Bulls

Surging Bulls host Chris Paul-less Hornets

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Surging Bulls host Chris Paul-less Hornets

Monday, March 7, 2011
10:23 a.m.

Associated Press

(AP) -- Even at close to full strength, New Orleans likely would have a hard time beating the surging Chicago Bulls. Minus All-Star guard Chris Paul, that challenge becomes much more difficult.

After a frightening injury, the Hornets will be without Paul on Monday night when they try to avoid a sixth consecutive loss to the Bulls, who are seeking their ninth straight home win.

Paul suffered a concussion and left the court on a stretcher in the third quarter of Sunday's 96-81 victory at Cleveland. Averaging 15.9 points and 9.6 assists, Paul hit his forehead on the shoulder of Cleveland's Ramon Sessions while trying to retrieve a loose ball.

WATCH: Top 5 Bulls Plays of Last Week

Paul, who stayed on the floor as trainers from both teams attended to him, moved his legs and feet and was responsive on his way to the hospital. He rejoined the Hornets in Cleveland and accompanied them on their flight to Chicago.

"He is in good spirits, talking and cracking jokes in the background," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "He was ready to get out of the hospital, as most of us hate being in hospitals."

The Hornets (37-28), who have won two in a row since losing 12 of 16, likely can't afford to be without the four-time All-Star for long, especially with starting swingman Trevor Ariza nursing a strained groin and in danger of missing a third straight game.

New Orleans forward David West is back healthy. He scored 23 points Sunday, two nights after he sprained his ankle during a 98-91 victory at Memphis.

West hasn't been impressive in seven career games at Chicago, averaging 10.6 points on 39.7 percent shooting. Without Paul or Ariza, West will need plenty of help against a Chicago team that is coming off a 4-1 road trip.

Two days after beating a tired Orlando club 89-81, the Bulls (43-18) swept their three-game season series against Miami with an 87-86 victory Sunday. In doing so, Chicago passed the Heat for second place in the Eastern Conference.

WATCH: Rose pleased with Bulls' team effort vs. Heat

"We're just taking it for what it is," said All-Star Derrick Rose, who scored 27 points. "We're just trying to win games, play hard and play aggressive on both ends."

The Bulls did just that on their recent road trip, especially on the defensive end, where they gave up 80.4 points per game.

"Our defense is really improving," forward Joakim Noah said. "We're just trying to play the best we can. I think we still have a long way to go and we can get a lot better. That's what is so exciting about this team."

It would seem hard for the Bulls to get much better at the United Center, where they are 26-4 and have won 16 of 17. Chicago has not won nine straight at home since a 10-game run Feb. 28-April 11, 1998, during its last championship season.

New Orleans has lost two straight at Chicago and four of its last five visits there, averaging 87.8 points in those meetings.

Rose had 23 points with six assists while Paul finished with 15 and six assists in the Bulls' 97-88 win at New Orleans on Feb. 12. Rose, however, has totaled 18 points on 9-of-29 shooting in two career home games versus the Hornets.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Clutch Markkanen lifts Bulls over Magic

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USA TODAY

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Clutch Markkanen lifts Bulls over Magic

On this edition of Bulls Outsiders, Matt Peck, Dave Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 110-109 win over the Magic and another great game from Lauri Markkanen.

0:45       Reaction to Bulls win vs Magic and 2 game win streak

1:45       Maturation of Lauri Markkanen

6:00       On Zach LaVine’s game and chemistry with Lauri Markkanen

7:15       Viewer comment on why wins are bad and thoughts on Boylen

11:50    Viewer question on Kris Dunn

15:00    Reaction to Space Jam 2 with Lebron James

21:30    Reaction to Luka and Lauri in Rising Stars game

24:00    Carlos Boozer and tweeting the wrong Zion get well soon

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

Three Takeaways: Point-Zach LaVine rounding into form

Three Takeaways: Point-Zach LaVine rounding into form

The Bulls held on to win what will perhaps go down as their weirdest win on the 2018-19 season. In a game with 23 lead changes and 17 ties, the Bulls came out on top after a series of fortunate (or unfortunate depending on where you stand on wins and losses these days) events. With the game tied at 106 all, former Bull DJ Augustin was fouled by Kris Dunn and received two free throws. Augustin--a career 86.3 percent free throw shooter--missed both free throws to give the Bulls life late in the matchup.

A clutch putback tip-in from Robin Lopez wasn’t the final nail in the coffin for the Magic, as wing Evan Fournier hit a huge 3-point shot with just over 7 seconds left in the game. This setup Markkanen’s clutch free throw attempts at the end of the game, in which he sank two of three to seal the Bulls 15th win of the season.

Lauri Legend in the making

The number one thing Bulls fans were concerned with post-Bobby Portis/Jabari Parker trade was if the departure of the two offensive-minded forwards would allow Markkanen to flourish. So far the answer is a resounding yes.

The Finnisher finished (see what we did there?) with 25 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 38 minutes of playing time. The double double was Markkanen’ 8th in his last 10 games, and his 13th double double overall on the season.

In the month of February, Markkanen is putting up All-Star numbers. Through 7 games he is averaging 25.3 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.6 APG and shooting 47 percent from the field. But just as important as the fact that he is putting up great stats is the way he is collecting those numbers. In recent weeks, we have seen a lot more from Markkanen in terms of taking his defender off the dribble, as he possesses solid speed for a big man.

So far through 36 games played in 2018-19, Markkanen’s 3-point percentage is 38.3 percent, just over a 2 percent increase from last year. And on top of that, he is actually attempting more 3-pointers as well. So with defenses frantically trying to deny him clean 3-point looks, using a--dare I say “Mirotic-esque”--pump fake to open up a driving lanes will take Markkanen’s burgeoning offensive game to the next level. In fact, a pump fake and side-step is the exact move that led to Markkanen drawing the foul on Aaron Gordon that led to the game-winning free throws.

The moment a solid NBA player becomes a superstar is when volume meets efficiency. Markkanen’s usage rate has increased from last year and his offensive rating has increased by about 4 points as well. If Markkanen’s season goes as it did last year, we can expect to see more fireworks as the Bulls closeout 2018-19. In the ‘17-’18 season, April was Markkanen’s highest scoring month.

The steadying force

Bulls head coach Jim Boylen was yet again--and rightfully so--quick to compliment Otto Porter on his play since joining Chicago.

“He’s just a steady force. He can be a receiver or a creator. Those guys are invaluable.”

Porter racked up 17 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, a block and a steal in 38 minutes. His 17 points came on an inefficient 15 field goal attempts, but he still ended up a team-high +10 from the field. Boylen was right  to call OPJ a “steady force” because whether or not he has a great shooting night, he is willing to do all the little the things to contribute to winning basketball.

You can always count on Otto-matic Otto--he of the career 40.2 percent 3-point percentage-- to hit a couple 3-pointers, but with Chicago, he has started to explore his off the dribble game. He is shooting 33.3 percent this season on pull-up 3-pointers--down from 45.2 percent last season in Washington--but he has more than doubled his pull-up 3-point attempts as a Bull.

Porter is not going to turn into Steph Curry overnight, but even at 25 years old, he can get even better at pull-up jump shooting. This part of his game being unlocked in Chicago gives Boylen another competent  ball handler to run secondary pick-and-roll actions.

Through his five games as a Bull, Porter is averaging 2.6 APG, almost a full assist better than his season average. Yet another part of his game that seems to be evolving under Boylen. And most important is the fact Porter’s sharing ways seems to have rubbed off on the rest of the roster.

LaVine the PG?

Through 7 games in February, LaVine is averaging 5.9 APG, which would be higher than any season-long assist average of his career. And this isn’t some sort of random flash in the pan, as the 2 turnovers per game he is averaging in February are the lowest of any month this season.

If LaVine--who has always been a solid passer despite his reputation--can consistently keep the turnovers down while playmaking this much, the idea of him as the Bulls long-term answer at point guard has to be taken seriously.

The main issue with the defensive-minded Dunn being the starter at point is the fact that he cannot hit an open 3-point shot, which was on display on Friday night, as he went 0/2 from 3-point range. Juxtapose this with LaVine, who absolutely made it rain from deep.

As per usual, LaVine wasn’t a major difference maker on defense, but he did a solid job all night. He was very adept at sliding his feet to stay with Augustin and though he did give up his fair share of easy drives, he defended without fouling (1 personal foul on the night).

LaVine’s 22 PTS came on a very efficient 14 shots, and this is no doubt the type of offensive performance that Boylen and co. hope to see more of over the last 23 games.