Bulls

Rose, Butler lead Bulls to efficient win over Grizzlies

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Rose, Butler lead Bulls to efficient win over Grizzlies

The narrative surrounding the Bulls dictates a team that goes nine deep and has more who are capable of playing heavy, productive minutes, giving Fred Hoiberg the best of options if he so chooses.

But Wednesday night displayed who the real Chicago Bulls are, or at least who they should aim to be this season.

Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler leading the charge and everybody else following behind, and Rose told his coach after shootaround he would have a great game.

The guard duo had arguably its most complete and efficient game of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies, combining for 43 points on 41 shots and it led to an 98-85 win at the United Center, a sight for sore eyes, so to speak.

If Hoiberg had any doubt to Rose’s text message vow, Rose hit three field goals in the first four minutes, being more aggressive to start than he’d been in the last game against Philadelphia as a whole.

“You could see it on the first possession. He really went hard to the basket,” Hoiberg said. “I loved his energy. He set the tone right from the start."

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Doug McDermott hit big triples in the second half to keep the Grizzlies at bay while Butler and Rose were on the bench, and Aaron Brooks hit one to offset an uneven ballgame.

Rose had silky, under control drives with confident finishes at the rim while Jimmy Butler started off hitting tough shots but decided to make the game easier as the night went on.

Rose finished with 19 and five assists while Butler lead the Bulls with 24, four rebounds and four assists. McDermott hit four triples to score 17 as the Bulls hit nine triples to the Grizzlies’ five, albeit on 26 percent shooting.

“People want me to go out and shoot 25, 30 times,” Rose said. “You have to wait, especially being the point guard. You gotta see who’s hot. We have to find our identity as a team and we’re trying to figure all that out early in the season, too.”

The backcourt took nearly half the shots but it was necessary and welcomed, as they for once, dictated the terms of the evening together and in concert.

“They were absolutely playing off each other, they were taking turns on the ball screens,” Hoiberg said. “We did a better job getting their bigs away from the basket.”

Rose admitted he wants to elevate his level of play and considering he’s had the luxury of the Bulls being one game out of the top spot in the East despite a choppy start.

Sometimes unsure, many times passive, Rose shook himself from his lethargy and illness to produce an impactful game.

“We’ll see. Jimmy’s been playing consistent,” Rose said. “He’s been playing great basketball. I gotta come along. It may become that but we still have to find that identity.”

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Butler and Rose were the catalysts in the third quarter, after the Bulls had a turnover-filled end to the first half where only Butler hit field goals in the last five minutes of the second quarter, allowing the Grizzlies to take a 3-point halftime lead.

Butler had steals for layups while Rose had an impressive stretch where he took control of matters. He cleanly penetrated to the rim before Marc Gasol came over to help, leaving the lane open for Pau Gasol for a layup and 3-point play.

Then Rose beat Mike Conley off the dribble for an easy layup before following it up with a steal off Conley and another layup. By the end of the third, the Bulls held the Grizzlies to just 13 points and only needed to actually finish the ballgame in the way they didn’t finish the first half.

“I think our leadership came from the right people,” said Joakim Noah, who had six rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes.

Pau Gasol didn’t do much scoring but he didn’t force his offense, becoming the 10th Bull to make a field goal early in the third quarter and his 3-point play with a little over three minutes left gave the Bulls an 11-point lead he played solid defense on his brother, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, to just eight points. Wings Courtney Lee and Jeff Green, who seemed to be more featured than Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph as Randolph comes off the bench for a smaller starting unit, could only keep up for so long.

Lee went scoreless in the fourth to finish with 18, and Rose did a good job defending Conley, holding the cagey guard to just eight points on 3 of 13 shooting.

The Bulls are struggling to find an identity while winning but for this night, the identity revealed itself—and the Bulls shouldn’t run from it.

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
 
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
 
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
 
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
 
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
 
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
 
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
 
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
 
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

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USA TODAY

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.

Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.

It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.

It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.