Bulls' defense comes unglued in Game 2 blowout

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Bulls' defense comes unglued in Game 2 blowout

Coming off a Game 1 win in which they mostly dominated the action, then watched superstar Derrick Rose suffer a devastating, season-ending torn left ACL injury, the Bulls vowed to play with the same ferocity they did when Rose was absent for approximately half of the regular season. During that time, they achieved the leagues best record for the second consecutive season.

Well, the plan worked for a half Tuesday night, before the Bulls succumbed to a barrage from the 76ers, falling 109-92 in Game 2 of the first-round series, which is now tied at one game apiece.

Despite Roses injury, the home team and its supporters had ample reason to be in high spirits, as the reigning league MVP surprised fans by presenting the game ball to the referees at the outset of the contest before watching his teammates from a luxury suite in the arena. Without the All-Star point guard, the Bulls exemplified balance in the opening period, as all five starters got on the board.

Former All-Stars Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton were especially active in the early goingthe latter dished out four assists, perhaps compensating for the absence of Roses playmaking abilitywhile Joakim Noah (21 points, eight rebounds, five assists) brought his typical energy, All-Star Luol Deng displayed his versatility and fill-in starter C.J. Watson ran the team well.

Meanwhile former Bull Elton Brand, less-than-beloved Chicago native Evan Turner (19 points, seven rebounds, six assists), point guard Jrue Holiday (26 points, six assists, 11-for-14 shooting, 3-for-3 from three-point range) and rookie reserve Lavoy Allen (11 points, nine rebounds) were each effective for the visitors, but the Bulls held a 28-25 edge after a quarter of play.

Philadelphia proved that while Roses injury was the story in Chicago, they were more concerned with evening the series and stealing home-court advantage, as Holiday continued to do damage with his penetration and finishing ability, not to mention the Sixers as a whole getting out in transition. At the same time, the Bulls suffered through one of their periodic scoring droughts and appeared generally listless.

To cure their woes, Noah was inserted into the contest and immediately made an impact, particularly on the offensive end, where he was effective off the dribbleincluding making Sixers reserve forward Thaddeus Young look silly with a dynamic in-and-out moveand knocking down his unorthodox Tornado jumper, complete with his trademark finger funs celebration.

But the star of the quarter was fan favorite John Lucas III (15 points, four assists), who notched 11 points and three assists, finally getting the partisan audience to respond in a manner worthy of the contests magnitude and helping the Bulls take a 55-47 lead into the intermission.

After the break, Philadelphia stormed back behind Holiday, whose torrid outside shooting and dynamic finishing gave the Bulls fits. With Turner, his backcourt mateSixers head coach Doug Collins inserted the West Side product and center Spencer Hawes into the starting lineup for Game 2, giving the visitors more sizeshowcasing his all-around skills and Brand popping out for mid-range jumpers, the Sixers went on a 17-6 run to start the third quarter to seize the lead.

While Watson bounced back from a previously dreadful period to help stem the tide for the time being, it didnt last long, as Philadelphia got out in transitionAll-Star swingman Andre Iguodalas monster dunk, plus the foul, hushed the crowdand Turner found his rhythm. With the games momentum dramatically shifting, aided by multiple dunks in both transition and even against the Bulls set defense, the Sixers lead ballooned, putting the hosts in a 83-69 hole entering the final stanza.

Philadelphia continued to pour it on at the outset of the fourth quarter, dominating the Bulls vaunted defense in the paint and scoring on the break, as the likes of reserves Young, Allen and Lou Williams (20 points, six assists)the Sixth Man of the Year candidate and his teams leading scorer during the regular season found his offensive game and torched the Bulls in a variety of ways, from alley-oops and transition layups to contested pull-up jumpers and tough finisheswere all major factors.

As the game shockingly headed toward blowout status, the United Center crowd voiced its displeasure with the home team and a portion began to exit midway through the period with the Bulls deficit hovering around 20 points.

The energy that marked the Bulls regular season without Rose in the lineup simply wasnt therethat held true for the fans, tooand there would be no miraculous comeback, as the Sixers just isolated their preferred matchups and successfully attacked one-on-one off the dribble.

Now, after giving up home-court advantage in the series, the Bulls must look in the mirror and determine how much fortitude they have after taking a beating, then go on the road and win in a hostile environment.

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What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

The Bulls have made their biggest decision of the offseason but the future of Rajon Rondo and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade, is still in the air.

Due to the trade for Kris Dunn and the Bulls having acquired Cameron Payne at the trade deadline last season, it doesn’t appear to be much room for Rondo. Even moreso, considering Dunn and Payne’s lack of production, one would think the Bulls would easily guarantee Rondo’s $13.3 million for next season.

But with the June 30th deadline approaching, it seems more and more like the Bulls will buy Rondo out for $3 million and go with a total youth movement, despite Rondo’s success with guiding some of the young players on the roster.

If not for Rondo’s wrist injury in Game 2 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, the Bulls could’ve advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Instead, they’re embarking on what could be a long process that may take years to recover from.

“He’s always been a great teammate and nurturer of the young guys,” said Bill Duffy, Rondo’s agent. Duffy also serves as Zach LaVine’s agent, so he was in attendance for LaVine’s introduction at the United Center.

The handling of Rondo’s benching, re-emergence and subsequent importance to the Bulls this past season has helped Rondo, in a sense. Rondo proved to be a galvanizing force to a degree after being shuffled in and out of the starting lineup.

“I think it’s fair to say he definitely showed a different persona that what had existed but like I said, he’s always been that way, I think it’s more publicized,” Duffy said. “I think he just loves to develop people, always managing and directing. So I think that’s always the case with the younger guys.”

If Rondo is released—and it certainly appears matters are trending in that direction, the 31-year old could have suitors in the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers, sources tell CSNChicago.com. One would think the Bulls could use Rondo’s type of straightforward but encouraging brand of leadership in the locker room, but the Bulls have yet to guarantee his contract for next season.

“That’s still to be determined,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’re going to sit down with Bill and talk it through. We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team, the right veterans – guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys and can continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”

“The proof’s always in the pudding and I think if you talk to the front office and coaches, they really love what he brought and how he handled the challenges last year,” Duffy said. “I think we all mature over time and he’s been in the league a long time. He wants to win but he loves the game. I think he appreciates it more, he’s kinda of in his twilight years or approaching it.”

As for Wade, he exercised his $23.8 million option for next season as he was expected to, but that was before the Jimmy Butler trade that ushered in a new day of change.

There’s been speculation Wade would seek a buyout from the Bulls at the start of free agency but so far, those conversations haven’t been held and Paxson intimated Wade would have to give back a significant amount of that money to become a free agent.

There’s been speculation of Wade joining LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as Carmelo Anthony getting a buyout from the Knicks and following suit.

But the Cavaliers will have very little to offer in the way of cap space, so it’s tough to see Wade giving back a large sum then going to Cleveland for the veterans’ minimum—which would not make up the difference of a “significant” amount.

“I know Gar has spoken with Leon Rose, Dwyane’s agent, As far as the buyout, that has not been broached,” Paxson said. “I would say this: In this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us. It would have to benefit us. Dwyane was a great pro last year, and he’s been around a lot of different situations.”

But with Wade’s history of giving up large sums of money in the name of team, it’s harder to predict his moves. As strong as his relationship with Butler is, the possibility of Butler being moved didn’t affect him picking up his option, so his desire to play competitive or at least meaningful basketball could be weighed against wanting to keep his family comfortable after relocating to Chicago last year and collecting every dollar of his deal.

“He was in Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years as well,” Paxson said. “So right now we’re operating under assumption that he’ll be here. But like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, it would have to be advantageous for us."