Blazers rookie Lillard rankles Bulls with last-second dunk

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Blazers rookie Lillard rankles Bulls with last-second dunk

PORTLANDPrior to his teams loss to the Trail Blazers, Bulls head coach was practically gushing over Portland rookie point guard Damian Lillard, a strong early-season Rookie of the Year candidate.

Very impressive. His skill set makes him very hard to guard. His ability to shoot the ball sets everything up. Very clever in the pick-and-roll. Plays with a lot of poise for a rookie, Thibodeau evaluated. Hes taking seven threes a game and if he gets a clean look at it, its always a very good shot, so that sets up the drive, and when you add in Aldridge and Batum and Matthews, its a very explosive team.

The young floor general, the sixth overall pick in Junes NBA Draft out of tiny Weber State, has indeed opened up his eyes with his play this season, showing the ability to step up in the clutch, run a team at a high level, knock down shots and get into the lane and finish. Lillard finished with 16 points Sunday evening, but it was his final two that raised a mild controversy.

With the game already in hand following the Bulls last-gasp comeback, the point guard took the ball in for a two-handed dunk with 0.9 seconds on the clock. Afterwards, he was confronted by Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, who werent too pleased with his display of showmanship, which many perceive to unsportsmanlike in NBA circles.

It is what is, Thibodeau said about the play.

Asked if he spoke to Lillard, Noah responded, Yeah, but its a non-issue. Its okay.

Gibson, however, was more forthcoming about the incident.

Lillard didnt say anything. He was making a scene out of nothing. He made a dunk, and me and Joakim just addressed it like, In the future, youve just got to be smarter. A lot of teams are not going to let you do that, and Trail Blazers forward Jared Jeffries just came up and told me the same thing, that I was right, he explained. But it wasnt anything more than that. I was just like, You cant do that. Youve got to be smart.

Bulls backup point guard Nate Robinson, who shares an agency with Lillard, was also on the court and talked to Lillard, who hes previously reached out to as a veteran dispensing advice.

I just told him, Thats not the right play, dog. Just dribble the ball out. You all have got the victory already, stuff like that. Everybody around the league watches that. That pisses people off. Youre losing already, then youre going to finish it off with the dunk at the end. Thats how, you could say, flagrant fouls and things like that happen. You dont want anything like that to happen to anybody in the league, where guys kind of hold grudges about things like that.

But its a part of basketball. It happens. Its not a big deal, but its just something that you dont, Robinson recounted. I just told him, Thats not the right play, dog. You had a good game, just dribble it out and then, we go on our way. Take our L like a man.

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

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Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."