Rose, Bulls come out firing to steal Game 1 from Cavs


Rose, Bulls come out firing to steal Game 1 from Cavs

CLEVELAND— Stealing the first road game against a possibly rusty team in a building that has seen wins in 22 of the last 23 contests didn’t seem likely, but in the playoffs, series openers call for such streaks to be broken.

It was improbable but not impossible for the Chicago Bulls, who played like a championship boxer in a heavyweight fight for 48 minutes in their 99-92 Game 1 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, but like everything else with this team, it came with a little tension.

Derrick Rose was nailed by a Tristan Thompson screen with 21.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter and immediately began walking the other way in what appeared to be a right shoulder injury that the Bulls hope is a short-term issue and not a series-changer, which would be cruel considering his 25-point, five-rebound, five-assist evening.

“It was a stinger and it was my first time having one,” Rose said. “It went away in 5-10 minutes. It’s something I’m not worried about.”

Unlike the bout that took place in Las Vegas a couple days ago, this highly-anticipated contest featured haymaker after haymaker from both sides, as the Cavaliers tried to shake themselves out of an eight-day lethargy with superstar efforts and the Bulls were desperately worked themselves into the series.

But like Saturday, when attacking boxer Manny Pacquiao was dazed and confused by his opponent’s brilliant wizardry, LeBron James didn’t look like himself in the fourth quarter, committing crucial turnovers, accounting for six of the Cavaliers’ nine giveaways.

“Three of them was not 'attack' turnovers,” James said. “You don’t jump and pass.”

[PLAYOFFS: Bulls vs. Cavs -- Who's got the edge?]

Meanwhile, Rose went from attacker to facilitator late, hitting Gasol and Jimmy Butler for crowd-quieting jumpers after the Cavaliers were again threatening to make the Bulls do more than sweat in the fourth.

“We know how good they are,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There’s gonna be runs in the game. It’s gonna be important to answer the runs.”

Aside from an offensive foul on a drive, Rose played with poise down the stretch, illustrating why he so poignantly said “I’m built for this (bleep)” after that embarrassing gaffe in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, where he fell asleep for a game-winning layup.

He went head up with Kyrie Irving, who scored 30, and the two times James dared switch onto Rose, James walked away frustrated as Rose sent him packing with two long jumpers, unbothered by James’ length, the crowd or the pressure.

“When you’re playing in the playoffs and it’s the first game, you’ve got to see what they’re doing on the pick and roll, who they’re double-teaming off of, who they aren’t double-teaming,” Rose said. “You’re reading and I think we made adjustments during the game.”

He found Pau Gasol for open jumpers against a leaky pick-and-roll defense, as Gasol scored 13 of his 21 in the third, many after the Cavaliers emerged from a 16-point deficit to tie the contest at 51 in the second half’s opening minutes, ensuring the Bulls never trailed.

They jumped out to a 10-2 run, rarely looking back.

“We kept running it because it was working,” said Gasol, who added 10 rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots. “High pick and roll was working. With Derrick’s ability and my ability to make plays for others, it was very effective tonight. It’s what we do.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoffs, Bulls fans!]

Butler was James’ shadow for the evening, resting when James rested and checking himself in when he saw James saunter to the scorer’s table. His 20 points, six assists and five rebounds don’t look as gaudy as James’ 19 points (on 22 shots), 15 rebounds and nine assists, but his defense played a crucial part in stealing a road win.

The role players carried the Bulls early, as the Cavs were unable to track Mike Dunleavy, who hit dagger after dagger on the way to nearly outscoring the Cavaliers by himself in the first quarter as the Bulls took a 16-point lead.

“Mike moving without the ball, opening up the floor he never stops moving,” Thibodeau said. “The threat of his shot gives us space.”

The Cavs players tabbed to replace spacers Kevin Love and J.R. Smith—James Jones, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller—otherwise known as “who?” went silent, hitting one field goal in a combined 30 minutes.

It was an offensive clinic for the Bulls for the better part of three quarters, despite the score not reaching triple digits. They shot 50 percent from the field and 56 percent from 3-point range, turning the ball over just 10 times and totaling 23 assists.

“Sharing the ball is important,” Thibodeau said. “The ball movement, keeping your turnovers down, those are things that are necessary. You can never let your guard down.”

Irving and James accounted for essentially all of the registering every assist except for two and every turnover aside from one.  

That made it critical for the Bulls to come away with more than just a pat on the back and brownie points for being competitive. Iman Shumpert scored 22 as the only member of the supporting cast not to be on a milk carton, as the Bulls shutting down everyone else is a big piece of a huge blueprint for an underdog team no longer feeling like one.

Round 1 to Chicago.

Bulls Talk Podcast: White shines in preseason finale vs Hawks


Bulls Talk Podcast: White shines in preseason finale vs Hawks

On this edition of Bulls Outsiders, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and Dave Watson react to the Bulls preseason finale, a 111-93 win over the Hawks.

0:25 - Young Hawks vs young Bulls and increased expectations for Bulls

1:35 - On the Bulls bench performance

2:10 - On Coby White’s 29 point effort

4:00 - On White and Dunn together on the 2nd unit

6:25 - On Denzel Valentine not being part of the rotation

7:20 - Viewer comment on Dunn playing the Marcus Smart role

7:45 - Question on if White will eventually start, impact of Satoransky on LaVine

9:22 - What’s White’s best role?

10:00 - The Outsiders on talking hoops with Jim Boylen

11:05 - Small concerns over Markkanen’s preseason

12:33 - More viewer comments including where Hutchison fits when healthy

15:25 - is Matt on the Big Red Bus? (tm See Red Fred)

16:40 - Viewer question about Coby leading the team in scoring; why LaVine is the star

19:35 - The LaVine midrange ‘controversy’

21:35 - Viewer question on best case scenario for Bulls win total

23:30 - See Red Fred repeats his mantra

26:20 - Excitement for the season opener

27:00 - On Luol Deng retiring as a Bull

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls have makings of a real team as game week begins

Bulls have makings of a real team as game week begins

The next time the Bulls take the floor – Wednesday night in Charlotte – they’ll be playing for keeps, looking to make good on their verbalized goal of making the postseason for the first time in three seasons. They’re lofty goals for a team that won just 22 games a season ago, but they put the finishing touches on a promising preseason in their 111-93 victory over the Atlanta Hawks that has them feeling confident in what’s ahead.

True, it came against a Hawks team playing a rare back-to-back (with both games on the road) and one that was resting John Collins, but the Bulls once again shared the ball, played with urgency and continued their 2019 style in a game they led the final 38 minutes.

Coach Jim Boylen treated the game as a dress rehearsal for the season opener against the Hornets in six days, solidifying his 10-man rotation and getting significant contributions from both units. With star power in Zach LaVine and (hopefully) Lauri Markkanen, a supporting cast that’s buying in and a few promising youngsters, the next stage of the Bulls rebuild is shaping up nicely.

“I thought each guy had moments,” Boylen said after the game. “I thought we did a good job of getting the ball to the open people or the hot man…That’s what good teams do. They find the guy that’s got it rolling. They keep it rolling as long as they can. And then we pick each other up when maybe a group or section of the game where we’re struggling. I’m happy for that.”

It once again began with Zach LaVine, who finished a terrific preseason with 23 points on 11 shots in just 25 minutes. He was a model of efficiency – he didn’t attempt a midrange shot – and finished his four-game preseason stretch with 93 points in 96 minutes, shooting 32 of 54 (59.2%) and making 14 of 25 3-point attempts (56.0%). Every completed rebuild needs a player like how LaVine is playing right now. It should be an All-Star season for the 25-year-old.

Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter were quiet in the preseason but there’s not much to read in to about their performances. Wendell Carter Jr. shook off a couple injury scares and put together his best performance of his limited preseason, finishing with 8 points and 8 rebounds and drawing some praise from Boylen for his off-ball intangibles. He should be full-go in five days when the Bulls begin playing for keeps.

Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky did exactly what they’ve done their entire careers: They were quiet but effective, with the latter forming a solid tandem with any frontcourt player he appeared with, and the latter grabbing the starting point-guard reins.

The second unit remains a question mark, but it will enter the regular season with some serious momentum. Despite being officially demoted to the second unit just days earlier, Kris Dunn again drew praise from Boylen for his effort and energy that sparked the Bulls in the second quarter.

“I thought Kris Dunn’s energy off the bench changed the game,” Boylen said. “He got us going. His effort, his energy, his focus was great. Some nights we’re gonna be in mud, we’re gonna be a little sluggish. And he’s been practicing really hard and I was really proud of what he did in that moment to kind of get us going. I’m happy for him.”

Dunn may be able to stay on the floor thanks to the scoring prowess that rookie Coby White is showing. The seventh overall pick scored a game-high 29 points and made 6 of 8 3-pointers. That 3-for-30 effort in the Las Vegas Summer League feels like forever ago, and for a bench that lacks much scoring, White’s ability to do just that becomes even more significant. His last three preseason games: 23.6 points in 25.3 minutes. He had just one assist, but the Bulls will take that scoring and shooting right now.

Boylen called his stretch of triples in the third quarter “as good as we’ve seen in this building in a while.”

Luke Kornet has won the backup job over Daniel Gafford, while Ryan Arcidiacono (and presumably Chandler Hutchison when he returns from a hamstring injury) is ahead of Denzel Valentine, who Boylen said needs to “stay ready” despite not being in the 10-man rotation. The bench is the Bulls’ weakest spot, but even Boylen admitted they’re starting to get a little rhythm together.

The caveat, of course, is that it was just preseason. Everything changes when the games start counting. On the one hand, the Bulls’ first five opponents include one projected playoff team (Toronto), On the other hand, four of those first five games are on the road. What worked in preseason isn’t guaranteed to work in the regular season. But for what the Bulls could have proved in the preseason – that they’re forming a team with specific roles and players buying into them – they did to a T, and it should make for a promising Year 3 of a rebuild.

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