoransky has credited with drastic improvements to his jumper in the past — chiefly, a leap from 24.3% to 46.3% from deep between his first and second NBA seasons. Him finding his footing there could unlock a lot for his game and the Bulls offense, even if he’s relegated to a reserve role moving forward.

Ceiling Projection

Satoransky would be an integral role player on most any team in the league. He’s not the Bulls’ point guard of the long- or short-term future — that slot is best reserved for White or their impending top-10 draftee. But as, say, a seventh man, he can be useful for a young team in need of a steady hand at the controls for spurts. And his $10 million salary for next season, plus a partial guarantee for 2021-22, isn’t overly-debilitating to the Bulls' books. We’ll call his ceiling a top-five reserve lead guard in the NBA, and a capable spot starter.

Whether he sticks in Chicago depends on the new front office regime's impression of his game, and draft fates.

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Why Jimmy Butler wants to play without name or social justice message on jersey

Why Jimmy Butler wants to play without name or social justice message on jersey

Jimmy Butler has always been comfortable taking the road less traveled.

So his answer to whether he’ll wear one of the league-approved social justice messages on the back of his Miami Heat jersey shouldn’t surprise.

“I have decided not to. With that being said, I hope that my last name doesn’t go on there as well,” Butler said during his remote media availability session from the NBA’s restart on the Disney World campus in Florida. “I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose. But for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it’s going back to like who I was. And if I wasn’t who I was today, I’m no different than anybody else of color.

“And I want that to be my message in the sense that just because I’m an NBA player, everybody has the same rights no matter what. That’s how I feel about my people of color.”

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Butler would need NBA approval for his unique idea. If he received it, it would symbolically place him back in the same status of anonymity as many African-Americans who have experienced police brutality, a crucial point in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I’m hoping I get that opportunity though,” Butler said. “I really am.”

Butler admitted he considered sitting out the league’s 22-team restart to make a statement in that fashion, a strong admission from one of the league’s most competitive players. But ultimately, the former Bulls All-Star forward said just as much positive impact can occur by playing.

“Being away from your family is hard. What’s going on in the world right now it’s hard. But being here, it’s also hard. It’s not easy for anybody,” he said. “But we get the opportunity to talk amongst each other, learn about each other and everybody’s stories that’s here. And knowing that we’re all in this together, we’re all in this for the greater good. And I can tell you that everybody here is with the equality because it’s real. It needs to happen. There just has to be more action behind it.”

Butler called life inside the so-called bubble “easy,” a testament to the intricate and exhaustive planning undertaken by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association. The Heat have been one of the surprise stories of the NBA season, and Butler offered a colorful answer when asked how he kept sharp during the four-month hiatus since COVID-19 paused the league.

“The whole thing was just find a way to compete, whether it be at cards or at dominoes or a footrace, whatever it is. Keep your mind thinking, ‘I have to be the best. I have to win,’” Butler said. “And then as far as working out goes, if you have a gym at your house or a basket, yeah, go ahead. Work out. Shoot. But just ride the bike. Lift some weights. Do some yoga. Do some pilates, whatever that might be. And I think the Miami Heat did a great job of using Zoom to do pilates, yoga, lift together, talk. I think that was huge to getting back to where we are right now.”

Back in April, Butler even sent portable baskets to all his teammates. So, yes, Butler is ready. He always is.

RELATED: 'He looks great': What a reinvigorated Joakim Noah can bring to title-contending Clippers

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