Bulls' poor shooting leads to home loss to Hornets

931747.png

Bulls' poor shooting leads to home loss to Hornets

There will be nights like the previous evening, when seemingly every shot goes in for the Bulls (2-1), who shot nearly 64 percent from the field against the Cavaliers, and there will be games like Saturdays 89-82 loss to the Hornets (2-1) at the United Center. The teams offense-by-committee approach, which looks like a model of team basketball when executed to perfection, has its downside when the Bulls miss approximately two-thirds of their shot attempts, which occurred against New Orleans.

Coming off Fridays wire-to-wire dominance in Cleveland, it was surprising to see the Bulls come out lackadaisical against the undermanned HornetsChicago native and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis didnt make the trip after suffering a concussion and Eric Gordon, who was present following a trip to a Windy City knee specialist, but on the bench, as he will be for another four to six weeks reportedlyin the back-to-back affair. Al-Farouq Aminu and Austin Rivers, son of the Celtics coachin addition to being Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus former boss, Doc is a Chicago nativesparked the visitors with transition scoring and slashing half-court drives, respectively.

The hosts eventually woke up, by virtue of the fast-break play theyve emphasized since the preseason, and began to narrow the gap. An unexpected source, backup shooting Marco Belinelli (13 points), then became the catalyst, having his best stretch since he arrived in Chicagothe Italian sharpshooter knocked down a trey and a high-flying fast-break dunk against his former team, among other positive playsto help the Bulls pull to within 21-18 at the conclusion of the opening period.

Using the momentum from the end of the first quarter, the Bulls continued to make strides, with All-Star Luol Deng (19 points, eight rebounds, four assists) led the second unit as a go-to scorer. Taj Gibson (12 points, five rebounds, three blocked shots) was also a contributor in the home teams comeback effort, which was ultimately successful, as the Bulls seized the lead, as well as control of the game.

Joakim Noah (11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocks) started to pick up his play, as well, but the New Orleans inside tandem of Robin Lopez (16 points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots) and Ryan Anderson (12 points, 13 rebounds) both got it going, along with veteran reserve Roger Mason, making the contest a close-knit affair. Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez (18 points, six assists) sparked the guests late in the half and after draining a pair of triples, the Bulls trailed, 46-44, at the intermission.

After the break, Vasquezs solid play continued, as did Lopez in the pivot and with the home team having ball-security issues and lapses on defense, the Hornets gradually acquired some breathing room. Lopezs offensive improvement was noticeable, but his interior presence, along with that of his teammates, were major deterrents at the rim for the hosts.

Deng tried to keep the Bulls in the game with his scoring, but couldnt do it alone and attempts to chip away at the deficit were negligible. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls were still down. 66-60.

Gibson battled inside and Deng continued to manufacture offense, but timely scoring from various Hornets, particularly Vasquez and reserve big man Jason Smith (16 points), kept the Bullswhich rode a lineup of starters Deng and Noah for extended minutes, alongside backups Belinelli, Gibson and point guard Nate Robinson (15 points) to close out the gameat bay. To the call the contest a defensive struggle would be false, as the Bulls simply missed shots, but managed stay within contact due to hustle plays, getting to the foul line and their defense, though their play on that side of the ball wasnt up to their usual stellar standards.

Down the stretch, the Bulls stayed within striking distance and with under a minute to go, Belinelli had a chance to make it a one-point game, but he missed a three-pointer under duress and to compound the issue, Gibson was called for pushing off while trying to corral the offensive rebound, leading to Smith knocking down a pair of free throws to make it 83-77 with 53.5 seconds to go. The hosts kept fighting, but even with Thibodeau coaching until the final buzzer, the defense forcing turnovers and Robinson hitting long-range bombs, it was too late to make a difference.

Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade lift Bulls to win over pesky Heat

Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade lift Bulls to win over pesky Heat

The emotion of playing in Miami may have been missing for Dwyane Wade but it was still the Miami Heat on the other side, the franchise he put it all on the line for before the two sides couldn’t agree on a contract last summer.

So he still had some extra juice on a snowy Saturday night that probably made him yearn for the breeze of South Beach, giving the pesky Heat some of his wrath and little flash in a 105-100 win at the United Center.

Wade scored 28 points on 11 of 24 shooting in 35 minutes to go along with three rebounds, three assists and two blocks against his former team.

Wade got the Bulls off to a better second half start while Jimmy Butler, all too happy to lurk in the wings while Wade got his shots up, had his say late in the fourth when the Heat hung around longer than expected.

Butler and Wade combined to strip Goran Dragic on a weave play that could’ve tied the game for the Heat with seven seconds left and the Bulls leading by three, as Butler sealed the game with two free throws, finishing his 31-point, seven-rebound and five-assist night.

Bullying the smaller and slightly-built Heat defenders, he got to the basket at will and kept the pressure on the interior defense of Hassan Whiteside. Most of his production came from the midrange or the paint, as the Bulls took just eight 3-pointers and committed just 11 turnovers—making for a clean if not old-fashioned game.

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

They seemed to follow Wade’s lead, at least in style, as he probed and spun and danced his way to the rim for as many shots in the paint as he’s taken all season despite leaving more than a few on the lip of the rim or giving the officials sideways looks after not getting what he felt were rightful foul calls.

Wade scored 11 third after the Bulls were sleepwalking on one end of the floor for the first half, leading to a 55-all game, the type of performance that Gregg Popovich would’ve given a media lashing to afterwards.

Dragic owned his matchup against Rajon Rondo, getting to the paint at will, forcing switches and attacking the rim relentlessly whenever the Bulls left a sliver of an opening, scoring 21 with 11 assists before his unfortunate turnover.

One can say Dragic essentially kept the Heat in it for the first half as the Bulls’ defense hadn’t received its wake-up call, but it came in the form of Wade’s aggressiveness to start the half.

A sweeping hook shot was followed by the 34-year old splitting the defense on a fast break for a dunk and 3-point play, and he finished the spurt with a baseline spin and layup to put the Bulls up double-digits.

But the Heat wouldn’t go away—or the Bulls wouldn’t put a team playing its fourth game in five nights away—as the energetic Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardons came off the bench to give an ailing team a boost, combining for 26 points.

Whiteside was swatting away more than his share of shots and changing a few others, as he scored 18 with eight rebounds and three blocks but went scoreless in the fourth until his basket that brought the Bulls’ lead to one with a little over 10 seconds left.

It wasn’t pretty but it was effective enough for the Bulls to settle themselves and reverse a too-common trend of a big letdown after a big win.

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

If the Lions beat the Bears in Detroit, it'd be a recent rarity. No, not the Bears losing, but in this long series that reaches 175 games Sunday. One team or the other has swept the season series 11 of the last 12 years (the lone exception being 2011). The 17-14 Bears win Oct. 2 ended a string of six consecutive losses to their division rivals. At that point, both clubs were 1-3. The Bears have remained at that pace since, while the Lions have taken off, winning seven of eight.

It was Brian Hoyer's steady hand that guided that win, while a Vic Fangio defense missing Eddie Goldman, Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan forced Matthew Stafford into easily his worst game of the season.

1. STAY COMMITTED

That first meeting was Jordan Howard's first start, and his first 100-yard game, and the rook ran it 23 times for the first of five 100-yard rushing efforts (113). And since the two Bears touchdowns were scored by a couple of players who won't suit up Sunday (Eddie Royal and Zach Miller, from a quarterback who also won't be suiting up), keep feeding the beast. He's 117 yards from reaching the 1,000-yard mark (after just a dozen carries the first three games), and another 100-yard effort would give him the most for a rookie in Bears franchise history.

2. A FASTER START FOR MATT

...meaning Barkley, not Stafford. The Bears want to avoid a faster start by Stafford and the home offense, which was held to just one first down and 14 total plays on their first four possessions back in October. As Barkley makes his first NFL road start in a dome, he and his offensive teammates need to get out of the gate quicker than they have the last two home games. Before they got things rolling on the final drive of the first half against the San Francisco 49ers, they had four possessions that totaled 14 plays, 27 net yards and two first downs. In Barkley's first start two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, they surrounded one 13-play touchdown drive in the opening half with five possessions, totaling 16 plays, 108 yards, three first downs, and an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

3. HOO-RATIO

The Bears have lost the turnover battle in eight of their 12 games, and just twice have they won it. One of those instances was in Week 4. For a team that has just five interceptions all year, against a quarterback who's thrown just five picks, two came in the first meeting on the lakefront. And those picks were by (....wait for it....) Deiondre Hall (the rookie who'll play for the first time since that game), and Jacoby Glenn, who's now back on the practice squad. Now, yes, Stafford is a different beast in his den, and there's a completely different confidence level now for the NFC North leaders. But what if the defense can pull an encore? And can Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks pick up where they left off against another mobile quarterback? The Bears had just two sacks in the first meeting, registered by (....wait for it....) Mitch Unrein and Cornelius Washington.

** Finish up your snow removal by 11 a.m. Plop yourself in front of CSN, and watch ex-Bears Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Alex Brown join Chris for Bears Pregame Live. Then as soon as the second quarter ends on CBS, log on here to CSNChicago.com as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments on Bears Halftime Live. Finally, as soon as the team's start sharing handshakes, flip back to CSN as the three ex-Bears and Chris provide 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, press conferences and locker room interviews from Detroit on Bears Postgame Live. **