Bulls

Winning ugly never looked so good

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Winning ugly never looked so good

There was nothing pretty about the Bulls win over the Sixers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference playoffs. It didn't need it to be. In fact, ugly never looked better as the Bulls escaped elimination. It was the type of gritty, hard-nosed game the Bulls built most of their season on. The kind of game they usually win, but failed to pull out in Philadelphia, twice.

"It wasn't pretty," acknowledged Kyle Korver afterwards. "But, this is the way we need to play to win this series. Grind it out."

The Bulls won for the first time since losing Derrick Rose to a torn ACL in Game 1. It was the most emotional and energized I've seen the team in three games. The primal screams coming from Bulls players after scoring a key basket or making a big defensive stop seemed genuine. Not just for show. They came together for the first time in a while as a collective unit instead of the separate struggling parts that faded down the stretch in Games 2 and 3.

A skirmish at the Bulls bench in the first half proved the Bulls were willing to put up a fight, literally. Luol Deng said the scuffle, 'fired us up.'

Whatever it takes. The Bulls were willing to get bloody in this one. Philadelphia is not a big physical team. Neither are the Bulls for that matter, but Chicago decided this one had to get ugly and they were willing to muck it up and it took the Sixers out of their game.

"We cannot play out of character and go play smash-mouth basketball," noted Doug Collins. "You can't let one game get you going in the wrong direction. Teams are struggling to get inot the 80's. This is playoff basketball."

Yes, it's playoff basketball Chicago-style now. For three of the last four games, the Bulls have held Philadelphia under 40 percent shooting. It may make for some low-scoring games and NBA snobs may think they're watching brutal basketball, but like Korver said, this is the way the Bulls need to play to win this series.

The Bulls have never been a very stylish team. Even Derrick Rose who's been known to make some spectacularly pretty moves, has to work for most of what he gets. Without him, the Bulls have no chance of winning any beauty contests. But, that's not what they're here for. They're here to win a basketball game any way they can.

It's about survival. And the Bulls survived to play another game.

You can complain about the quality of the basketball if you want, but a W is a W. For now, winning ugly never looked so good.

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

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AP

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.