Belinelli atones for mistakes with game-winner

985129.png

Belinelli atones for mistakes with game-winner

BOSTONMarco Belinelli didnt seem like hed be lucky Friday night.

After struggling Wednesday in Toronto, where he used to play for the Raptors, the Bulls backup shooting guard was experiencing another rough outing against the Celtics. From questionable shot selection to turnoversafter being trapped in the corner, he threw up a wild three-point heave that hit the top of the backboard on the Bulls second-to-last possession of the gamethe Italian sharpshooter simply didnt have it going.

But when it counted, Belinelli hit the go-ahead, game-winning shot, an improbable fallaway jumper with 3.1 seconds remaining in the extra session, to give the Bulls a 100-99 overtime win over Boston.

It was just natural. I know thats a crazy shot. The ball went in, but I didnt play well. When I took the shot from the corner, that was a bad position for us. Anyway, forgot that, I scored the ball in the last seconds, we played good defense and weve got another one tomorrow, so keep going, he recounted afterwards. The play was give the ball to Jo, try to hand off and play something quick. Okay, I passed the ball to Jo, they denied me. They pressed the ball very well in the last couple seconds, so Jo passed the ball to Booz. I was denied and I just played backdoor, and Booz made a great pass to me, and I tried to score. That was a good shot, but first of all, its important that we won the game.

The final play didnt occur as planned. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau didnt draw it up the way it developed on the court, but a day after his 55th birthday, hell take the win against his former employer.

Well, there were a lot of plays in that game, but were just obviously happy that we found a way to win the game, the coach said. And often times, thats what happens. Its the scramble play. Theyre very good defensively. They take options away from you and youve got to go to counters, and youve got to be able to read, and you cant freeze, and you cant hold the ball. So, he bailed us out. Big shot. A big play was Jimmy and Joakim tying up Pierce at the end, just to give ourselves a chance, so sometimes you need that. I thought the defense was good most of the good, the rebounding was good. The Celtics are playing well. You have to earn the win. I thought thats what we did.

Rip Hamilton, the Bulls high scorer on the evening, chimed in: He was due for it, man. I thought it was a great shot. They tried to trap him the one time, going into the corner, and we almost turned the ball over. I thought the next one, he came out, he was aggressive, just focused on trying to make it and he made it.

For Belinelli, the final shot had a redemptive quality, as he was mobbed by his teammates at midcourt following the final buzzerafter Bostons Courtney Lee missed a last-gasp attemptand all of his mistakes were atoned for.

I feel really good. In my mind right now. Its great to feel like that. First of all, I think we played a good game after a difficult game like Toronto, after another overtime. We played good and we have a great team. When I scored the last shot, I saw all my teammates at halfcourt, happy for me, so it just really feels good for me, said Belinelli, who couldnt recall prior game-winning shots in his career afterwards. I cant wait to see the picture. Thats a great moment for me.

Just amazing, he continued. I know that was a crazy shot on the previous possession. I took a tough shot from the corner, but you never know in the NBA. Sometimes, the ball goes in. That was a terrible shot for us, so its good. Its good to come back. That was a good pass from Boozer. That was a good team win.

This is what youre living for. These are the great moments of your life. I love basketball, I love this team, I love Bulls fans, the organization, so just keep going.

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

For the opening three quarters in Atlanta, the Bulls were off. 

So off, in fact, that Dwyane Wade tweeted an apology to Chicago fans after the game. 

Thanks to a furious run by the Bulls' bench, the final score ended at a respectable 102-93. In reality, though, the Hawks dominated. 

Wade and company trailed by 29 points at half and 30 at the end of three. The 35-year-old shooting guard finished with a minus-18 and just four points while All-Star starter Jimmy Butler posted a team-low minus-22.

The Bulls will look to shake off their lopsided loss against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. 

 

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

The bus was warm before the game started, as the Bulls looked like they wanted no parts of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was evident from the jump that playing with a full and healthy squad for one of the few times this season wasn't enough to arouse their competitive juices, as they put together arguably their worst 48-minute showing in a 102-93 loss at Philips Arena, dropping them to 21-23 in a game they trailed by as many as 34 points.

The practices have apparently been the sterling jewel of effort and competitiveness for the Bulls but it hasn't carried over through the season as the inconsistency continues to be maddening — one that seems to go beyond the "growing pains" mantra that's been fed by all involved so far this year.

"It could be things but I don't want to share it with the media," a sunglasses-clad Dwyane Wade said outside the locker room, in a rare mood of not being elaborative following a loss.

It appears even the professional's professional has gotten a bit more frustrated than usual — understandable considering the way the starters came out with a lack of energy, with more turnovers (eight) than field goals (six) in the first quarter.

"Continue to try to lead behind the scenes," Wade said. "Can't stop when it's bad, when it's good. You gotta be the same."

Fred Hoiberg, fed up with the starters, ran with the reserves for the fourth quarter and outscored the Hawks by nearly 25 points, bringing the lead to 95-90 with a minute left before a Dennis Schroeder jumper restored order with 52.6 seconds left.

Four Hawks scored in double figures led by Schroeder's 25 points and six assists and Paul Millsap scoring 14 while making all four of his shots in just 22 minutes of run.

[MORE BULLS: Dwyane Wade not buying into the Bosh to Bulls speculation]

Perhaps it's the Hawks being the same kryptonite to the Bulls that the Bulls are to the Toronto Raptors — except the Bulls simply frustrate the Raptors, not embarrass them.

"I have been, we have been, tired of this. I gotta come out better," said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 19 points in 29 minutes. "I gotta play better from the jump, 48 minutes. That's not the way we're supposed to play. 

"The way we practice is not the way we play in the game. Don't ask me why, I don't know. Starting with me and going down the line, we gotta be better as a whole. Otherwise we'll keep getting our asses beat and it's bad."

The Hawks shot over 60 percent for most of the night until the game devolved into what amounted to a pickup game late. After all, the Hawks seemed to be battling boredom by half, leading 65-36 and shooting 68 percent from the field and hitting 67 percent from three.

"We're gonna look at everything and we'll see how we go out and start tomorrow and a couple days after that, hopefully we figure some things out," Hoiberg said. "They shot over 70 percent in the first quarter and you dig yourselves a hole and it's impossible to get out."

Hoiberg said he would evaluate everything leading into Saturday's game at home against the Sacramento Kings, but Friday didn't seem to present any realistic lineup changes based on performance.

Bobby Portis scored 10 with seven rebounds off the bench, with Jerian Grant scoring 12 and Paul Zipser 10. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined to shoot two for nine, so one wonders where Hoiberg can go.

"I don't know. Practice is good. Practice is great," Butler said. "Practice is not gonna win you games. We gotta take what we do in practice and take it over to the game."

The Bulls weren't about to make it any more suspenseful than it had to be, as they started off missing their first 11 3-pointers, often missing multiple open looks on the same possession.

It wasn't relegated to just shooting as the Bulls squandered easy opportunities in easy situations, like Denzel Valentine turning a three-on-one fast break into an airballed finger-roll attempt that he caught himself — a violation, of course.

"I don't know, I can't put a word on it. Because it's just talk," Butler said. "Doesn't matter what you say, if we don't go out there and do it, what the hell is talking gonna do? We've been up and down all year. If we don't guard and turn the ball over, games get out of hand very quickly."

This one was over a few minutes into it, as the Bulls looked like a lifeless squad with no direction and very little fight, short of a minor dustup between Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the third quarter.

At that point, though, all Howard had to do is point at the scoreboard, where a 30-point lead did all the necessary talking.

The Bulls trailed by 20 even before Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 35-footer to end the first quarter, sending the Hawks off on a high and seemingly demoralizing the Bulls.

Even Butler's 19-point night, hitting six of his eight shots in 29 minutes, rang hollow. The Bulls could've trotted out a D-League team for the second half to gear up for Saturday's game against Sacramento and been better off than how they performed Friday night.

And for the Bulls, they can't simply just go back to the drawing board. There looks to be something fundamentally wrong with this bunch — either that, or the Atlanta night got the best of them Thursday.