Bulls

Rose's buzzer-beating triple gives Bulls 2-1 series lead

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Rose's buzzer-beating triple gives Bulls 2-1 series lead

If you didn’t see the 3-pointer from Derrick Rose flow like a missile into the rim off the glass, the roaring approval of the United Center let you know the Bulls pulled off an improbable win to take a 2-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 99-96 final.

Rose took the inbounds pass with three seconds left and the game tied at 96, caught Tristan Thompson on a switch and sent the Chicago crowd home with something they haven’t seen in ages, as he flipped the narrative on himself and this Bulls team — putting up a 30-point game with one day’s rest, calmly lifting this franchise to within two games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“It was a broken play, I was supposed to get the ball in the corner,” Rose said. “When I ran to the corner I wasn’t open so I ran toward the ball. Mike (Dunleavy) threw me the ball, I drove right.”

Dunleavy’s angle gave him the perfect view, as 47 minutes and 57 seconds came down to three seconds, as the Bulls had to improvise on the broken play to make a way out of no way—especially when they gave themselves a heart attack by not fouling on the previous play.

[SHOP: Buy a Derrick Rose jersey]

After J.R. Smith tied the game with 10 seconds left with a triple off a pass from LeBron James, this one seemed destined for overtime but Rose’s shot into the Chicago sky ended the night in 48 minutes—a hard-fought one that could’ve gone the other way and squandered homecourt advantage the Bulls stole in Game 1.

“In some situations you like to do that and these guys are getting pretty good that if they catch facing the basket and you wrap them up, we actually lost a game like that. But in certain situations we definitely want to foul.”

James struggled again from the field, although his stat line of 27 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds looks great, he had to fight Jimmy Butler for everything, often finding the league’s Most Improved Player making his case for Defensive Player of the Year with the yeoman’s work he did on James.

Butler forced James into seven turnovers, with five steals to go with his 20 points and eight rebounds. Butler's late layup with 33.9 seconds left gave the Bulls a 94-93 lead before he forced James into a missed layup on the ensuing possession.

[WATCH: Rose's game-winning three-pointer over Thompson sends Bulls home winners]

“The two of them in the backcourt played great. We had a lot of guys step up,” Thibodeau said. “(James) reads the game extremely well. He’s seen every possible defense and he shows a lot of patience.”

Taking the all-important swing game lived up to its name, as the momentum swung all night, and kept swinging, even after Pau Gasol exited in the second half due to a left hamstring strain.

James had to make the bulk of offensive decisions because Kyrie Irving was hampered by a right foot injury that limited him to just 11 points and zero assists in 38 minutes. The return of Smith (14 points) after a two-game suspension and Matthew Dellavedova (10 points in 15 minute) helped keep the Cavs from being completely anemic offensively, as they shot 39 percent.

The Bulls fought back from their own ineptitude on offense, shooting 27 percent in the first quarter and 35 for the first half, scratching and clawing behind Rose and bench production from Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson, two of the unsung heroes on the night. Mirotic scored 12 with eight rebounds, giving the Cavaliers fits and forcing them to put James on him while Gibson helped the Bulls to a 54-39 rebounding edge on the glass with nine points and nine boards.

[MORE: Cavs can live with Rose's game-winning shot]

“They played well during the season together,” Thibodeau said. “Niko can space the floor for you. Taj gives you rebounding. They complement each other well.”

The Bulls began to shake out of a slow first half behind Rose as soon as halftime ended. Rose first three possessions, going straight to the basket.

“I just wanted him to read the game,” Thibodeau said. “When he does that, getting it up the floor quickly and getting us to play with pace. That doesn’t mean to the rim all the time but when you generate speed and you get hit, that’s my understanding of how fouls get called. He forced them to make calls tonight.”

Only taking one jumper, Rose’s activity buoyed the Bulls, as he was determined to get to the rim with 10 points in the period, a testy one for both sides as they began to realize neither will back down, leading to some testy exchanges and technical fouls.

But they were lifted early by Joakim Noah’s energy, as he heard the calls for his benching and responded with a fervor only he can bring.

Many presumed Mirotic’s playing time must come at the expense of Joakim Noah’s defensive awareness, but Thibodeau managed to coax the most from both at the same time.

Noah’s activity and Mirotic’s shooting was just what the United Center crowd needed to see—before Rose truly sent them on a high at the buzzer.

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

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USA TODAY

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.