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Three observations from the Bulls' 3-0 lead

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Three observations from the Bulls' 3-0 lead

MILWAUKEE — A few observations on the Bulls-Bucks series, where the Bulls can pull off a sweep and take a week of rest before the second round begins, presumably against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

1. The Milwaukee Bucks are giving them a great fight and will be a formidable foe in the future:

Like most teams down 3-0, the Bucks feel they’re a couple plays or moments away from being in this series or leading. That may be delusional thinking, but Khris Middleton did have a good look at the end of regulation Thursday night before the extra 10 minutes of basketball drained everyone in the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

[MORE: Goodwill: Game 3 provides Bucks, Bulls playoff lessons]

The Bulls certainly played with fire throughout, as the Bucks gave them all they could handle before succumbing late. But a nucleus of Michael Carter-Williams, Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker is an excellent foundation to a future power in the East. The Bucks are going to go away for the summer soon, but they’re not a flash in the pan for future references. They’re going to be a legit threat in what should be a vastly improved Eastern Conference in the next couple years.

2. This is a different Derrick Rose:

A lot has changed in the NBA since that day Derrick Rose went down with his gut-wrenching knee injury in 2012, but somehow he’s expected to be the same, reckless and consciousless player that won the 2011 MVP. Just because he’s missed, in his words, “damn near three years,” it doesn’t mean his interpretation of the game is supposed to retard. Sitting on the sidelines may have thrown off his timing but the way he processes the game has continued its maturation.

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If you’re expecting to see THAT Derrick Rose, you’ll be waiting. But a player who sees the floor better, who utilizes his teammates more and yes, a player who shoots that streaky perimeter jumper more (46 percent 3-point shooter in this series), that’s what Rose is. What he lacks in explosiveness, Rose has gained in basketball IQ. His defense on Michael Carter-Williams was magnificent late in Game 3, and he was often in the scrums retrieving loose balls, helping his big men out before starting his Sonic the Hedgehog fast break. He hasn’t completely lost what made him special from an athletic standpoint; He’s more selective about when to employ his athleticism compared to using his brain, which should be a welcome sight.

3. Rose and Jimmy Butler play off each other better than expected:

Rose and Butler each have the ability to take over stretches of playoff games, which isn’t a surprise. But the way they’ve complemented each other while the other goes on a game-changing run should be noted. In Game 2, Butler tattooed his name on the game late, hitting jumpers and driving to the basket to close the Bucks out. But Rose did his part in feeding Butler and staying aggressive without disrupting Butler’s flow — a fine line to balance.

In Game 3, Butler did the same for Rose, concentrating a lot of energy on defense (note that step-in-front steal to start the second overtime) while also making himself enough of a threat to keep the Bucks from keying solely on Rose. If nothing else, the Bucks’ defensive intensity is great preparation for a Cleveland Cavaliers team that sorely lacks in that category — as Butler and Rose getting to know each other better here can only bode well for down the line.

Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley's path to the NBA was an intriguing one, a true story of perseverance featuring many twists and turns. For those who haven't closely followed Beverley's career, the Chicago native and current Los Angeles Clipper had a three-year career overseas before he really caught on in the NBA, landing a multi-year deal with the Houston Rockets in 2013. Before landing with the Rockets, Beverley played for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine), Olympiacos Piraeus (Greece), Spartak St. Petersburg (Russia) before landing in Houston but a lesser-known fact is that Beverley actually spent time practicing with the Bulls within the first two years of his overseas basketball career. 

On Saturday's episode of "The Woj Pod" hosted by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Beverley discussed the importance of glue guys, Kris Dunn's season and much more. One of the more interesting tidbits was the aforementioned workouts with the Bulls. Beverley responded to a Woj question about if he could've played with the Bulls had things went differently earlier in his career:

I worked in the summertime with the Bulls, I don't know, two-three years in a row, Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense...

Beverley elicited laughter from the crowd but he is clearly (and some would say rightfully) still upset by those who didn't give him an opportunity along the way. He went on to say that there is a "dynamic that fans don't know" and "can only assume." In the interview, Beverley didn't give a specific year but he says "two-three years" and clearly states that Vinny Del Negro was the head coach, meaning that he likely scrimmaged with the Bulls at points during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

When you take a closer look at those rosters, the possible matchups Beverley had become incredibly interesting to think about. The 2009 Bulls had nine players scoring in double figures — and a 10th scoring 9.9 points per game in Kirk Hinrich — and the 2010 Bulls had six players scoring in double figures.

Beverley could've had matchups against Larry Hughes (12,0 PPG in '09), John Salmons (career-high 18.3 PPG in '09), Ben Gordon (20.7 PPG in '09), or even Derrick Rose (18.7 PPG from 2008-10). Out of that group, Gordon and Rose specifically, can make any defender look bad on their best day, so maybe Del Negro's mistake wasn't as egregious as it appears now. Either way, Beverley certainly hasn't forgotten the ordeal. 

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Derrick Jones Jr. takes down Aaron Gordon in an all-time great NBA Dunk Contest

Derrick Jones Jr. takes down Aaron Gordon in an all-time great NBA Dunk Contest

Ask anyone from Chicago around All-Star weekend, and you'll quickly learn the city breeds tough, gritty and relentless basketball.

Apparently, it also breeds controversial dunk contests.

Thirty-two years after Michael Jordan bested Dominique Wilkins in a contest at the Old Chicago Stadium that many agree saw a healthy heaping of home-cooking on the menu, Derrick Jones Jr. topped Aaron Gordon in an affair that sent shockwaves through the NBA universe. Here's the rundown:

Highlights from regulation

There was a special feeling about this one from the very beginning.

Perhaps white men can jump:

 

 

Dwight busted out the cape (again) — and tributed Kobe along the way:

 

Aaron Gordon at one point rattled off five 50s in a row:

 

The finish

In the end, it all came down to Gordon and Jones, who duked out a dunk-off that featured some absolute haymakers:

 

It was raucous fun, truly. But the controversy came at the finish. Jones' final dunk was an attempted reprisal of Julius Erving's famous free-throw line dunk (re-popularized by Jordan, partly in that aforementioned '88 contest), which registered a 48. Gordon then pulled out the 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall for an improvised leapfrog that nearly tore the roof down.

 

"It was a great decision for him to do that. Everybody knows Tacko's a fan favorite," Jones said. "I knew it was going to get the crowd hyped."

"He (Fall) was a little bit nervous. He was like 'I got faith in you.' I was like, 'I appreciate it,'" Gordon said.

That dunk, though, garnered only a 47 from the judges. Game, set, match: Jones. Boos cascaded from the rafters.

The reaction

That sentiment carried over into the postgame presser.

"What are we doing here?" Gordon bemoaned to assorted media before even taking his seat at the podium. "Jumping over somebody 7-foot-5 and dunking is no easy feat. What did I get, like a 47? Come on, man. What are we doing?"

All fair questions. All fair points.

"I don't even know who gave me the 9s. I'm going to find them," he added with a laugh. "Trust me, I'm going to find them tonight.

Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen and Chadwick Boseman... Look out.

Gordon did give Jones his due, calling him a "leaper" and "great dunker." Still, this appears to be the final contest of Gordon's career.

"It's a wrap, bro. It's a wrap. I feel like I should have two trophies," Gordon said, alluding to his defeat at the hands of Zach LaVine in 2016. "My next goal is going to be trying to win the 3-point contest."

Jones, meanwhile, contested the premise that Gordon was robbed at all.

"When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing since high school and I know that's 50-worthy. There's no way I should have got a 48," Jones said. "He clipped Tacko's head when he did that dunk, so I knew they couldn't have gave him a 50 for that one. I would have respected it if they gave him another 48, so we can go again."

In that event, Jones said he would have been ready.

"I just turned 23, I got legs for days," Jones said. Jones' birthday was the night of the contest, and he said he had dunks planned for as long as the judges allowed them to.

And though Jones hasn't yet thought about where this dunk contest ranks in the history of ones before, he's ready for the next challenge.

"Whoever want to step out there. I don't know. I'm not naming no names. I don't want to call nobody out, but whoever want to step out in front of me, I'm there. I'm not going to shy away from nobody."

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