Bulls

Rose, Bulls get past Bucks to take Game 3 in double overtime

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Rose, Bulls get past Bucks to take Game 3 in double overtime

Great teams’ waters are most still when the atmosphere is at the height of anarchy, and if the Bulls wanted to get pushed, the Milwaukee Bucks had no problem playing with reckless abandon for 58 minutes—forcing the Bulls to a momentum-filled, emotional contest.

The Bulls had no issues rebounding from an 18-point first half deficit, but buckled under the weight of an eight-point lead with 1:43 left, and it took two overtimes to take a 3-0 series lead against the pesky and game Bucks, with a 113-106 win at the BMO Bradley Center.

Look no further than the man who once hit a game-winner in the building in a previous life, Derrick Rose. Whether it was scintillating left-to-right drives to the basket or one of his five 3-pointers, he seemed to hammer home the school of thought that the Bulls need to rest to gear up for their anticipated 12-round bout with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“He’s playing at a very high level and playing as an MVP,” said Bucks coach Jason Kidd after witnessing Rose’s tour de force showing. “You look at how he can control the game from shooting ball from behind the arc very well.”

After splitting a pair of free throws with 4.9 seconds left in regulation that could’ve put the Bulls up one, he flexed his defensive muscles on Michael Carter-Williams in the second overtime, repeatedly stopping him as the Bucks went scoreless for the first three minutes.

“Defensively, we wish we could’ve did that in regulation,” Rose said. “In overtime we made sure we talked to each other. Communication is so big for our defense because we help so much and force people to shoot the ball.”

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Then he put the Bucks away doing what he does best: attacking the basket. After driving the lane for a layup to put the Bulls up eight, the demure 26-year old yelled out as the Bucks called timeout.

He rebounded his own miss on the next possession, scoring on another layup, sending the Bucks’ fans back home, visions of grandeur clearly erased.

“We’re playing against a very hungry team, a young, hungry team,” Rose said. “They’re pushing us. Defensively they’re great. We’re finding ways to win games.”

In 47 pressure-packed minutes, Rose scored 34 points with eight assists and five rebounds while Jimmy Butler scored 24 in 53 minutes of play, reversing the trend from Game 2, where Butler took over late.

That wasn’t the case early on, as the Bulls seemed overwhelmed by the Bucks’ energy and execution. Quality possessions were nowhere to be found, as they looked lost on offense and confused on defense. Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was relentless in his drives early, getting to the ball quicker than any of the Bulls.

His jumpers in transition were matched by forays to the basket where he merely turns into Reed Richards from the “Fantastic Four”—including a transition layup and foul where it looked like he barely had control of the ball, helping the Bucks to a 22-4 run, part of his 23-point performance.

“We got beat to the ball, beat in transition, and we got in a big hole,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought they were the aggressors to start the game.”

But the Ambien soon wore off, and the Bulls realized they had a golden opportunity in front of them if they could stay within striking distance. An 18-4 run put the Bulls down by four at the half, giving them new life, but the emotional swings were just beginning.

“I thought the ball pressure got better, we made our run to give ourselves a chance to get back in it,” Thibodeau said.

[MORE: Both Bulls and Bucks learn valuable lessons in Game 3]

Mike Dunleavy kept taking advantage of his limited opportunities, hitting four triples in the place he most called home, a handful of the 14 3-pointers the Bulls hit at a 42-percent clip—shots they had to take, even without Nikola Mirotic on the floor because the Bucks were giving them to the Bulls, daring them to beat them from beyond 20 feet.

Challenge accepted.

And before you knew it, panic turned to patience, evidenced by methodically moving the ball around before Noah found Taj Gibson for a reverse layup before the shot clock expired early in the fourth.

The next possession, Noah hit Gibson again, except Tony Snell was wide open, eagerly waiting for a wing triple that put the Bulls up seven, before the Bucks gamely cut the lead to two courtesy of back-to-back triples from Khris Middleton with 55.6 seconds left.

After Middleton hit another jumper, this one over Joakim Noah, Rose took on three defenders before getting fouled with 4.9 seconds left.

He made one of two free throws before Middleton’s triple banged off the rim, giving the Bulls extra basketball and a test they would soon pass—although they’d much rather learn this lesson in 10 fewer minutes.

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

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Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

It’s tough to call the position battle for the backup point guard spot on a Lottery-bound team important, but here we are two days into the Bulls’ season.

It won’t move the needle in NBA circles and Dwane Casey won’t be putting in additional time getting ready for Saturday’s game, but there appears to be potential for change in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation.

One day after an embarrassing display in a season-opening loss to the Sixers, Hoiberg said the Bulls have yet to make a decision on a potential lineup change for tomorrow’s affair against the Detroit Pistons. Kris Dunn, who missed Thursday’s game for the birth of his first child, was not at practice on Friday and may or may not be available for the home opener.

That could prompt changes after Cam Payne, inserted into the starting lineup, was largely ineffective, failing to score on 0 of 4 shooting in 21 minutes.

“We’re gonna see how practice goes today and then make that decision,” Hoiberg said. “It’s still up in the air on what we’re gonna do.”

The loss certainly can’t fall on just Payne, as the Bulls went lifeless after a 41-point first quarter that had them in the lead after 12 minutes. From there the Sixers outscored them by 29 in the second and third quarters, facing little resistance from a Bulls defense that doesn’t appear to have made much improvement from a year ago, Dunn or no Dunn.

Philadelphia shot 48 percent from the field, scored 20 fast-break points and 46 points in the paint, cruising to 102 points through three quarters before reserves finished things off. Even with Dunn the defensive prospects don’t look good, meaning Hoiberg might have to make changes to ignite the offense that scored just 35 points in those second and third quarters.

The Bulls could go a few different routes. Zach LaVine’s hot hand in the first quarter – 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting – saw the ball in his hands, and he even added two assists.

“It's a collective effort. You've got to have all five guys out there trying to play the right way and again, we found a recipe with Zach, especially in that first unit, where we let him bring the ball up the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We ran a couple actions where he was the facilitator and we put Cam in the corner. So a lot of that will be dictated by who has it going on a particular night and last night it happened to be Zach, so he was the one that was doing a lot of facilitating.”

Past a point guard-less lineup, the backups to Payne – Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis – could also see extended minutes going forward.

Arcidiacono had 8 points and 8 assists in 28 minutes, though the majority of those stats came in garbage time. Still, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and didn’t turn the ball over, and five of his assists resulted in makes at the rim.

Ulis, acquired off waivers last week, could inject some life into the second unit.

“He’s ready. He’s done a good job in practice,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gone through the system with him as far as what we expect and if there’s a point in the game where he can go out there and we feel he can help us, I’m confident that he’ll go out there and give us good effort.”

The point guard rotation isn’t the key to unlocking the Bulls as a lockdown defensive team, or no longer suffering the offensive dry spells that happened Thursday. But in a season that’s already showing signs of adversity, shaking up the lineup might be Hoiberg’s only chance.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.