Pau Gasol's triple-double helps Bulls grind out win over Bucks


Pau Gasol's triple-double helps Bulls grind out win over Bucks

The excitement was gone in the United Center, replaced by nervous energy and waning emotion.

The bodies kept falling and the young Milwaukee Bucks kept charging throughout the fourth quarter, coming back from a 13-point deficit and giving the Bulls more of a scare than they would’ve liked to admit.

But with no choice to do anything but, the Bulls used duct tape and know-how to pull out a 100-90 win, in what could be described as a must-win considering they’re facing a road-home combo of San Antonio and Miami later in the week.

With Jimmy Butler being a scratch due to knee soreness following his first game back, the Bulls also lost Aaron Brooks and Bobby Portis to injury, leaving Fred Hoiberg with very few options to turn to, and his team didn’t look to have the necessary effectiveness throughout as the athletic Bucks stalked them for the better part of three quarters.

Pau Gasol’s block of a Greg Monroe hook shot with a little over two minutes left prevented the Bucks from cutting the Bulls’ lead to three, and displayed what he was able to do all night, as he finished with his second triple-double with 12 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists. His scoring was the last thing to come aboard.

He only hit four of 14 shots, but the Bulls shot 50 percent from the field — it just didn’t look like it as they turned it over 18 times for 23 points.

“We made some key plays down the stretch, hit some big shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought we came in with the right mentality. This is the second game where we jumped out to a big early lead.”

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Whenever the Bucks seemed ready to take things over, the Bulls would apply a little duct tape to the boat that seemed ready to capsize, keeping it afloat just a little while longer.

A Nikola Mirotic triple when the Bucks pulled to within two at 6:57.

A Taj Gibson block and saved rebound from out of bounds, which led to an E’Twaun Moore triple to give the Bulls an 88-83 lead with 3:34 left.

“It’s just about having the will to win,” Gibson said. “It’s tough, games like this we have to push through. I understand guys are down, but these are the games you look forward to, to build confidence.”

Three times the Bucks came within a basket in the fourth and every time, the Bulls pulled something from their behinds to give themselves breathing room.

“Nobody wants to be in this position, right at the end of the cliff,” Gibson said. “But like coach said, you have to get up and take a couple punches to the face and keep swinging.”

The jabs came fast and furious, if not outright wild from a Bucks team still believing they can play a part in the playoff picture.

Jabari Parker continued his torrid stretch following the All-Star break, and versatile do-everything forward Giannis Antetokounmpo played nearly every position on the floor, including point guard to give the Bulls fits.

Parker blew by Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott for dunks and slashing drives on the way to 16 points and 10 boards. Jerryd Bayliss continued being a nuisance to the Bulls with five triples off the bench on the way to 20 points.

“We were pretty thin with Jimmy out, and we lost Aaron and Bobby got poked in the eye, so we had to get some big minutes from some of our guys,” Hoiberg said.

After getting hit in the eye on a screen and looking every bit of dazed and confused, Rose hit the Bucks right back where it hurts most — the scoreboard.

He hit a triple, a pull-up jumper and a step-back jumper, giving the Bulls a temporary reprieve from their ineffectiveness.

Rose finished with a game-high 22 points and seven assists, as he was the only point guard on the floor for either team, and played 38 minutes.

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Too many times, the Bucks disrupted the Bulls offense with aggressiveness, overplaying the strong side of the defense and forcing cross-court passes, many of which weren’t caught cleanly if at all.

It was nearly a replay of the Rockets’ strategy from Saturday night, only they didn’t have Butler on the floor as a productive player, scorer or safety valve.

But without their best player, they relied on some old-fashioned guile to pull out a crucial win.

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

There are diehard Michael Jordan fans.

And then there's this guy.

Forget anybody getting a tattoo of their favorite team's championship trophy. Forget the people who wait for hours in terrible weather just to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.

This dude has a constant, 24/7 reminder of "His Airness":

Yep, that is a full tattoo of a Jordan "23" jersey on his back, complete with a Michael Jordan "autograph" in the middle of the "2." 

Dedication at its finest.

Couple questions: 

A) Does it carry over to the front at all? And if not, is that a plan for the future?

2) Will one of his buddies get a "45" Jordan jersey tattoo or are we just gonna continue to pretend that era never happened?

D) What will that tat look like in a few years? That guy better stay away from the Doritos...

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.