Chicago Bulls

Bulls survive scare in Detroit for holiday split

348957.jpg

Bulls survive scare in Detroit for holiday split

Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
Posted 7:56 PM Updated 10:02 PM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

AUBURN HILLS, MICH.A day after a disappointing finish to a former heated rival, the Bulls (19-10) took on another ex-foe and in a down-to-the-wire ending, played a game much more fitting of traditional warfare, holding off the Central Division rival Pistons (10-20) in overtime, 95-92, Sunday night.

Possessing a lot of offensive firepower and performing better in their past few games, Detroits offensive attack seemed ready to give the Bulls a challenge in the early going. To counter, Chicago went with a steady diet of Carlos Boozer (31 points, 11 rebounds) in the early going and the power forward delivered.

Boozer used his arsenal of offensive weaponspost moves, powerful finishes and a soft touch from the perimeterto score at will, as well as rebound the ball at a high level.

Carlos, hes such a threat, even when hes not getting the ball. Hes pulling so many people toward him, so often times, that opens up other things that are easy. That might open up a driving seam for Derrick, said Thibodeau. They start leaning one way to keep the ball out of the post and he can hit the paint on the attack without the defense being quite set. As he continues to get more comfortable, I think in transition, we might be able to get him in the paint more, too.

You look at the matchups, you look at how things are going. I thought it was easier for them to maybe double team Carlos going straight post-up, so we tried to spread them out a little bit. They were putting two on Derrick, so we were trying to get Carlos going.

Concurred Boozer: Im starting to feel more comfortable out there. Im feeling the game a little bit quicker. The games slowing down for me, so I can make my moves and at the same time, I can react a little bit quicker.

I just tried to be aggressive, back-to-back nights on the road. Every team looks for guys to feed off of and on this team, they look to me and D-Rose for that. I just tried to be aggressive and make baskets to make it easier for them. I thought we did a good job early of attacking.

Although nobody else was truly proficient scoring the ball, the visitors held a 23-15 advantage after a quarter of play.

Chicagos bench maintained its cushion in the second period, with backup center Omer Asik providing an unexpected lift, including a monstrous dunk over two Pistons, which drew rave reviews from his teammates on the bench. Unfortunately, Asik couldnt sustain the positive effort, but the second unit did its job, holding down the fort until Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau reinserted his regulars.

The starters extended Chicagos winning margin, as Derrick Roses (23 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) jet-quick jaunts to the rim were too much for Detroit to contain. The home team, however, made a brief late-quarter surge, but the Bulls led, 40-34, at the half.

Chicago was on the wrong end of a 7-0 run to open the second half, giving the Pistons the lead. Turnovers, poor shot selection, defensive lapses and generally uninspired play enabled Detroit to seize momentum of the game behind strong play from Tayshaun Prince (17 points, four rebounds, six assists), Richard Hamilton (15 points) and Rodney Stuckey (16 points, five rebounds, four assists).

The thing is, they went small. We had some matchup problems and offensively, I thought we had some good looks. The ball sometimes doesnt go in, but weve got to stay inside-out. I thought we had some drives that maybe we have to drive it a little but harder, I guess, explained Thibodeau.

The visitors snapped out of their malaise, tightening things up on the defensive end and executing better offensively, with a surprise contribution from Keith Boganswho hit a pair of long bombspart of a 17-4 Bulls run that gave Chicago a double-digit lead. While the Bulls didnt necessarily keep their foot on the gas, led by Boozers inside dominance and Roses all-around play, they took a 68-57 lead into the final stanza.

Improved play from Taj Gibson (five points, nine rebounds) and a solid effort from reserve point guard C.J. Watson buoyed Chicagos attack at the outset of the fourth period, but Detroit battled back against a unit of mostly reserves, with former All-Star swingman Tracy McGrady (15 points)now a reserve, but still capable of producing pointsexperiencing a mild flashback, making the deficit it faced more manageable. Upon Thibodeau reinserting Rose into the contest, however, the South Side native took all of the air out of the Palace with multiple moments of individual brilliance, both subtle and flashy.

But the Pistons exhibited qualities of resilience as the games stretch run approached and coupled with either Bulls miscues or misfortunedepending on ones point of viewthe visitors lead gradually dwindled to a too-close-for-comfort margin. McGrady mustered up more heroics, hitting a triple with 1:10 to play, slicing Chicagos lead to four.

Theyre talented. McGradys healthy, so he puts a lot of pressure on you, said Thibodeau, who conferred with McGrady, his former player in Houstonwhere he was a Rockets assistantafter the game. I thought it was a good game for us.

A Rose turnover on the ensuing possession opened the door for Detroit and after Prince followed his own miss with a layup. Rose missed a jumper on the Bulls next trip, the Pistons rebounded the ball with 18.4 seconds remaining.

It was officially a ballgame. After a timeout, Detroit had three cracks at either a win or a tieMcGrady missed a deep two, Hamilton missed a three, then a leanerbut on their third offensive rebound of the possession, forward Charlie Villaneuvas (12 points, 10 rebounds) tip-in with 0.6 seconds on the clock evened the score at 85 to extend the contest past regulation.

Get a rebound! Thibodeau said he told his team afterwards, before overtime started. It was a scramble play. Youve just got to find a way to come up with it, but I have no complaints.

Said Boozer: Obviously we wanted to get that last rebound in regulation and when we missed it, they got a nice layup.

We played much better in overtime.

In the games extra session, Prince and Boozer exchanged jumpers on each teams initial possession. Following a Chicago stop, Boozer picked up a charge on the Bulls subsequent trip, then a foul the next time down on defense, giving him five for the game and the visitors a one-point deficit after a Pistons free throw.

The Alaskan put the play behind him, finding reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer for a layup, then making a steal on the next possession. On Chicagos next trip, Boozer missed a bunny, but it was tipped in by grizzled veteran Kurt Thomas to give the Bulls a 91-88 lead with 1:33 left in the abbreviated period.

Thomas followed that play with by stripping a driving Prince, who avenged his error by subsequently making a steal on Boozer and finding Stuckey in the open court for a layup. Chicago went back to the well, with Rose going to Boozer inside and a strong finish giving the Bulls a 93-90 advantage with 40.8 to go.

Out of a Pistons timeout, Villaneuva scored from point-blank range to cut the lead to a single point. Rose missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but when Detroit couldnt convert on the other end, Luol Deng secured the rebound at the 4.7-second mark and Chicago called timeout.

Thibodeau put it in a shooter-heavy lineup and after sharpshooter Kyle Korver was fouled, he drained a pair of foul shots to put the Bulls up, 95-92. Villaneuva once again had an opportunity to send extend the game for another five minutes, but was errant on a 3-point attempt.

Well take the win any way we can. It was ugly tonight, but sometimes on the road, youve got to win ugly and we did, said Boozer. On the road, youre not always going to get the calls you get at home. Youre not always going to hit the shots you usually hit.

Sometimes youve got to win ugly, even if it has been a couple on this trip. Well take the win any way we can get it.

Added Thibodeau: I thought we played hard the whole game and things werent going our way. We werent shooting well. We just kept grinding. I thought our defense was good, I thought our rebounding was good.

Well take it. It was a hard-fought game and we hung in there at the end. I thought our rebounding was great all night, until that last one and it was the most important one. We didnt come up with it, but the thing I liked, we didnt hang our head in the overtime. We kept fighting and we did what we had to do to get the win.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

michaelporter.jpg
USA TODAY

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

2018 draft class is loaded at the top

Quietly, you can bet Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had a little celebration after hearing that prep star Marvin Bagley III was going to graduate from high school early and enroll at Duke for the 2017-18 season, making him eligible for the 2018 draft.

Bagley, a 6'11 power forward from Los Angeles, is being compared to longtime NBA star Chris Bosh, right down to his smooth left-handed shooting touch. Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocked shots during his junior season for Sierra Canyon H.S. He's also fared well against NBA competition at the highly-regarded Drew League in L.A. this summer. Bagley’s physical tools are off the charts, and you can count on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski preparing him well for life in the NBA.

Most NBA scouts and execs expect the No. 1 overall pick to come down to either Bagley or Michael Porter Jr., who will play his one season of college basketball at Missouri. The 6'10 Porter averaged an amazing 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds last season against Seattle high school competition. He's considered a more dynamic scorer than Bagley with more range on his jump shot. Some scouts believe he could quickly develop into one of the league's elite players with Kevin Durant-type length and shooting ability at the small forward position.

International swingman Luka Doncic is also highly coveted by NBA teams. The 6'8 swingman has excellent shooting range, and is also capable of creating his own shot with outstanding ball-handling ability. Forget the stereotype of European players being mechanical and unable to compete athletically, Doncic is capable of being an 18-20 point scorer in the NBA and should go in the top five next June. He's considered one of the best international prospects in the last decade.

Two 7-footers also will hear their names called early on draft night 2018. University of Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season, while Texas freshman center Mohamed Bomba has an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan. Sure, the NBA has moved away from the traditional low post center, but teams are still looking to acquire agile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Depending on how they fare against top level college competition, Ayton and Bomba could round out the top five.

Other names to watch in the lottery portion of next year's draft include Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams, Michigan State's forward duo of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and the latest one-and-dones from John Calipari's Kentucky program, center Nick Richards and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

In case you missed it, ESPN released its preseason win total expectations for the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and the Bulls were dead last with a projected record of 26-56. Now, I'm not sure a team with veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez and the three young players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota will be quite that bad, but if you're going to rebuild, the idea is to get the best draft pick possible, and the Bulls appear to be on course for a top-five selection depending on how the lottery falls.

If the Bulls are able to land an elite talent like Porter Jr., Bagley III or Doncic in the draft, then use their $40-50 million in cap space to land a couple of quality free agents, the rebuild might not be as painful as some fans are fearing.

Last dance for LeBron in Cleveland?

Well-connected NBA writer Chris Sheridan dropped this bomb on Twitter Wednesday, quoting an NBA source, "This will be LeBron's final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair." Don’t forget, Sheridan was the first national writer to report James was going to leave Miami to go back to Cleveland in 2014, so his reports definitely warrant a little extra attention.

Okay, we've already heard countless rumors about James planning to join the Lakers after next season. He's built a mansion in Brentwood, is close with Magic Johnson and will be able to bring another superstar with him to L.A. like Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Plus, the Lakers have a number of talented young players in place like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and a promising coach in Luke Walton.

Add in the likelihood Kyrie Irving will be traded before training camp opens and LeBron's long-standing poor relationship with Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, and you have the perfect formula for another James' free agent decision next July. Although, I'm not sure why LeBron would want to go West, where Golden State is positioned to dominate the league for another five seasons, with strong challengers like the Rockets and Spurs still in place. 

But if we've learned anything from watching James over the years, he's clearly a man who wants to align the odds in his favor. So don't rule out anything when it comes to James' free agent decision. If the Cavs make a home run trade for Irving, maybe LeBron decided to plays out his career in his home state. If not, look for him to find a team with the cap space to bring in another top star to run with him.

Back in 2010, the Bulls carved out the cap space to add two max contract stars, but lost out to Pat Riley in Miami. This time around they won't be on James' July travel itinerary.

One thing we know for sure. Where LeBron plays in 2018 will be the number one story throughout the NBA season.

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade's homecoming may not last much longer. 

According to Nick Friedell's ESPN report, the Bulls are expected to reach a buyout agreement with the 12-time NBA All-Star "at some point in the next few months." 

The news comes two months after Wade picked up his player option, choosing $24 million over earning less on a more competitive team. 

If Gar Forman and John Paxson indeed decide to buy D-Wade out, the "Three Alphas," which consisted of Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo, would all be out just one season after coming together. 

The buyout may also mean more ping-pong balls in next year's stacked draft