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Rose, Butler show up late to save Bulls in win over Kings

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Rose, Butler show up late to save Bulls in win over Kings

With the closest thing to a full deck the Bulls have had seemingly all season, they had a chance to right some of the wrongs from early in the season by way of beating an under-.500 team.

And with the tumultuous Sacramento Kings coming to town, the stage was set for the Bulls to win their third straight game, re-establish themselves with playoff positioning and inject some much-needed confidence, something they’re seemingly on the brink of.

Or they could give it away.

“Early in the year, I’m not sure we would’ve won this game,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, as his words illustrated what 20,000 people in the building were thinking Monday night.

But the Bulls max players wouldn’t let such a thing happen, as Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler combined to do it in different ways when times got direst, leading to a 109-102 win at the United Center.

It felt more like a decision than a win, but considering Pistons’ center Andre Drummond was tipping in a win for the team breathing down the Bulls’ necks just as the Bulls were giving it away, it seemed appropriate the Bulls’ players with the pedigree stepped forward to secure a win.

Because boy, it was dire.

[MORE BULLS: Pau Gasol's return to Bulls lineup a success in win over Kings]

After blowing a 12-point lead in the third quarter and watching Rudy Gay, Caron Butler and former Bull Marco Belinelli storm the United Center, Rose and Butler re-entered with the Bulls trailing by three and 8:40 remaining.

It went to five and held at 95-90 with 6:33 left, then the Bulls woke up.

“The guys got themselves in a big huddle and played the most important part of the game,” Hoiberg said.

With the Bulls flailing away, Rose hit two jumpers to spark a 10-0 run, shutting down the Kings’ opportunistic offense. His last gave the Bulls a 98-95 lead with 3:49 remaining, finishing with 18 points and four assists.

“Just taking what they’re giving me. I’m reading the play,” Rose said. “It was my teammates giving me the ball in position to actually do something.”

Butler didn’t have a banner night by any stretch, but his work on the offensive glass, tipping home a miss, getting a steal underneath the basket and then feeding Mike Dunleavy for a triple — his eighth helper of the night — to give the Bulls a 105-97 lead.

“We need to have that urgency for a longer stretch if we want to be successful,” Hoiberg said. “We played well for six minutes, luckily it was the last six of the game.”

[MORE BULLS: NBA Power Rankings: Leonard, Spurs go toe-to-toe with Warriors]

The stars showed up late after the bench players carried them early in Pau Gasol’s return.

Taj Gibson had another workman-like performance with 18 points in 33 minutes, as he found himself guarding virtually every position on the floor.

Doug McDermott sparked the Bulls yet again, hitting four triples for 16 points, most of them in the first half as the Bulls appeared to gradually pull away from the game Kings. Justin Holiday hit three triples of his own, and Bobby Portis added some energy before the group faltered in the fourth.

“We’ve had games where we let that slip, where we got blown out being down by that much,” Rose said. “Hopefully we’re learning from it. But when we have a team down like this we have to keep them down.”

Luckily as Butler struggled to a 3-for-10 finish, they didn’t turn the ball over much, with just nine giveaways and tallying 28 assists while hitting 12 3-pointers.

With Butler’s struggles, they needed every bit of what Gasol could offer in his return after a four-game absence.

Gasol played 24 minutes and scored 14 points with 14 rebounds, while being tagged as being a primary defender on the best center in the game, DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins scored 19 with 17 boards, but he wasn’t the main reason the Kings got back in the game after falling behind 69-57 on a Dunleavy triple.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

The Bulls couldn’t bully the biggest bully in the game, but they could sure bother him. They double-teamed him and doubled him hard, forcing eight turnovers and taking him out of his rhythm, making him get his offense by going to the glass and doing unconventional things, like taking rebounds end to end for layups.

“Pau was great,” Hoiberg said. “I thought he guarded Cousins as well as anyone can play him, and he still got 19.”

In his stead, Gay and Caron Butler began hitting jumpers to keep things close, and surprisingly the Bulls’ perimeter defense started taking plays off, allowing the relentless Rajon Rondo and reserve guard Darren Collison to get to the basket almost at will.

Gay scored 18 with five rebounds, while Collison scored 19. Rondo scored 14 with five assists and four rebounds, while Butler added 10.

“Where before, if we had a lead, it got cut and we would go on a downward spiral,” Hoiberg said. “The urgency is finally helping us.”

But surprisingly, as things got tough, the Bulls buckled down a bit and showed something many weren’t sure they possessed.

Character.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

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

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."