Wizards storm lethargic Bulls for wire to wire win


Wizards storm lethargic Bulls for wire to wire win

All-Star John Wall pumped his fists, pounded his chest and yelled at the United Center crowd all throughout the fourth quarter, as his Washington Wizards completed a total dominating performance against the rival Chicago Bulls.

Despite being shorthanded, the Wizards took full advantage of their circumstances with shooting guard Bradley Beal out and center Marcin Gortat a late scratch with a knee injury.

Or more glaringly, they took advantage of a Bulls defense that had been showing noticeable signs of slippage in the past several games, slippage that had been overshadowed by an improving offensive awareness.

A Wall-to-Wall showing from the Wizards culminated in a 114-100 win Monday night, as the Bulls must’ve been eager for their fans to get home for the college football national title game, because the sellout crowd made its way out of the building nearly halfway through the fourth quarter.

They played from behind from the start, and couldn’t sustain a recovery. They pulled to 89-85 with 9:34 left, but three minutes later a bevy of turnovers and missed opportunities led to a 13-point spread.

“They continued on (defensive issues). Again, we didn’t come out the gate with the energy we needed to. It’s beyond me how that can happen,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s consecutive games, we go on a nice win streak. We hit a little adversity, put our heads down and lose our fight.”

Hoiberg and the rest of the Bulls were in agreement: the communication broke down, leading to an opponent scoring over 100 for the fourth time in five games.

“The guys on the bench talked more than the guys on the floor, for whatever reason,” Hoiberg said. “That’s huge focus going into every game and two games in a row we hadn’t done the job.”

Wall scored 17 with 10 assists and five rebounds, one of seven Wizards who scored in double figures. All 10 Wizards who played scored and all could claim a tangible piece of the dead carcass that was the Bulls, in what should’ve been an energetic start to a four-game in five-night stretch.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Instead, even with Joakim Noah returning from a nine-game shoulder-injury absence, he went scoreless in his seven shots during 19 minutes of run—which seemed to go right along with the rest of his team.

If not for Derrick Rose’s 23 points, the game would’ve gotten ugly quicker than it did, as the Wizards had a 15-point lead midway through the second quarter and after weathering a couple meager runs in the third and start of the fourth, pulled away quite easily to put it away with six minutes remaining.

Garrett Temple scored 14 and did an admirable job guarding Jimmy Butler, who struggled to score 19 points with seven assists. Butler committed a couple early turnovers while the Bulls fell behind in the first and was unable to catch a rhythm.

With the disadvantages presented by the Wizards, not even a 40-point night may not have done the trick, as the Bulls shot 42 percent and committed 16 turnovers, while giving up 60 first-half points for the fourth time in five games.

“You can see it, teams are doing whatever they want to do on the floor,” Butler said. “We’re not doing what we’re supposed to do coverage-wise. We’re not talking like we’re supposed to be talking. You can tell. We’re not the tougher, more physical team.”

It was a bad matchup for anybody in the frontcourt, as the Wizards set the Bulls up by spreading them out and then picking them apart, piece-by-piece. Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson were chasing around the likes of swingman-by-trade Otto Porter Jr. and Jared Dudley, far outside of their respective comfort zones.

It opened up the floor for more than drives to the basket, like open shots on the perimeter and open space on the Wizards’ offensive glass as they got every loose ball, resulting in 19 second-chance points.

Drew Gooden came off the bench to give the Bulls fits with 12 points and 10 rebounds, hitting open shots and retrieving more than his share of boards that should’ve belonged to the Bulls.

Mirotic, Gibson and Pau Gasol struggled with the Wizards’ speed, just like the Bulls did against the Atlanta Hawks over the weekend. Gasol scored 15 with 10 rebounds, but was often caught flat-footed on the glass and on defense for most of the night.

And it sends the Bulls, once a team that seemed like it righted itself a week ago, back to the drawing board as they play a crucial stretch away from home.

“If you wanna be a top team, you wanna be a contender, you can’t afford (this),” Gasol said. “Championship teams don’t do this, bottom line.”


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.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:

Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.