Chicago Bulls

Round 1: Bulls wrestle series away from Pacers

455459.jpg

Round 1: Bulls wrestle series away from Pacers

Tuesday, April 26, 2011Posted: 10:00 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

This was more like it.

Even with Derrick Rose ailing, the Bulls got back to the formula that won them 62 regular-season games and put the eighth-seeded Pacers in their place, mauling them, 116-89, Tuesday night at the United Center to win their first-round series, 4-1.

The important thing is just getting the win. We try not to get caught up in all the other stuff, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. We knew we were capable of playing better, but when you look at the series, to be up 3-1, youve got to do a lot of things well, too.

In the playoffs, every win is hard to get. Youve got to earn them. I liked our mentality today.

WATCH: Thibodeau's postgame comments

Recovering their regular-season mojo, the Bulls jumped out to a 12-2 start, blitzing the Pacers with the transition game that had been missing the entire series.

While Joakim Noah (14 points, eight rebounds) played a major part in the early run and other starters also contributed, a heartening sign was the bounce of Rose (25 points, 3-for-8 three-point shooting, six assists), who slashed his way to the basket and pushed the tempo for his team as if his sprained left ankle wasnt an issue.

"Thats what I love about him," Noah said. "Hes just a competitor and he wants to win more than anythingmore than the MVP and everything thats thrown at himthats the beauty of it.

At the end of the day, hes somebody that you never have to worry about competing. Thats a beautiful thing because I dont feel like every superstar player in the NBA is like that. I think thats a rare thing and hes got it. Thats why hes a special kid.

Although Indiana didnt let the lead balloon further, Chicago maintained its early intensity, particularly Noahhis grandfather coming in from Cameroon to attend the game might have been a factorwho was a whirling dervish throughout the first quarter and sparked his teammates collective hustle with his constant energy, underrated offensive capabilities and inside presence.

It feels amazing, man. I feel really lucky to be in this position right now and Im very happy, but Im not satisfied, said Noah. They dont have places like the UC where his grandfather, Zacharie Noah is from.

Just having him around and just being able to spend a little time with him, it means so much.
Joakim Noah: I'm cherishing every moment

Fellow starter Keith Bogans, who hit two first-quarter three-pointers, thought the Bulls came out with a lot of fire.

We had a lot of energy tonight," he said. "We fed off of Jo tonight. he came out hyped up, ready to play and the crowd was in it.

Aided by the complementary scoring of Luol Deng (24 points, 3-for-5 three-point shooting, six rebounds, seven assists), the Bulls regained their double-digit edge to lead, 36-25, after the opening period.

You cant say enough about Luol. Just put him in the book every night, praised Thibodeau. You can count on him. Hes the glue of the team, he keeps us together through everything.

Despite some early foul troubleBoozer picked up two quick fouls and both backup Taj Gibson (10 points, seven rebounds) and Noah were also saddled with a pair eachthe Bulls kept a firm grip on the games momentum in the second quarter, as the Pacers only consistent offense against Chicagos stingy defense came from leading scorer Danny Granger (20 points, six rebounds).

WATCH: Mak Legend's 'Madhouse on Madison' featured in Game 5

Still, it wasnt all smooth sailing for the Bulls, as both Boozer and Noah accumulated their third fouls midway through the period and the Pacersspecifically Windy City villains Tyler Hansbrough (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Jeff Fostermanaged to do damage on the offensive glass.

Early in the second quarter, Boozer suffered a right-toe injuryduring the sequence in which he scored his only basket of the nightadding to a frustrating series for him individually.

Well just see how it goes every day, try to get the pain out of it. Great deal of pain, but well work on it and Ive got until the next round, said Boozer, who said a postgame X-ray was negative for the injuryhe said he didnt know what its called, but didnt object to it be described as turf toe by reportersand only played limited minutes after getting into further foul trouble early in the second half.

I said to Thibodeau, If you need me, Ill be out there and Ill try to gut it out for the rest of the game.

Overall, however, this was the Bulls team fans were accustomed to seeing, with stifling defense, a variety of offensive weapons, crisp execution and opportunistic tendencies, especially when transition chances presented themselves.

We kept our pace up, played a more up-tempo type game, guys were getting to their spots quicker, knocking down shotsKyle and Keith, Lueverybody, said Rose. Jo, with his emotion, got us excited and we tried to use that to win this game.

Even with the development of Rose netting a charging foul, his third, late in the period, Chicago went into the break with a 54-46 advantage.

After the underappreciated Bogans (15 points, 5-for-7 three-point shooting) got the Bulls off to a solid start after the intermission, Roses fourth foul came quicker than expected and things quickly derailed for the home team. A 7-1 Pacers run cut the deficit from double digits to a two-possession game, forcing Thibodeau to make Roses stint on the bench a short one.

Boozer didn't help matters, picking up his fourth foul, but Roses reinsertion turned things around almost immediately, as the likely MVP knocked down a pair of three-pointers to help Chicago again push the lead to a comfortable margin.

I really had to get the feel of the game. I really didnt go on the court for like two daysdidnt touch a ball for two daysso just getting my rhythm back, explained Rose. My confidence wasnt down. I knew if I had the open shot, I was going to shoot.

No, I wasnt surprised, continued Rose, when asked about Thibodeau subbing him back into the contest. I was actually happy. I told him I wasnt going to foul anymore, but they called one more on me and Im grateful my teammates were able to pull out the game.

Concurred the coach: We just felt like it was going the wrong way and Derrick can play with fouls.

He hit those big shots and basically took it over from the middle of the third to the end of the third.

Rose taking over a game is nothing if not familiar at this juncture of the season, but the fashion in which he did ithitting a trio of third-quarter triples, diving on the floor for loose balls and sacrificing his body, all on a gimpy ankleinspired teammates like Gibson and Bogans to similarly pick up their games.

Meanwhile, Indianas level of frustration grewafter Granger had to be separated from Gibson following a tie-up, backup Josh McRoberts was ejected from the game for going after Noah, who constantly exhorted the raucous United Center crowdand distance between the two teams continued to grow, with the Bulls taking an 84-65 lead into the final stanza.

This series has been hard-fought, said Thibodeau of that confrontation, as well as one just after the final buzzer, when Granger attempted to confront Noah. Heat of the battle stuff. Those guys competed so hard.

The fourth quarter began on a down note for Chicago, as Rose picked up a ticky-tack fifth foul to start the period, making it a question of whether the Bulls could maintain the sizable margin without their leader.

The turnover-prone and scoring-devoid visitorsoutside of Granger and Hansbrough, only veteran reserve swingman Dahntay Jones (10 points) could provide an offensive spark for Indianawere unable to capitalize on the All-Star point guards absence, however, as Deng, Gibson and Kyle Korver (13 points) all helped pick up the offensive slack.

The game waned on and the onslaught continued, as the Bulls refused to let up and the offense kept clicking on all cylinders under the guidance of backup point guard C.J. Watson (six points, seven assists), further confounding and angering Indiana .

By the time Thibodeau filtered out his regularsall to huge ovationsfor the likes of little-used Rasual Butler, the United Center was a celebratory zone, with a late alley-oop converted by high-flying Ronnie Brewer sating the appetites of the giddy audience.

In the end, the game that clinched Bulls first trip to the second round since 2006 satisfied the curiosity of observers who foolishly believed their regular-season dominance wasnt legitimate. The only questions that remained at the evenings conclusion were What ankle? and Who do the Bulls play next?
Check out Rose's postgame comments here

Im speechless right now, said Rose. I really cant believe it and its a great accomplishment.

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