Bulls look to fend off surprise Warriors on CSN

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Bulls look to fend off surprise Warriors on CSN

When the Bulls glanced at their 2012-'13 schedule, a Jan. 26 meeting against the Warriors at home likely was nothing more than an afterthought. Golden State had gone just 23-43 in the strike-shortened season under first year head coach Marc Jackson the year before, and a roster without much overturn was not expected to do much damage in the deep Western Conference.

But here the Warriors stand at 26-15, fifth in the conference and 4.5 games back of the No. 2 seed Clippers in the Pacific Division, ready to keep their hot streak alive when they square off against the Bulls tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.

Arguably the biggest surprise in the NBA began the year 7-6 but won 10 of 12 during a stretch through the end of November and beginning of December to move to 17-8. The Warriors are 9-7 since Dec. 18, when the streak ended, but are playing their best basketball after home wins against the top two teams in the West -- a Monday win over the Clippers and a Wednesday win over the Thunder -- entering tonight's game.

The Warriors have been led by Stephen Curry, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after being perhaps the biggest snub from this year's All-Star game roster. The fourth-year combo guard is enjoying his best statistical season, averaging 20.9 points, 6.6 assists and a league-best 3.2 3-pointers per game, but was passed over on the All-Star roster for guards Tony Parker and James Harden and "wildcards" Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge. Seeing as Curry is on pace to become the first player in NBA history to average 3.0 3-pointers per game and 6.0 assists, combined with the Warriors resurgence this year, made him a likely candidate for the roster.

But the Warriors won't be unrepresented on All-Star weekend, as power forward David Lee was named to his second All-Star appearance when the reserves were announced Thursday evening on TNT. His numbers are close to career-highs -- his 19.6 points and 10.8 rebounds this year are close to his 20.2 point- and 11.7 rebound-averages in 2009-'10 when he was first named an All-Star -- but the Warriors' improved record and rebounding numbers are both indicative of Lee's impressive season.

While Lee has been impressive inside and Curry -- shooting better than 45 percent from beyond the arc -- has been as good as anyone from beyond the arc, the third part of the triple-headed monster is sophomore shooting guard Klay Thompson. The 6-foot-7 Thompson was considered the best shooter in the 2011 NBA Draft and didn't disappoint when he shot 41 percent from 3 after Golden State made him the No. 11 pick. While his percentages are slightly down in his second season, his 2.7 made 3-pointers per game are third in the league. Thompson's game hasn't fully rounded out -- he averages just 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game -- but he is a perfect complement to Curry and has made the Warriors' backcourt one of the most lethal in the West. Interesting to note, Thompson has made 49 of his last 51 free throws (96.1 percent).

Two different styles will clash tonight at the United Center -- Golden State is 8th in the NBA in 3-pointers per game (7.8) and second in percentage (39 percent) and are averaging 100.7 points per game; the Bulls are last in the NBA at 4.7 mad 3-pointers and 11th in percentage, averaging 93.6 points per game -- and the Bulls are looking to win their season-best third game in a row at home. Tune into Comcast SportsNet tonight for all your Bulls' coverage.

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

The post-deadline era has begun for the Bulls, with the directives clear on developing their young players and seeing what can be done in the last third of the season.

And while their youth sparked them early, it was the headliners who stepped up late in their 128-121 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at the United Center, as the team was clearly adjusting to life without Taj Gibson, who was traded Thursday.

Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade each had sluggish starts, to say the least. Each looked like he was going through an island-like malaise through the better part of three quarters before waking up.

Butler finally ignored the snooze button at the most opportune time, nearly winning the game in regulation with a tying triple, then a fadeaway 15-footer over Eric Bledsoe to cap off a late comeback that saw the Bulls rebound from an eight-point deficit with a few minutes left in the fourth.

"That's what great players do," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They step up when you need them the most. Jimmy obviously had a tough night shooting the ball (early). ... What he's been doing all year, taking over the game in the fourth, and tonight was no different."

Then Wade, in one of his few post-halftime mistakes, controversially fouled Suns sharpshooter Devin Booker on a triple with 1.5 seconds left, but Booker missed the last of the three free throws to send the game into overtime.

"I think it was good defense," said Butler before giving a nod to his controversial whistle that went his way a week ago. "We don't wanna go back too far, but a foul's a foul."

Wade and Butler continued the assault into the extra session, with Wade rising for a late flush over Suns center Alex Len and raising his arms in celebration — having put together a 23-point performance after a scoreless first half.

"That dunk he had was unbelievable," Hoiberg said. "I should give him another week off."

In the early stages, Butler wasn't as futile as Wade, but he wasn't much better, scoring just eight before the fourth but being more aggressive and assertive with his moments and jump shots, finishing with 22 to go along with nine assists and four steals.

"Just keep shooting the ball and eventually it'll go in," Butler said. "And they did. Coaches put the ball in my hands, I kept taking the same shots, making the same plays. Then they went in."

The Suns led most of the way, mostly due to their team-wide speed and athleticism, getting out on the break the way they did in the first meeting two weeks ago. Booker scored 27, while Bledsoe, TJ Warren and Marquese Chriss each scored 17. Bledsoe added 10 assists and seven rebounds in 40 minutes.

They dominated the fast-break department at a 27-16 clip, and the Bulls actually countered with 3-point shooting, hitting 12 triples and shooting 46 percent from 3.

Nikola Mirotic was 4-for-7 from deep on the way to a 20-point night, while Denzel Valentine put together his best showing as a pro with 15 points, all coming on five made 3s.

Three straight triples from Valentine pulled the Bulls to within one late in the third quarter. The shots were decisive and confident — perhaps as he knew he wouldn't be removed for anyone at the first mistake.

"I like it, take the shots when you're open. Sometimes when you're not open, still shoot it and we know to get back," Butler said.

There were plenty of mishaps and things to complain about as the Bulls hit a new wave, but at least it started with some positive vibes after a day of uncertainty and confusion.

Chance the Rapper poses with Benny the Bull at United Center

Chance the Rapper poses with Benny the Bull at United Center

Two Chicago legends were spotted courtside before the Bulls tipped off against the Phoenix Suns on Friday. 

Chance the Rapper, recent winner of three Grammy Awards, snapped a photo with Benny the Bull at the United Center.

The south sider is spending a few months back in his hometown before starting a nationwide tour in April. His stop at the Bulls game should come as no surprise, as the "Coloring Book" rapper has become big friends with Jimmy Butler. Tough to name a more talented duo than that. 

Chance was also seen in New Orleans last weekend for the NBA All-Star festivities.

We know he's already a White Sox team ambassador, but are the Bulls next up?