Bulls' comeback bid falls short against Warriors


Bulls' comeback bid falls short against Warriors

OAKLANDThe curse of Oracle Arena continued for the Bulls (1-1) against the Warriors (1-1) Monday night, as Chicago lost on the road to Golden State for the third consecutive time, 99-91.

Derrick Rose once again struggled in Oakland and the Bulls defense was uncharacteristically poor in the second game of the young season, as they failed to complete an improbable late comeback for the second straight night.

No defense, turned the ball over, put them into the open floor and gave them a lot of confidence early. You cant do that against a team like this, observed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team committed 20 turnovers on the evening.

Well, I think when youre on the road, you have to understand how difficult it is to win on the road, so you prepare yourself by being ready at the start of the game and you have to play defense, and you cant make it easy on them and youve got to take care of the ball. Youve got to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourself first and then you have to establish your defensive game first. You have to know who you are: defend, rebound, inside-out, share the ball, low turnovers.

A fast-paced start to the contest played to the home teams strengths, as the transition-loving Warriors played at their desired pace. David Lee got the upper hand in his matchup with power-forward counterpart Carlos Boozer, though the Alaska native was able to get a semblance of revenge as the first quarter went on. The visitors successfully got new acquisition Rip Hamilton (10 points, four assists) involved from the outset and the game was a close-knit affair.

Meanwhile, Golden States go-to scorer, Monta Ellis wreaked havoc on the Bulls defense with 13 points in the opening periodgetting buckets in a variety of methods, from posting up the taller Hamilton to fast-break layups and deep jumperspropelling the Warriors to an early advantage. Through one quarter of play, the Bulls trailed, 30-22.

Contributions from reserves Kwame Brown, Brandon Rush and Ekpe Udoh propelled the Warriors, guided by star point guard Stephen Currys stellar floor generalship, to a double-digit winning margin early in the second period. Chicagos vaunted defense failed them and sloppy play reigned on the offensive end, even after Thibodeau reinserted his regulars, as a rash of turnovers compounded matters.

Our defense was bad and theyre a very good pick-and-roll team. We kind of struggled all game keeping them out of the paint. From the start of the game, I thought our defense wasnt there. A team like that, after the first quarter, they got confidence and they played with the lead the whole game, said Luol Deng.

Youve got to play hard and I thought, for some reason, they played harder than us from the start of the game and we cant keep doing that. I know its only two games, but falling behind and fighting back, its never fun and thats not the kind of basketball we want to play. We dont want to get into scrambling and trying to catch up all game. It just takes us out of our game.

After trailing by as much as 19 points, Rose (13 points on 4-for-17 shooting and 1-for-8 from three-point range, eight assists) decided he had enough. Perhaps the shellacking they took on the same court a season ago, in which he committed a career-high nine turnovers, motivated him and began to put his own unique stamp on the game, aided by Hamiltons perimeter marksmanship, in an effort to chip away at the deficit. But continued unforced miscues, lapses in transition on both ends, the smaller Warriors ability to compete on the boards and plain old errant shooting from the Bulls put them in a 57-41 hole at halftime.

Things didnt get much better for the Bulls after the break, as the trio of Lee (22 points, seven rebounds), Curry (21 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, six steals) and Ellis (26 points, seven assists) continued to decimate the guests of raucous Oracle Arena with their scoring prowess. Deng (22 points, 10 rebounds) was one of the few bright spots, but his individual efforts werent enough to counter an overall poor shooting performance, surprising ineffectiveness on defense and a general lack of focus.

Usually, your turnovers are a result of one of two things: either the risky pass or its one-on-one. We had a combination of those two things, said Thibodeau. Ellis and Curry are hard to guard normally, so then, you put them into the open floor and theyre coming at you with a live ball, and then were not back on the raise of the shot, so were not protecting the basket. Youre giving them easy baskets. You give a team like that easy baskets, their confidence goes way up and theyre impossible to stop after that. We cant play like that. We have to play defense, we have to rebound and we have to take care of the ball.

Golden States up-tempo approach and improved defensive intensity were appreciated by their always-supportive fans and the arenas carnival-like atmosphere only grew rowdier as the Warriors maintained their wide winning margin. Thibodeau made adjustments, tinkered with his lineups and went deep into his playbook in an attempt sway the tide, but the Bulls couldnt do anything right in a third quarter that ended with them on the wrong end of a 78-61 score.

Early in the final stanza, Chicagos inadequacy could be summed up by Curry tossing his second half-court alley-oop of the gamethe first, early in the contest was to Lee; swingman Dorell Wright received the secondan occurrence almost never seen against the Bulls, let alone twice in the same contest. Currys blend of scoring and playmaking gave the visitors increasing trouble as the game wore on, but the determined Bulls, as usual, refused to give up hope in what appeared to be a blowout loss in the making.

Thibodeaus troops soldiered on in their usual dogged fashionto counter Golden States small-ball quintet and zone defense, Deng and Rose partnered with reserves Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver (11 points) and C.J. Watson (13 points); the latter, a former Warrior, provided one of his patented scoring bursts in his old stomping grounds.

The Bulls trimmed a 19-point deficit to single digits with under five minutes to play. The action was fast and furious as the game entered its stretch run, but the Bulls made little headway, despite Watsons scoring, Gibsons inspired interior defense and Korvers late three-point barrage, resulting in new Warriors head coach Mark Jacksons first win.

Well, thats their strength, is the way they push and we ended up getting in such a big hole that we felt like we had to try to do something to speed it up the other way, so we could get going a little bit. But youre playing in such a big hole and youre scrambling to get back, said Thibodeau.

We were just searching, to be honest with you. It was a flat game. We had to get some energy into the game and so, we went with the two point guards, Lu had been playing well the whole game and Kyle gives us the three, so we felt we could get it up quickly and maybe make up some ground with the three.

Added Joakim Noah: Weve just got to play better as a team. Its disappointing to lose like this, but weve got to bounce back. Weve got another one in a couple days.

We cant let teams score on us the way that theyve been scoring on us. Theres a lot of improvement to be made, he continued. Its frustrating to lose the way that we lost and theres definitely a lot of things that we need to do better to go to where we want to go.

Thibodeau just said it was expletive and hes right. Were not going to get to where we want to get to playing defense like that and its frustrating. We have to improve, the center, who grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, went on to say.

Theres a lot of areas where we have to improve. Even though we won against the Lakers Sunday, we played well in lapses, but theres definitely areas that we need to get better at to get to where we want to get to.

They scored a lot of points off our turnovers in transition, bad pick-and-roll defense, bad post defense, lack of communicationeverything. Our defense was just bad. It was better at the end.

A dejected Rose appeared to take the loss just as hard.

Defense, defense, defense, he said. Of course, I missed a lot of bunnies tonight, open shots I normally hit, along with some of the other people on the team, but defensively, I think our communication, thats a big thing, but we can always fix it. All these things, we can learn from. If anything, its going to make us a better team.

The biggest thing is how quick we can jell. I think thats everybodys concern right now, he continued. Well play this team again. For sure.

We just dont want one of these nights again, anytime soon. Just learn from it and try to keep it moving. But remember.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Looking ahead to opening night matchup against Celtics

Bulls Talk Podcast: Looking ahead to opening night matchup against Celtics

In our latest installment of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill get you set for opening night against the Celtics. 

They debate realistic expectations for the team and break down the decision to start Taj Gibson at power forward. Later, Schanowski and Gill analyze the team's biggest concern, defense. 

Finally, CSN New England's Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely joins the panel to discuss what Rajon Rondo has left in the tank. 

Check out the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast below: 

Mark Schanowski's 2016-17 NBA playoff predictions

Mark Schanowski's 2016-17 NBA playoff predictions

With the 2016-17 NBA season tipping off tonight with three games, here's a look at how the playoff races might end up.

Let's start with the West, where Kevin Durant's move from Oklahoma City to Golden State may have shifted the balance of power for the next half decade.

1. Golden State (Projected record, 67-15). Sure, it might take the Warriors a little time to build their on-court chemistry, but if you watched any of the preseason games, that lineup is absolutely lethal. Durant looks relaxed in his new environment, and will get more open 3's than he ever could have imagined in Oklahoma City. The "Splash Brothers", Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, should be more rested come playoff time since they won't have to do all the heavy lifting during the regular season. Add in do-everything forward Draymond Green, underrated veteran center Zaza Pachulia and elite sixth man Andre Iguodala, and it's pretty clear Steve Kerr's guys will run away and hide from the rest of the Western Conference field.

2. L.A. Clippers (55-27). It's now or never for Doc Rivers' crew, with a number of key players potentially headed for free agency next summer, including starters Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. Griffin got off to a fast start a year ago, but then saw his season ruined by injuries and a suspension for fighting with a team employee. Paul is still an elite point guard, but may decide to leave if things don't go well this time around. Lots of talent on this roster including first-team All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan, and Rivers again tweaked his bench with the addition of free agent stretch five Marreese Speights (from Golden St.), forward Brandon Bass and swingman Alan Anderson.

3. San Antonio (53-29). Never underestimate the ability of Gregg Popovich to put together a championship contender, but with Tim Duncan retired and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker past their prime, the Spurs don't seem to have the ingredients to survive three brutally tough playoff rounds in the West. This team now belongs to Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, with former Bulls center Pau Gasol taking over for Duncan. The Spurs are trying to get younger, but it looks like the championship window may have closed.

4. Houston (50-32). Interesting experiment by first year coach Mike D'Antoni to put ball-dominant guard James Harden at point guard. I guess D'Antoni figured since he has the ball in his hands all the time, what's the difference? It's no secret Harden did not get along with big man Dwight Howard (who's now in Atlanta), and he could put up MVP-type numbers this season with the freedom he'll get at the offensive end. More importantly, the addition of three-point shooting threats Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon in free agency could make the Rockets one of the most entertaining teams to watch on League Pass.

5. Portland (49-33). How about another first round playoff shootout between the Blazers and Rockets? We could do a lot worse. C.J. McCollum cashed in big-time after winning the league's Most Improved Player Award, and you can pencil the Blazers backcourt in for about 50 points a night with Damian Lillard emerging as a top 10-15 player in the league. Portland could use a little more punch in the frontcourt, but with wingmen Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe also capable of scoring points in bunches, they should be okay with a big man rotation of Mason Plumlee, former Illini Meyers Leonard, former Warrior Festus Ezeli and young power forwards Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh.

6. Dallas (46-36). Rick Carlisle is one of the NBA's best coaches, and he'll figure out a way to build another playoff team around the skills of all-time great Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas added Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut from the Warriors, and should benefit from a full season from Wesley Matthews. Former Illini star Deron Williams returns to run the point, and the bench is decent with J.J. Barea, Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell and Seth Curry, who played very well late in the season with Sacramento.

7. Oklahoma City (44-38). Russell Westbrook is determined to keep his team in the playoffs without Kevin Durant, which means you can count on Russ playing at an MVP level this season, possibly averaging 30-8-8. I like the addition of Victor Oladipo at shooting guard, but the Thunder sacrificed power forward Serge Ibaka in the process. OKC still has its big man duo of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, but a lot of question marks with depth on the perimeter.

8. Utah (43-39). After just missing the playoffs a year ago, the Jazz should find a way to break through this time around. Gordon Hayward is one of the league's most underrated talents, and Utah should really benefit from the addition of veteran point guard George Hill, plus proven winners like Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw to help out their talented young players. Derrick Favors has quietly emerged as a rock solid power forward, with the "Stifle Tower", Rudy Gobert anchoring the defense from the center position.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Now to the East, where everyone's chasing the reigning champions.

1. Cleveland (58-24). The Cavs should really go over the 60-win plateau, but LeBron James understands it's all about the playoffs, and will sit out a number of regular season games to stay fresh. The roster is almost identical to last year's, except for the addition of former Bulls' forward Mike Dunleavy and rookie point guard Kay Felder. Don’t be surprised though if the Cavs wind up signing former Heat point guard (and James teammate) Mario Chalmers when he’s fully recovered from injury. Assuming everyone stays healthy, look for Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith to take on a lot of the scoring load during the season, and let LeBron put on his Superman cape for Round 3 against Golden St. in the Finals.

2. Boston (52-30). The Bulls' opening night opponent should be stronger than ever with the addition of All-Star big man Al Horford and lottery pick Jaylen Brown. Former Butler coach Brad Stevens didn't take long to master the NBA game, and has waves of perimeter talent to run at opposing teams, led by All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas. Small forward Jae Crowder stole a page from his former Marquette teammate Jimmy Butler on how to be a force at both ends of the court, while big men Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller work well in Stevens' system.

3. Toronto  (50-32). Another 50-win season is in the cards for the team from the Great White North. The Raptors kept shooting guard DeMar DeRozan with a huge contract in free agency, and he'll again team with Kyle Lowry to form one of the league's best backcourts. Toronto needs more production from talented, but inconsistent center Jonas Valanciunas and a full season of health from defensive menace DeMarre Carroll. Depth could be an issue, especially with free agent addition Jared Sullinger already sidelined because of foot surgery.

4. Indiana (49-33). The Pacers decided to make a coaching change after last season's first round playoff exit because team president and Hall of Famer Larry Bird wanted to play faster. So, former assistant coach Nate McMillan replaces Frank Vogel, and the Pacers traded for long-time Hawks' point guard Jeff Teague to push the pace. Paul George is primed for the best season of his career, and Indiana made a great under-the-radar pick-up by acquiring power forward Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn. Second-year center Myles Turner should also have a big impact as a scorer and shot blocker. The Pacers also have scoring power off the bench with Al Jefferson, Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles. Great offseason for Larry Legend.

5. Detroit (47-35). Stan Van Gundy has done a tremendous job changing the culture in the Motor City, getting shoot-first point guard Reggie Jackson to buy in to his philosophy, while staying patient with Andre Drummond's free throw shooting woes. Drummond is a monster on the boards, and one of the league's best centers overall. Van Gundy also has done a good job on the personnel front, stealing talented forward Tobias Harris from Orlando at the trade deadline last season, and picking up Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson in the draft. Jackson will miss the start of the year after foot surgery, but the Pistons should take off when he returns.

6. Atlanta (46-36). It will be interesting to see how the Dwight Howard experiment works in Atlanta, because Howard destroyed team chemistry with the Lakers and Rockets. Howard looked good in the preseason, but will he start to pout in a 3-point heavy offense? Former Bull Kyle Korver is still going strong at the age of 35, Kent Bazemore is a better than average two-way wing player and Paul Millsap is an All-Star going into a free agent season. Biggest question for the Hawks: Is Dennis Schroder ready to be the full-time point guard, or did Mike Budenholzer make a mistake by trading Jeff Teague?

7. BULLS (45-37). One thing we know for sure, the Bulls won't be boring this season with the addition of strong-minded veterans Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. Wade seems genuinely excited about playing in his hometown, and Rondo spent all summer at the training facility getting to know head coach Fred Hoiberg and his new teammates. Jimmy Butler will be asked to increase his scoring from his two previous All-Star seasons, and the Bulls are counting on Doug McDermott to emerge as an offensive force off the bench. Robin Lopez will provide an upgrade over injury-plagued Joakim Noah in the middle, and the power forward tandem of Taj Gibson and Niko Mirotic should be solid. If newcomers Michael Carter-Williams and rookie Denzel Valentine can gel quickly as the reserve backcourt duo, the Bulls have the potential to be one of the NBA's biggest surprises.

8. Charlotte (43-39). Hornets coach Steve Clifford is a Tom Thibodeau disciple, emphasizing defense over everything else. Charlotte lost productive veterans Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee in free agency, but the cupboard is hardly bare. Point guard Kemba Walker could make the All-Star team this season, and perimeter players Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams all bring something different to the table. Depth will be the biggest issue with former Bull Marco Belinelli and Chicago-area product Frank Kaminski being asked to provide offense off the bench.

I would like to tell you we should expect some big surprises when we get to the playoffs in mid-April, but it’s hard to envision any team beating Golden State or Cleveland in a best of 7 series. Round 3 between the Warriors and Cavs will find Kevin Durant celebrating his first NBA championship after a Game 6 win at Oracle Arena.