Rising to the occasion: Rose wills Bulls to win

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Rising to the occasion: Rose wills Bulls to win

Saturday, April 16, 2011Posted: 2:55 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

It couldnt happen, could it? After an incredible regular season, the top-seeded Bulls couldnt lose the first game of their opening-round series to upstart Indiana?
Pregame Prediction: Bulls should cruise past Pacers

No, but only by the skin of their teeth. For the majority of the game, that answer was in doubt, but led by an amazing performance by likely MVP Derrick Rose, Chicago closed Game 1 with a 16-1 run to win a thriller, 104-99, Saturday afternoon at the United Center.

We didnt play well, didnt play our best, but at the end, we did what we had to do to pull out the win, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. We got the win, which is the most important thing.

We know were going to have to play a lot better in Game 2.

Countered Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel: Im very proud of the effort of our club tonight; very disappointed in the loss. Ive got a great deal of belief in this team. Im not surprised that we almost won this game; should have won this game. Weve been playing about as well as anybody in the NBA the last few weeks and this is going to be a series.

Our guys know we should have won this game. We can play with this team. We can play with any team in the NBA.

One of the few issues of the Bulls successful regular seasonslow startsmanifested itself, as Indiana utilized turnovers to score early transition baskets to complement their effective offensive rebounding, resulting in a 10-4 start for the visitors.

Led by Joakim Noahs (10 points, 11 rebounds) offensive rebounding, Chicago quickly worked its way back into the contest, as the center's uncanny zeal was back in effect from the games outset.

Rose (39 points, 19-for-21 free-throw shooting, six assists, six rebounds) also made his presence felt, but despite his efforts and Carlos Boozers (12 points, six rebounds) early low-post success, the Bulls still trailed their guests.

Pacers to use 'Rose plan' against Bulls

Solid team defense and the scoring of offensive catalysts Darren Collison (17 points, nine assists, six rebounds) and center Roy Hibbert (11 points, eight rebounds) were keys for the Pacers, who ended the opening period with a 27-23 advantage.

Chicagos second unit, the Bench Mob, typically sets a certain tone when it comes to energy, but that aspect was lacking in the beginning of the second quarter, as Indianas reserves instead rose to the occasion and widened the deficit. Turnover issues, shoddy marksmanship and inconsistent defensive rebounding persisted for the Bulls and with foul trouble saddling Boozerhe picked up his third foul early in the periodthings werent looking up for the home team.

Though Rose consistently got to the basket to either finish or draw fouls, Chicago simply couldnt make up the necessary ground, not with Collison matching Rose as a scorer and contributions from the likes of feisty second-year power forward Tyler Hansborough (22 points), in comparison to sporadic efforts from Roses supporting cast.

Largely by virtue of their 50 percent first-half shooting from the floor (and 5-for-8 three-point shooting, compared to 2-for-7 from deep and 42.9-percent shooting from the floor for the Bulls), Indiana went into halftime with a 55-51 lead.

Pacers leading scorer Danny Granger (24 points, six rebounds, three assists) came out firing after the break, knocking down a pair of three-pointers and scoring another bucket in the post, giving the visitors a double-digit advantage in the early portion of the third quarter. More significantly, the Bulls simply couldnt buy a basketoutside of Rose, who had his hands full with Collison on the other endand their disappointing performance was reflected by the lull in the usually upbeat United Center audience.

Hansbrough continued to be productive for Indiana, at least until he took a shot from Kurt Thomas and was laid out on the floor, motionless, before he was taken into the arenas tunnel. There, he appeared to be woozy and needed assistance from team personnel, but he returned to the contest in the fourth quarter.

I just got elbowed, said Hansbrough, who noted that he didnt lose consciousness and reportedly had tests performed before he returned to action. I dont think it was anything intentionalits just the way it happenedand got the breath knocked out of me.

But even with the crowd getting behind them late in the period, the Bulls couldnt sustain any positive momentum and trailed through three quarters, 79-71.

It was bombs away to start the final stanza, as both squads contributed to a barrage of three-pointers to start the period. Although Granger did his part to help the Pacers cling to a slowly-decreasing lead, his small-forward counterpart, Luol Deng (18 points, 10 rebounds), finally came alive for the Bulls, scoring in his typically versatile fashion to add to Chicagos push.

After Hansbroughs return, the hyperactive North Carolina alum delivered a hard foul on Rose, causing Dengironically, a Duke productto engage him verbally, earning him a technical foul and the support of the crowd, which he exhorted in the aftermath of the near-skirmish.

Instead of motivating the Bulls, however, the incident seemed to get Hansbrough going, as he picked up where he left off and knocked down three consecutive jumpers, then made a steal and finished off the play with a fast-break dunk, plus a foul, for a traditional three-point play.

Just when it seemed like the Bulls were dead in the water, Noah, the teams inspirational leader, refused to let them sink, making back-to-back playsfirst, one of his patented tip-ins after keeping an offensive rebound alive, then running the floor for a fast-break dunkto bring Chicago within four points, 98-94, with 2:27 to go.

POSTER SHOP: Stacey King recaps his favorite dunks from the 2010-11 season

On Chicagos next possession, Rose drove to the rim, hit a twisting layup and completed a three-point play to bring the Bulls within two points before tying the contest at 99 apiece with a spinning floater in the lane.

Derrick Rose was too much down the stretch, said Vogel. I look at 39 points and Im shocked that I see 39 because I thought that we did a good job most of the night on him. The kids out of this world. Hes got Allen Iversons speed, Jason Kidds vision, Chauncey Billups shooting and Michael Jordans athleticism. How do you guard that? We did a good job on him. He was too much.

Suddenly, the Bulls defense was back at an elite level, racking up defensive stops against their young opposition. With the Pacers defense almost solely focused on stopping Roses penetration, the Windy City native again got into the lane, then kicked it out to sharpshooter Kyle Korver (13 points, 4-for-4 three-point shooting) who nailed a three-pointer with 48.4 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls their first lead, 102-99.

Derrick made a great read. My man helps, hes going to kick it out to me. If he doesnt help, hes going to drive the middle of the lane, Korver explained. Toward the end of the fourth quarter, he was like, Im looking for you, Im looking for you, and I kept telling him, Im ready, Im ready. He made a great play.

Rose added: Kyle is a knockdown shooter. Thats why hes on the court with me at the end of the game. If you help too muchleave him openthats like a layup to him and Im just reading the court. Ive been in that position numerous times and me driving kind of gets everybody coming in the paint, and he was wide open.

On the Bulls next trip, they didnt initially convert, but the irrepressible Noah kept the ball alive and it wound up in the hands of Rose, who was fouled.

With an MVP chant in the background, the All-Star point guard calmly drained a pair of free throws with 14.8 seconds left on the clock, concluding a 16-1 run to end the game. On their final possession, the shell-shocked Pacers were unable to threaten their hosts, as Noah repeatedly denied their attempts around the rim, much to the delight of Bulls fans.

I was just trying to win a game and tonight, it was just me making shots and making plays. Whatever it takes for us to win, Im willing to do, said a relaxed Rose afterwards. Right now, life is pretty good.

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.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

On the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Kevin Anderson, Vincent Goodwill and Kendall Gill welcome in SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to discuss the Celtics' motivation to trade for Jimmy Butler. 

The guys also break down whether the league is undervaluing the Bulls All-Star. 

Later, they debate the contant Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan comparison and ask if it's fair after the King's poor showing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. O'Donnell also analyzes the NBA Draft. He believes Terrance Ferguson is the right pick for GarPax. 

Finally, a behind the scenes look at Goodwill vs. Kendall on the court, and Kendall on the right way to parent a young athlete. 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

Watching LeBron James tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs the way Michael Jordan used to do in his prime, it's become increasingly apparent other teams in the East will be chasing James and the Cavaliers for the next 3-5 years.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on inside the walls of the Advocate Center as the Bulls' front office prepares for the June 22nd draft and the start of free agency on July 1st. 

Jimmy Butler earned third-team All-NBA honors on Thursday, putting him in position to earn the Designated Veteran Player Extension with another All-NBA selection in either 2018 or 2019. Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that could mean a contract starting at $42 million in 2019-20 with a total five-year value of over $246 million.

Are the Bulls prepared to pay that kind of money to a player who has logged big minutes over his career and will turn 30 just before the 2019-20 season?

If not, the best time to deal Butler would be right now. Butler is coming off the best season of his NBA career, including a starting spot for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. Plus, he still has two more guaranteed years on his contract at far below market value for one of the top 15 players in the league.

Tuesday's draft lottery pretty much eliminated Boston from a potential Butler trade. Celtics' GM Danny Ainge loves Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and is locked in to drafting him with the number one pick. Boston's future couldn't look brighter after finishing with the best regular season record in the East, advancing to the Conference Finals, and winning the lottery.

The Celtics will add Fultz and still have enough cap room to offer a max deal to free agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately for Boston coach Brad Stevens at Butler. How does a starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley sound, with a second unit of Fultz, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk? It might not be good enough to take down the Cavs or Warriors, but should position the Celtics for a long run as a serious contender.

So, if the Celtics are out, where would the Bulls look for a possible Butler deal? Phoenix probably holds the best combination of assets, starting with the No. 4 overall pick. If point guards Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox go 1-2-3, the Bulls could grab Kansas forward Josh Jackson, an Andrew Wiggins-clone who could wind up being the best player in this draft.

The Suns also have a pair of intriguing young power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, both top 10 picks a year ago. Plus, Phoenix could include 23-year-old small forward T.J. Warren and Chicago native Tyler Ulis in the package going back to the Bulls.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is reportedly under pressure to show significant improvement next season after winning just 47 games combined over the last two years. Adding another young player to the roster isn't the best way to improve the team immediately, so don't be surprised if the Suns make a pitch to acquire Butler in the days leading up to the draft.

Similar story in Philadelphia, where the Sixers own the third overall pick next month. Under former GM Sam Hinkie, the "trust the process" approach led to a roster purge and the acquisition of lottery picks. Right now, the Sixers are overloaded with young players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Justin Anderson and Nik Stauskas.

Would current GM Bryan Colangelo be willing to trade the pick, along with Okafor and Anderson in a package for Butler? The Bulls could choose between Jackson and Kentucky's lightning-quick point guard Fox with the draft pick they’d acquire, potentially adding three young starters to a new-look line-up. 

Given all the trade rumors surrounding Butler in the past, you can expect a number of teams will be calling the Bulls leading up to the draft, including Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves, coming off a disappointing season with assets to offer like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which direction the Bulls' front office wants to go. Try to build a contender around Butler, or use him as the trade asset to start a full re-build. We should get our answer in the days leading up to the draft.

Around the Association

Thursday's All-NBA announcement could lead to a pair of All-Star forwards changing teams this summer. We already mentioned Hayward's situation in Utah. Without the designated veteran player extension, he might be seriously tempted to join his old college coach in Boston. 

Hayward could sign a one year contract with a player option for a second season in Utah with hopes of earning the DVPE next summer, but if Hayward hits the open market, it's clear he'll be the number one target for the Celtics this off-season. 

Paul George also could be in play after failing to make one of the three All-NBA teams. The Pacers were hoping to sign their All-Star forward to a max five-year extension at over $200 million, but George isn't eligible now. George still could sign an extension with Indiana, but not at the dollars he would have received had he made All-NBA. 

Rumors of George's desire to join his home-state Lakers in free agency after the 2017-18 season continue to grow, especially with Magic Johnson likely to add dynamic point guard Lonzo Ball in next month's draft. The Pacers might be forced to trade George to get some assets now, rather than let him walk away for nothing in free agency next summer.

Back to the Bulls, who will bring in dozens of prospects to Chicago to work out at the Advocate Center before the draft. Unless they make a major trade to move up, the front office almost has to go "best player available" with their picks at Nos. 16 and 38. Look for them to focus on an athletic wing in the first round with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's OG Anunoby, Duke's Harry Giles and Australian pro Terrance Ferguson among the likely options. 

But if the team decides to part company with restricted free agent Niko Mirotic, that could open the door for the Bulls to select a power forward like Cal's Ivan Rabb, Wake Forest's John Collins, Utah's Kyle Kuzma or UCLA's T.J. Leaf. They could even draft an athletic young center like Jarrett Allen of Texas, Creighton's Justin Patton or UCLA's Ike Anigbogu.

In Round 2, the Bulls might look to add another young point guard to the mix like Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Iowa State's Monte Morris, Villanova's Josh Hart, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams Goss or Big 12 Player of the Year Frank Mason from Kansas.

Quotes of the Week

The Celtics might have edged Cleveland out for the top seed in the East during the regular season, but after watching Game 1 Wednesday night, it's clear Brad Stevens’ team will be lucky to get a win in the series.

This from Stevens about the NBA's version of Benjamin Button, LeBron James. "It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better."

Still, Celtics' star Isaiah Thomas isn't about to concede the series just yet, saying, "We're not afraid of Cleveland. They're not the Monstars."  

Well, Thomas might be right about the rest of the Cavs. But if you remember the movie "Space Jam", I'm pretty sure James would be a good fit in that Monstars line-up. And the Celtics don't have Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny or Bill Murray!