Belinelli, Bulls hold off Wizards


Belinelli, Bulls hold off Wizards

A win is a win, the old axiom goes and it certainly applied Saturday night, as the Bulls (16-12) held on to beat the woeful Wizards (4-24), 87-77, at the United Center, snapping a two-game losing streak.

It wasnt a textbook victory by any means and in terms of performances, a superior opponent could have probably overcome the hosts listless effort, but no matter the Bulls simply needed to get off the schneid and sometimes the best cure for what ails a team is facing off with the most inept foe possible, especially when the game ends on a stellar defensive note.

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The veteran backcourt of Kirk Hinrich (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds) and Rip Hamilton (nine points in 14 minutes) the latter returned to the lineup after missing nearly a month due to a torn left plantar fascia, though he exited the contest midway through the period started the game with an aggressive offensive mindset, but the Bulls were countered by a confident Wizards group coming off one of their four wins on the season.

MORE: Hamilton makes his return to Bulls' lineup

Buoyed by a victory the previous evening, the likes of veteran big man Nene, rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal (14 points) and reserve post player Kevin Seraphin (12 points) originally a Bulls draft pick, he was sent to Washington along with Hinrich back in 2010 were effective and efficient scoring threats.

Luol Deng (11 points, six rebounds, four assists), who sprained his right ankle in the hosts Christmas Day loss to Houston, also made his presence felt in the early going, but two quick fouls on Joakim Noah (nine points, 11 rebound, five assists) hurt their cause, further allowing the visiting big men to establish themselves and the Wizards to build a slim cushion. At the conclusion of the first quarter, the Bulls trailed the team with the NBAs worst record, 26-22.

Deng continued his positive early play and was complemented by reserves Taj Gibson and Marco Belinelli (17 points), who replaced Hamilton earlier from his previous role off the bench, but maintained his confidence and appeared to be poised to become a second-unit spark.

Still, it remained a close-knit affair, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to be experimenting with different lineups, given that he finally had a healthier rotation at his disposal.

Gradually, the Bulls gained some separation and propelled by the energetic play of backup point guard Nate Robinson, as well as Noah providing a lift upon his return and Carlos Boozer (15 points, 12 rebounds) being active on the glass, the game bore a closer resemblance to what could have been expected.

But by no means were the Bulls running away with the contest and at the intermission, they held a 45-39 lead, following a jumper by Shelvin Mack, called up from the D-League by Washington recently, at the halftime buzzer.

After the break, a balanced offensive attack resulted in the Bulls building a double-digit lead, as improved defense, Wizards turnovers and a greater sense of urgency were all factors. Hamilton looked to be back to his usual form, while Boozer and Noah found their grooves as scorers, allowing Hinrich to focus on playmaking and defense.

However, that stretch didnt last, as Washington, led by the likes of veteran Emeka Okafor (11 points, 18 rebounds) and starting point guard Garrett Temple, another D-League call-up, helped the visitors severely cut into the deficit, eventually making it a two-point game after an 11-0 run as the third quarter wore on.

But the Bulls recovered from their temporary bout of malaise and behind the combination of Hinrich and Belinelli, they headed into the final stanza with a 70-63 advantage, after Mack hit yet another improbable buzzer-beater to end the period.

Belinelli emerged as the Bulls catalyst at the outset of the fourth quarter, helping the home team maintain their edge, but the Wizards continued to battle and remained within striking distance, as Okafor and Beal made positive impacts for the visitors. The pattern of Washington narrowing the gap and the Bulls subsequently pulling away persisted, as Boozer joined Belinelli as an offensive focal point.

Heading into the games stretch run, the Bulls cushion stayed intact, partially due to the fact that Washington couldnt muster up enough offense to stay in close contact, but it was also notable that Thibodeau opted to go with Jimmy Butler the second-year swingman previously looked like the odd man out of the wing rotation with Hamiltons return over Deng, the leagues minutes-per-game-leader in the clutch, during which the Wizards were scoreless over the final 5:18.

In the end, the devil is in the details and at the conclusion of the 82-game season, the hard-to-watch proceedings will simply go down as a Bulls victory in the standings.

Over-under: Analyzing Bulls' player propositions for 2016-17

Over-under: Analyzing Bulls' player propositions for 2016-17

Last week Bovada released a handful of Bulls player proposition over-unders. Here's a look at 10 of those numbers, with predicitions on which players will reach those thresholds in 2016-17.


Team wins: 38.5 (Last year: 42)

The pick: Fred Hoiberg had a pretty tumultuous first season in Chicago, the Bulls’ starting backcourt missed 31 games and Joakim Noah fizzled out before a season-ending injury. And yet the Bulls still managed 42 wins. How the Three Alphas and a lack of outside shooting fit Hoiberg’s style remains to be seen, and while the playoffs may not happen in an improving Eastern Conference, at least 39 wins should be manageable. OVER (40)

Jimmy Butler

Points per game: 20.5 (Last year: 20.9)

The pick: There’s a chance Dwyane Wade’s arrival will cut into Butler’s FGA (15.4) and FTA (7.1). There’s also a chance that the 27-year-old All-Star continues to improve once again in his sixth NBA season. Having a true facilitator in Rajon Rondo should really benefit him, the way Rondo did for DeMarcus Cousins (who improved by 2.5 points per game with Rondo). Everyone at the Advocate Center says the Bulls are Jimmy Butler’s team. His scoring will reflect that. OVER (21.7)

Rebounds per game: 5.5 (Last year: 5.3)

The pick: Whereas Butler may not see his scoring and usage decrease, the Bulls’ offseason moves to get Rondo and Wade give them two of the league’s best rebounding guards. Only Russell Westbrook averaged more rebounds per game among point guards than Rondo’s 6.0 average, and Wade has averaged four or more rebounds in all but one of his 13 NBA seasons. This one’s more of a toss-up, but with Rondo and Wade in the fold Butler may take a small hit on the glass. UNDER (4.8)

Dwyane Wade

Points per game: 17.0 (Last year: 19.0)

The pick: The future Hall of Famer is destined to drop off at some point, soon to be 35 with nearly 37,000 career minutes played. But 17.0 points per game would be the lowest mark of his career since his rookie season in Miami (16.2) and the Bulls don’t have a plethora of scoring options outside of Butler. It may not look pretty, and it may not be efficient, but Wade should flirt near the 19.0 points per game he averaged in his final season with the Heat. OVER (18.5)

Games played: 67.5 (Last year: 74)

The pick: This one’s tricky. On one hand it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wade miss some time this season. He defied the odds in playing 74 games last season – it was the most games he had played since 2011 – and most likely won’t get there in 2016-17. On the other hand, the Bulls may be fighting for their playoff lives down the stretch and may need Wade to play a few extra games in April. Still, Wade played 62 and 54 games the last two years before 2016. He’ll be closer to that than 74. UNDER (65)

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Rajon Rondo

Points per game: 11.0 (Last year: 11.9)

The pick: Rondo averaged the third most FGA per game for the Kings last year, trailing DeMarcus Cousins (20.5) and Rudy Gay (14.4). And while he’ll play enough minutes to hover around the 10.9 field goal attempts he averaged in 2015-16, there are more playmakers around him that he won’t be asked to shoot as much with the Bulls. His point totals were also helped out by the 36.5 percent he shot from deep, and that likely will take a hit this season. UNDER (9.5)

Assists per game: 10.5 (Last year: 11.7)

The pick: Another tricky one here, as Rondo is clearly going to be the one initiating offense. But he also will be playing alongside two players in Wade and Butler who need the ball in their hands to be successful, and who are also above-average passers in the their own respective rights. Still, Rondo has topped 11 assists per game in four of the last six seasons, and there are enough scorers around him for him to get there again this season. OVER (11.5)

Nikola Mirotic

Points per game: 13.0 (Last year: 11.8)

The pick: The fate of the Bulls’ playoff hopes may rest on this number. Mirotic should get the first stab at winning the power forward position, and playing alongside the Three Alphas is going to open up plenty of looks for him. His field goal attempts per game may go down, but his efficiency should improve playing with three guards who can create space and make defenses rotate. This one will be close, but Mirotic should bump his average up over this mark as the lone outside threat in the starting lineup. OVER (13.8)

Robin Lopez

Rebounds per game: 8.0 (Last year: 7.3)

The pick: This one may be the easiest of the bunch. Assuming Taj Gibson remains on the second unit, Lopez is going to rack up the boards playing the majority of his minutes next to Mirotic. All three starting guards can rebound, but Lopez is going to get the opportunities early and often. With only Cristiano Felicio behind him, Lopez should enjoy a career year on the glass, surpassing the 8.5 rebounds per game he averaged for the Blazers in 2014. OVER (9.0)

Taj Gibson

Points per game: 8.5 (Last year: 8.6)

The pick: The contract year phenomenon is real. Gibson is in the final year of his contract and had a fantastic preseason, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds. He won’t reach those numbers in the regular season, but it would be a shock if he didn’t improve on his numbers from a year ago. He shot a career-best 52.6 percent from the field under Fred Hoiberg, and he could easily get back to double-digit points per game, which he did in his final two years under Tom Thibodeau. Believe in the contract year. OVER (12.5)

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf cheering for Cubs in World Series: 'Cubs fans have suffered enough'

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf cheering for Cubs in World Series: 'Cubs fans have suffered enough'

The White Sox took to Twitter on Saturday night to congratulate their crosstown rivals on earning their first World Series berth since 1945.

Two days later Jerry Reinsdorf took it a step farther.

The White Sox owner told Chicago Sun-Times' Michael Sneed that he'll be rooting for the Cubs when they begin their series against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday.

"I think it would be great for Chicago if the Cubs won!

"Cubs fans have suffered enough. They deserve to have a winner. It would be great for the city.

"My White Sox fans won't be happy with me saying this. They'll think I'm a traitor. But that's how I feel."

Reinsdorf may have felt different had his White Sox not hoisted the World Series trophy in 2005. But he understands how Cubs fans feel; when the South Siders won the 2005 World Series it ended an 87-year drought. That was the second longest drought in MLB history, behind only the Cubs and their current 107-year streak.

Perhaps the fact that the Cubs are playing a White Sox AL Central rival in the Indians helps matters.

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Either way, Reinsdorf is hoping to see the Cubbies bring home the title for the first time since 1908.

"I have never been a Cubs fan," Reinsdorf said. "But I really do wish them well."