Poise the word as Bulls pull out win over Thunder


Poise the word as Bulls pull out win over Thunder

Observations from the Bulls’ win over the Oklahoma City Thunder

Pau Gasol: Gasol’s methodical return to form after a grueling summer continued against OKC’s plethora of bigs, who were essentially powerless to stop him. The Bulls used him to facilitate offense from the block and elbows and he delivered to the tune of a season-high six assists (matched twice this year). His alley-oop to Jimmy Butler got Butler going after missing his first four shots. He scored 21 and grabbed 13 rebounds, played forceful on the interior and was the anchor inside, especially with Joakim Noah out with his shoulder injury. In December, Gasol is averaging 19.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.6 rebounds

Consistency: It’s that ever-elusive quality about this team, one that’s run away from the Bulls since the start of this season. But jumping out to an 11-0 start showed the Bulls en masse were serious about things, shocking the home crowd who were ready for a party.

And after the late second-quarter lull pulled the Thunder to within two at the half, the Bulls jumped out to an 8-0 run at the start of the third, re-establishing tempo and control.

[MORE BULLS: Bulls quiet Thunder with impressive wire-to-wire victory]

Derrick Rose scored three of the four baskets in that span, all in attack mode, sensing the momentum was in danger in a hostile environment. He was in foul trouble early and eventually fouled out with 25 seconds left. But his 30 minutes on the court was full of impact, even though he was in danger of going assist-less until he found Doug McDermott for a crucial triple during a late run.

Keeping the “others” in check: The duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is unstoppable and was that way on Friday, combining to score 55 of the 96 Thunder points. Usually that spells victory since the Thunder has so many other options to score, with Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter, to name a few.

Kanter had a monster game, especially on the glass with 13 boards to go with his 14 points but Ibaka, Waiters and the rest of the supporting cast suffered.

But the Bulls’ defense held the Thunder to just 38.5 percent shooting, allowing only Durant (11-21) to have a plus-.500 night from the field, as even he went 1-6 from 3-point range.

They forced the manic Westbrook into six turnovers, as he missed six of his seven triples on the way to hitting just nine of his 23 shots.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

It won’t show up as a defensive masterpiece, but Rose, Butler and the rest of the Bulls returned to their defensive roots to large measure to put up one of their best showings on that end of the season, considering the competition.

Poise: There was slippage, and there were instances where it looked like the Bulls would let the Thunder back in the game, especially late. But the group that seemed to be splitting at the seams with the events of the last week or so banded together to get stops.

Durant, Westbrook and Anthony Morrow got going, with Morrow hitting a pair of triples to send Chesapeake Energy Arena into a frenzy when a 16-point lead was cut to eight with 4:47 left.

But Butler attacked the rim to get to the line and the Bulls restored order against a desperate comeback.

The bottom line: Whenever you think you’ve got the Bulls pegged in one direction or the other, they rewrite the story…and considering the circumstances, one would say the result was quite predictable.

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen’s celebration for his 21st birthday coincided with another major honor, being selected to the All-Rookie First team.

Markkanen received 76 of 100 possible first-team votes to join Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma on the first team. Mitchell and Simmons were unanimous selections and Tatum was one vote short of joining Mitchell and Simmons.

Markkanen, acquired on draft night in the package of players for Jimmy Butler, showed he was far more advanced than many expected. His 15.2 points per game ranked third among rookies and his 7.5 rebounds were first.

Markkanen was a constant in a topsy-turvy season for the Bulls, scoring 30-plus twice and hitting the 25-point plateau another three times. As a perfect fit in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system, Markkanen had eight games where he hit four triples or more, including a game in New York where he drilled eight 3-pointers against the Knicks.

Only 15 rookies have hit more than 140 triples in NBA history, with Markkanen accomplishing the feat in 68 games—he was joined by Mitchell and Kuzma from this year’s star-studded class.

As the season progressed and Markkanen took hold of the power forward position, the Bulls began maneuvering personnel around him, trading disgruntled forward Nikola Mirotic and making a concerted effort to put Bobby Portis at center to pair Portis with Markkanen as a spread-shooting duo.

As the most impressive rookie the Bulls have employed since Derrick Rose, he’s also the first rookie since Taj Gibson in 2010 to make All-Rookie First Team.

ESPN ranks Derrick Rose No. 36 in its World Fame 100 list


ESPN ranks Derrick Rose No. 36 in its World Fame 100 list

Yes, Derrick Rose Stans. Your boy still has plenty of relevance in the sports world.

ESPN released its third annual ranking of "the biggest names in sports," and the Timberwolves point guard ranked No. 36 on the list. ESPN formed the list based on a formula that took three factors into account:

1. Search score, "which measures how often a name is searched"

2. Endorsement dollars, with sources using ranging from Forbes to ESPN contributors

3. Social media followers, with ESPN taking only the platform in which the player had his or her most followers into account.

Rose's search score wasn't all that impressive, ranking 15 - the average on the top 100 list had a score of 35. But with Bulls fans, NBA fans and now of course Timberwolves fans chiming in on his game, Rose's name came across plenty of timelines and search engines.

Rose's $14 million in endorsements - primarily from that massive Adidas deal - was better than the average $12.6 million of the top 100 athletes.

Rose's top social media page is on Facebook, where he currently has more than 10.7 million likes. This, as ESPN notes, is largely due to the international following Rose and so many other NBA athletes have built up over the years.

In 2016, Rose ranked No. 30 on the list. In 2017 he was No. 33 on the list, so while he isn't trending in the right direction there's no denying his presence in the sports landscape. Love him or hate him, Derrick Rose still matters.

The only NBA players above Rose on the list were LeBron James (No. 2), Kevin Durant (No. 7), Stephen Curry (No. 9), James Harden (No. 24), Kyrie Irving (No. 27), Dwyane Wade (No. 31) and Russell Westbrook (No. 34). NBA players below Rose included Carmelo Anthony, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Isaiah Thomas, and Cameron Payne.

OK, not Cameron Payne. He must have been No. 101.