Indy exhibition game gives fans their money's worth

Indy exhibition game gives fans their money's worth

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011Posted: 9:30 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Follow @CSNBullsInsider
INDIANAPOLIS--The lineup wasn't as star-studded as Sunday's "Battle of I-95" in Philadelphia--especially with no-shows that included NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, Chicago native Will Bynum, hometown product George Hill, Caron Butler and others--but the Washington, D.C.-based Goodman League and the Indy Pro-Am squad (consisting solely of locally-bred talent; Indy Pro-Am participants from this summer, local college heroes and even Pacers hailing from out of town played for the guests) put on a show Saturday night for fans at the University of Indianapolis, who were also treated to an extended postgame autograph session.

Instead of engaging in the absurdity of breaking down a glorified pickup game sans defense--by the way, the visitors held on for a 170-167 win--here's a look at how the NBA participants (no disrespect to the trio of Goodman League replacement players) fared in the contest:

John Wall (Goodman), Washington Wizards, 41 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds: Wall continued his strong summer with a triple-double, playing every minute of the contest, maintaining competitiveness and intensity throughout, while giving the audience its money's worth with his aesthetically-pleasing combination of aerial acrobatics and blazing speed.

Eric Gordon (Indy), Los Angeles Clippers, 40 points, nine assists: One of the marquee names for the hometown squad, the rising star was his usual dominant self in terms of scoring, showcased some point-guard ability and overall versatility but couldn't quite complete the comeback down the stretch for the hosts.

Jeff Green (Goodman), Boston Celtics, 35 points, 12 rebounds: Somewhat of a forgotten man after being traded from Oklahoma City last season, the native Washingtonian did a little bit of everything for the squad from his hometown, as the versatile forward displayed smooth ballhandling, touch on deep jumpers and finished strong above the rim.

DeMarcus Cousins (Goodman), Sacramento Kings, 33 points, 15 rebounds: Coming off an up-and-down rookie campaign, the big man with a mean streak showed signs of his infamous attitude on occasion, but mostly displayed his undeniable talent, providing a low-post presence and flashing uncanny perimeter skills for a player of his size.
Mike Conley (Indy), Memphis Grizzlies, 25 points, five assists: Noticeably stronger following a campaign in which he led his team to a surprise postseason run (after harsh criticism for receiving a lucrative contract extension), the young floor general looked polished and his perimeter jumper, formerly a weakness, was crisp.

JaJuan Johnson (Indy), Boston Celtics, 25 points, five rebounds: The Purdue University product was one of the best players in the college game a year ago and is expected to eventually provide some relief for Kevin Garnett, but while doubts about whether his slender frame can withstand the pounding of the pro level remain, his skilled post-up game looks to be ready for the NBA.

Paul George (Goodman), Indiana Pacers, 24 points, 11 rebounds: The swingman earned a reputation as a strong defender in his rookie campaign--particularly against league MVP Derrick Rose in the first round of the playoffs--but displayed his fantastic athletic ability in this contest, soaring to make high degree of difficulty dunks seem routine, as well as showing some offensive polish.

Zach Randolph (Indy), Memphis Grizzlies, 21 points, 10 rebounds: The game's elder statesman isn't exactly built for a speed game, but held his own--and occasionally held opponents, such as Cousins; good-naturedly, of course--after a late arrival, although he mostly deferred to his younger, less vertically-challenged teammates, as he seemed mostly happy to participate.

Gordon Hayward (Indy), Utah Jazz, 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists: Arguably the people's choice among the local fans, the former local college hero--he led Butler to the 2010 NCAA national championship game--probably functions better in a more structured environment, but his efficiency, subtle contributions and versatily ultimately led to solid production.
Lance Stephenson (Goodman), Indiana Pacers, 16 points: Defense and on-court maturity (he earned the game's only technical foul) are still issues, but the New York City product's playground background served him well and his blend of natural scoring instincts, size for either backcourt position and yo-yo handle--perhaps more impressive than even Wall's--were perfect for this setting.

Shelvin Mack (Goodman), Washington Wizards, 15 points: Like his former college teammate Hayward, the second-round draft pick's businesslike game wasn't the most eye-catching, but his pro-ready frame, understanding of the game and solid all-around skills should translate to a long, if not spectacular NBA career.

Jeff Teague (Indy), Atlanta Hawks, 13 points, eight assists: After his breakout second-round playoff performance against the Bulls, the young floor general showed his postseason flashes of talent was no fluke, engaging in a mini-duel with Wall, demonstrating some skillful dribble moves, showing off deep range and skying for impressive dunks and blocked shots.

D.J. White (Indy), Charlotte Bobcats, 12 points, six rebounds: A role player on the pro level, the former Indiana Hoosier was relegated to the same status with high level of talent on the floor, but managed to make the most of his limited opportunities.
Josh McRoberts (Indy), Indiana Pacers, 11 points, eight rebounds: The up-and-down, guard-oriented setting wasn't ideal for a post player, but the homegrown big man--a Pacer, born and raised in Indiana--showed off his athleticism with a handful of high-flying dunks and even some surprising ballhandling ability, exciting a crowd supportive of his efforts.

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.

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Whacked on his ailing left hand by Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler shook off the pain to hit a rare triple in transition while Middleton was complaining for a foul a couple possessions later.

Butler then darted into the passing lane for a pass intended for Jason Terry like a linebacker jumping into the flat for an interception, then trotted down for an uncontested dunk to give the Bulls an unlikely 17-point lead.

For the man who claims he’s the best football player in the NBA, playing through the pain and doing so with his team’s playoff hopes dwindling, Butler may finally have some believers to his boasts.

Not only did the Bulls avoid a season sweep to the Milwaukee Bucks with a resounding 109-94 win at the BMO Bradley Center Sunday afternoon, they restored a slight sense of pride after looking like they had none of it Friday night in their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Butler scored 20 with a career-high 13 assists in a grinding 39 minutes, but he could play the role of a semi-closer, making those big plays in the fourth when the Bulls pulled away.

Instead, it was March Madness as Nikola Mirotic played up to his career numbers in his favorite month on the calendar, drilling five triples on his way to 28 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.

Mirotic and Rajon Rondo helped the Bulls to a decisive double-digit lead in the third quarter with Rondo scoring 14 of his 18 points in the period, hitting a triple, getting into the lane for layups and dishing out a few of his eight assists.

It was an offensive masterpiece for the Bulls, a prospect that seemed highly unlikely given the opponent and the way they played coming into Sunday’s contest. And with the Bucks getting Giannis Antetokounmpo going early along with Middleton, it looked like a nightmare of a different kind was in store for the Bulls.

But Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wasn’t about to let an instant replay occur, having seen his own version of a “Nightmare on Madison Street” Friday night against the woeful 76ers when his backups let time stand still for minutes at a time, squandering a double-digit lead.

Hoiberg decided not to mess around with the second unit as the Bucks began pulling away in the same manner the 76ers did Friday night. He brought the starters right back in when the lead ballooned to 45-33 at the 8:29 mark.

Then the Bulls went to work to finish the half, with a 23-10 run, along with starting off the third as efficient as they had been in awhile against a worthwhile opponent, shooting 14 of 21 in the period to take a 91-79 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Mirotic was seven of eight from the field before halftime and his first miss of the third—a 30-foot triple that went wide right, wound up in a 3-point opportunity for Rondo, who scooped the ball and scored on a layup while being fouled.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Bulls, a team that can’t seem to decide who they want to be on a nightly basis—making it that much harder for an opponent to predict, that much more difficult to eliminate from the playoff conversation.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Milwaukee Bucks today on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

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