Tag Archives: Miami Heat

Note-A-Bulls: After “Unacceptable Week,” Bulls fall to lowly Heat 100-88.

During one of the most dysfunctional times in recent Bulls history, the new laughing stock of the NBA had to go back to the drawing board and hit the floor against a depleted Miami Heat team. The Bulls played like a team tonight with no purpose, and with 3 outspoken players telling the truth about an organization that just can’t seem to get anything to go their way, their concerns were on full display tonight. From large turnover numbers, an inability to make shots, and a continued stagnation on offense and lack of effort defensively, the now 23-25 Bulls will look to regroup, as they handed Miami their 6th win in a row.

  • As punishment for their comments earlier in the week, Jimmy Butler and Dywane Wade were both benched by Fred Hoiberg for the first portion of the first quarter. Paul Zipser and Doug McDermott took their place in the starting lineup.
  • While in-experienced, the starting lineup including the “young” Bulls was enjoyable to watch and dissect. Without the “me” first players in Rondo, Wade and Butler, the Bulls looked like they were trying to run an offensive system. Players were moving without the ball, cutting to the basket and utilizing the pick and roll. However, when the veterans did end up coming into the game, the offense slowed again, off-the-ball movement stopped and Miami was off to the races. Doug McDermott became a forgotten man, an all too common mistake by the Bulls’ offensive game plan.
  • The Goran Dragic from the Derrick Rose poster-dunk has in fact turned into a nice NBA point guard, and it showed tonight. Dragic finished the night with 26 points and 11 assists and was in full command of a fast-paced Miami offense.
  • The quickness of Miami was thanks to the turnover numbers the Bulls gave up. The Heat scored 26 points on 20 turnovers by the Bulls. On the other hand, the Bulls only scored 8 points off of 12 Heat turnovers. Even when the Bulls grabbed a steal or had a nice block, there was no urgency on the fast break down the floor. Miami took full advantage of a slow Bulls’ defense, and the points off of turnovers were one of the key components in the loss. The Bulls scored their first points off of a turnover at the 10:28 mark in the 4th quarter.
  • The Bulls never pushed the ball up the floor when they had the chance to do so. Miami did push the ball, both on turnovers and regular offensive possessions, which proved to be one of the key differences in the game.
  • After a controversial week for Jimmy Butler, the Bulls’ star did not back up his talking points, finishing the game 1-13 from the field for just 3 points and checked himself out of the game early on after picking up his second foul against the Heat. Not a great showing for the team “leader.”
  • The Heat had a quick first step on offense while the Bulls continued to stand around the perimeter when the likes of Wade and Butler checked into the game.
  • The Bulls kept it close enough in the 1st quarter behind Paul Zipser’s 12 first half points, and found themselves even at the half 53-53.
  • But throughout the first half, the lack of scoring options on both teams was evident, especially for the Bulls. The Bulls were in fact able to get open shots, but continued to miss-fire.
  • The 2nd half was not a great story for the Bulls, as the criticisms surrounding their effort showed themselves again. Dwyane Wade failed to prove his critics wrong, as he was lackadaisical once again on defense by getting back on defense slowly and not being able to stick with his man.
  • This proved to be a constant theme for the Bulls tonight, as Miami, through the great play of Goran Dragic, sliced and diced the defense for wide open layups, or kick-outs for un-contested three point shots.
  • Also missing in this game was proper scouting and in –game adjustments. The Bulls played a Miami team missing Hassan Whiteside, had the height advantage in the paint and did not take enough advantage. The Bulls should’ve given the ball to Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez every chance they had and did not. The two combined only for 21 points.
  • Miami also took advantage of the Bulls inability to stay with their man defensively, mainly the glaring gaps in the Bulls’ defense when the Heat ran the high pick and roll. This should’ve been something corrected at halftime and never was.
  • Towards the end of the 3rd quarter the Bulls were 2/14 from the field, showing again their lack of scoring options.
  • Miami’s Wayne Ellington is an average NBA player at best, but when facing the Bulls, he found himself wide open, and hit his shots, totaling 14 points. While he didn’t have the best shooting percentage from the field, he contributed in a way one would expect Nikola Mirotic to contribute for the Bulls, yet he finished with 1 point in 15 minutes of play.
  • The always entertaining Rajon Rondo finished with 13 points, trying to gain the Bulls trust back, or chose to play well against the Heat to showcase himself for the next team he will be playing for come February.

The final thought in this game is once again the lack of a consistent rotation. Hoiberg has chosen to incorporate Paul Zipser into his lineup, which has been surprisingly beneficial. However, his inconstant use of Bobby Portis and rookie 1st round pick Denzel Valentine does nothing for their development and rapport with the team. While “resting” Wade a few days a week is unacceptable in my book, the idea of trotting out different rotations, with Wade, without Wade, with Portis, without Portis etc, doesn’t allow the team to grow. And for Denzel Valentine to not play on this team speaks volumes to his development as well as the misguided idea by management that this team is a contender this season. Letting the kids play and develop is the only way for the Bulls’ to get better and build a bright future.

  • Up next, the Bulls host the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night at the U.C.
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Note-A-Bulls: Bulls hang on to win a close one over the Heat at the UC

It is extremely ironic that the Miami Heat were in town to take on the Bulls on a freezing December night in Chicago. Winter may have hit the streets of the city outside, but indoors at the United Center fans packed in to support the Bulls as they tried to gain some momentum against a slumping Miami team. As both teams gathered to the trademark Bull logo at half court, Robin Lopez and Hassan Whiteside squared up. Surprisingly, Lopez won the tip and Bulls basketball was on the air.

The beginning of the first quarter was quite the see-saw battle, as both teams got off to decent starts. Dwyane Wade broke the 0-0 tie nineteen seconds into the game by hitting a short jumper from eight feet out. To nobody’s surprise, Hassan Whiteside got off to a hot start. At the halfway mark of the first, Whiteside had eight points, two rebounds, and one block. The Bulls took a timeout at the 5:33 mark, with the score even at fifteen. After the timeout, Whiteside hit one of two free throws and the Heat had the lead. Miami was able to extend that lead to 23-19, but the Bulls remained in striking distance. In fact, they were able to gain a lead at the 1:14 mark after Denzel Valentine sunk a pair of free throws. That lead stayed to the end of the first, as the Bulls led 29-27.

Per usual, the bench for both teams was out to begin the second. The likes of journeyman Derrick Williams and Josh Richardson for the Heat, and the usual suspects of Valentine and the Brazilian beauty Cristiano Felicio for the Bulls. The see-saw battle continued to progress, as both teams continued to counter punch each other’s attacks on both ends of the court. Wade was busy on the stat sheet against his former team as the Bulls starters returned to the floor. At the halfway mark, the Bulls led by two as the score was 41-39 after former North Carolina Tar Heel Wayne Ellington hit a mid-range jumper. As the quarter continued to progress, the Brazilian Beauty continued to flourish. At the 2:40 mark in the second, Cristiano had six points and six rebounds in only nine minutes of play. On the other end, Whiteside was feasting on Robin Lopez. Singlehandedly keeping the Heat in the game, he had sixteen points and six rebounds at the 2:40 mark. The push by Whiteside must have been inspired the rest of his teammates, because after the Heat tied the game at forty- nine, they seemed to gain the momentum. However, the Bulls scraped this mini-run by Miami and at the half, the score was tied at fifty-five. In the half, there were nine lead changes with twelve ties. Also, Miami outscored the Bulls seven to four in terms of fast break points in the half, which is surprising, considering the Heat were playing their fourth game in five nights.

The third quarter began as the ball was inbounded to Goran Dragic, who dished it off to Josh McRoberts, which eventually resulted in Wayne Ellington drilling a three to begin the scoring. The Bulls answered on the other end with a basket by Dwayne Wade, who continued to play strong at the start of the third. The Bulls looked like they were starting to hit their stride as Wade again was able to make a play, as he broke out on the fast break and threw down a spinning dunk that resulted in an and-one, and a smirk by Wade at the Heat’s bench as he made his way to the free throw line. The veteran continued to be scorching hot, as he hit another shot to give the Bulls an eight-point lead that resulted in a Miami timeout at the 8:40 mark. However, the timeout strategy didn’t go in Heat head coach Erick Spoelstra’s favor, as the Bulls continued to push their lead on the Heat to ten. The energy of the Bulls was clearly higher than Miami, and rightfully so. It just seemed like a matter of time before this happened, due to the Heat’s amount of recent games they had played. The quarter continued, and so did the Bulls run. Once the Bulls got on this run, the momentum was certainly sliding to Chicago’s side. With just under five minutes to play, the Bulls led 77-66 after Whiteside and Dragic connected on an alley-oop at the 4:30 mark. The strategic timeout by the Bulls to bring in substitutions may have hurt Chicago, as Miami cut the lead to six with just under three minutes to play after Josh McRoberts hit a three off a Goran Dragic assist. This momentum created by Miami was largely due to the Bulls’ bench not being able to put the nail in the coffin. The Bulls looked like they were ready to break this game open, but Miami would not go away. After three quarters, the Bulls led 83-75.

The fourth quarter began with the Bulls hoping to put this game away. Unlike the past few seasons, Miami is a team that you need to go out and beat when you play them. Niko Mirotic began the Bulls scoring in the fourth with a running jumper to keep the Bulls lead at eight. Miami continued to answer the Bulls punches, but Chicago looked like they were not going to squander this one as the Bulls continued to lead by eight as Miami took a timeout with just under nine to play in the game. Yet, the Heat just continued to crawl and scratch back into this game. Seeming to have no life, Miami had the lead cut to four with just over six minutes to go. Surprisingly, one of the biggest moments during this game was when Willie Reed missed both of his free throws to keep the Bulls’ lead at four. As a result, fans at the UC received free Chick-Fil-A sandwhiches because Reed missed both. The quarter continued, and it looked like we were on our way to great finish. While this may not be ideal for Bull fans, it does make for some great drama. As the amount of time continued to drop, the Bulls continued to hang on for dear life. The fight by Miami came up short, and the Bulls escaped with a 105-100 victory. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with a game high thirty-one points, along with Dwyane Wade dropping twenty-eight against his former team. So yes, Chicago did drive home safe, even in the bad weather.

What was expected to be a rather relaxed night for the Bulls that would involve heavy minutes for rotation players turned out to be a very close game where Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler played heavy minutes. These are the kind of games that you must build a lead early, because the NBA regular season is such a marathon, and you need your stars to have their knees under them for more important games. The Bulls are off until Tuesday, where they will face the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves at the UC.

 

Note-A-Bulls: Wade, Bulls, emerge victorious in the 305

After an exciting 3-0 start, reality hit the Bulls with a three game losing streak. Coming off another loss, the Bulls looked to hit back against a respectable Eastern Conference foe, the Miami Heat. Through nine games thus far, the list of guys who have stepped up for the Bulls continues to grow, but perhaps it was the lack of reliance on one guy that helped the Bulls keep the Heat contained through each quarter. Not for a lack of trying, Dwyane Wade failed to make a significant impression in his former home arena.

  • Per usual, Coach Hoiberg sent out Rondo, Wade. Butler, Gibson and Lopez to start things off. While the numbers differed heavily by each frame, the group was able get the job done in a variety of ways.
  • The 1st quarter was a streaky one for the Bulls. Starting down 4-12, the Bulls managed to score 12 unanswered to go up 16-12, and held onto the lead going into the 2nd.
  • Going into the 2nd quarter up one, the game began to take shape as both teams managed to reach the 30-point threshold. Starting out slow again, the Bulls went down seven points early on. Like the first quarter, they grabbed the lead back and would continue going back and forth, eventually heading into the half tied. With limited playing time, Bobby Portis managed to grab a couple of rebounds and make use of his minutes.
  • Coming out of the tunnel tied, the 3rd quarter was a complete 180 for both teams. It was 12 minutes filled with rebounds, fouls and turnovers. It mostly remained a one-possession game throughout, as each team managed to score just 17 points in the 3rd quarter.
  • In the 4th, the Bulls grabbed an early lead and kept their distance for most of the 12 minutes, holding on to win 98-95.
  • I said earlier in the season not to expect Robin Lopez to lead the lineup in rebounds on most nights, as there are a fair share of guys who can step up in that department. Tonight it was Rajon Rondo who hauled in a very impressive 12 boards. While the offense wasn’t particularly efficient, Rondo managed to go 6-14 from the field with 16 points, rounded out by 6 assists.
  • As the season takes shape, Hoiberg continues to stick with his usual game plan of giving Mirotic and McDermott a healthy mix of playing time, while also showing Canaan and Portis to limited action. The bench provided a quiet 25 points, while Doug McDermott saw his playing time reach 33 minutes.
  • Six of the nine players who saw action scored in double digits, while the three who did not (Gibson, Canaan, and Portis) were all held to under 25 minutes.
  • As will be the case throughout the season, we saw both good and bad from Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic had a respectable 10 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes, but was not particularly valuable on defense, picking up three fouls.
  • Despite matching up against Hassan Whiteside, who had a great performance logging 20 points and 20 rebounds, Robin Lopez managed to snag 9 boards and a healthy 16 points, leading the Bulls with 20 field goal attempts in 38 minutes.
  • The bad: The Bulls allowed the Heat to shoot around 45% from downtown on 29 three point attempts. Luckily, the Heat only made 2/3rds of their 15 free-throw attempts, and were shaky from inside the 3-point line.
  • As for the Heat, the storyline was similar to the Bulls. Everyone chipped in, but they could not outplay their offensive inconsistencies. Aside from Whiteside’s 20-20 performance, they struggled shooting from the field, and managed to stick around mainly due to their looks behind the arc. They had four players score at least fifteen points, but didn’t receive much otherwise.
  • Justice Winslow showed flashes of growth as he was 50% from the field, with 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 15 points. His balance will be something to keep an eye on if the Heat find themselves in the playoff picture as the season progresses.
  • Up Next: the Bulls host the 2-5 Wizards Sunday night. They look to extend their record to 6-4.

You can still hate LeBron James

Well folks, it happened: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers crawled back from a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 deficit against the seemingly insurmountable Golden State Warriors to claim a championship for the city of Cleveland. And as is tradition in 2016, Twitter became a luscious garden of Hot Takes, as the tears of a million Jordans provided the necessary nourishment for takes—ranging from scorching hot to borderline absolute zero—to bloom beautifully for all the Internet to enjoy.

But as Twitter harvested this fresh crop of Takes, something bizarre and disarming occurred: the world reached a sudden consensus that the time to hate LeBron James had passed. As an experienced user of the Internet, I’ve come to be wary of any perceived Internet consensus. It’s important that there are people out there who think things like “a hot dog is a sandwich” or “Young Thug is not a religious figure”—these disagreements bring balance to the Internet force and allow us to identify idiots on the web.

So on Sunday night, as the timeline collectively asked no one in particular “How can anyone dislike this guy?”, it became clear that something was afoot. Two primary narratives emerged: the first from people who have always liked LeBron, painting the ever shrinking bandwagon of LeBron haters as “Michael Jordan fanboys…clutching their 1992 Air Jordan tennis shoes while quietly whimpering.” The second was from people who have long disliked LeBron but can no longer hold onto that disdain because of “the way he delivered” throughout this epic series. Both narratives are oddly detached from the way that we consume sports.

Let’s establish a baseline of facts so that I seem reasonably intelligent: LeBron James is one of the top five basketball players ever to play in the NBA and the best all-around player in the NBA right now. He has a remarkable set of physical gifts and can do things that nobody—Jordan, Magic, Bird, you name it—could do. He absolutely dominated the last three games of the Finals, and the notion that anyone else deserved MVP is nothing short of preposterous.

But all of these facts were facts two weeks ago, two months ago, and two years ago. To say that LeBron played amazing basketball in these Finals understates the historic evisceration he handed the defending champs. I hate LeBron James, but I’m not a moron. So why, suddenly, did LeBron become beyond reproach from good old fashioned hate?

As a 10-year-old Pistons fan in the summer of 2003, I hated LeBron from the instant he was drafted by the Cavaliers. I delighted in telling all of my friends that Darko Milicic would win a title before the self-titled King, and I delighted even more so in being proven right less than a year later. I was a little shithead.

During the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals I was forced to confront the fact that LeBron was rather good at basketball, good enough on his own to decimate my beloved Pistons. But that didn’t mean that I stopped hating his guts. As his first tenure in Cleveland twisted and turned, with the Cavs never assembling an adequate supporting cast for LeBron to deliver a title to his hometown, I cheered on his continual failures because they validated my hatred. And when LeBron went on national television and committed the most perplexing public relations faux pas of the 21st century, I roared with excitement as the LeBron hate train left the station.

I own a “LeBron went south but his mom rides West” shirt that I wear at every conceivable opportunity. (I should probably wash it.) I laughed at his 2011 Finals collapse, reveled in hot takes about whether or not he had a clutch gene, and, ultimately, avoided ESPN for days after his first two titles, still clinging to the only argument I needed, Shawn. And as he came back to Cleveland looking to avenge his Decision, nothing made me giddier than seeing Steph Curry become the cool little behemoth standing in the King’s way.

Given this history, why would any of the events of the last two weeks cause me to change my mind about LeBron James? I never hated him because he wasn’t good at basketball, because he wasn’t as good as Jordan, because he wasn’t clutch, because he was an unrepentant crybaby on and off the court, because he subtweeted his teammates and coaches, or because he comically lacked a degree of self-awareness that anyone in the public eye should have. On the contrary: all of those irrational criticisms were true—became true, even—because I hated him.

Sports hate is not rational. We yell and scream at and about people who are literally the best in the world at what they do because it gets our juices flowing. More often than not, we cherry pick moments and narratives on and off the field to create heroes and villains among a crop of people who are pretty similar to each other in a vacuum. (The reminders over the past few days that LeBron is by all accounts a model father and spearheads significant charitable endeavors buttress this notion; it’s not like the guy just now became a decent human being.) That’s how we explain away nitpicking the performance and behavior of multimillionaire superstars in bizarrely different ways—“can you just IMAGINE if LeBron had thrown HIS mouth guard at a fan?!?!”—and it’s what allows us to harvest our bounty of hot takes in the first place.

But there’s something special about that sports hate. No, I’m not just going to suddenly shut up and enjoy the greatness of an athlete that I’ve always despised. And no, I’m not going to just give in, essentially waving the white flag because the guy is just too damn good. I’m a hater through and through, and the number one object of this perverse fandom is punk ass LeBron James.

I know I’m not alone. Whether it’s Tom Brady, Alex Rodriguez, or Sidney Crosby, the world loves to hate athletes who have proven themselves great time and time again, and even when we occasionally pause to ask ourselves how and why that hate flows, we remember that Brady is a deflator, A-Rod is a steroid abuser, and Crosby is soft.

So on behalf of LeBron James haters everywhere, I will begrudgingly step forward and take this L. But when the 2016-17 season gets going, I’ll be right here, ready to kick the LeBron hate train into high gear as I always do, hoping for him to once again fail and whine about it so I can laugh in his stupid face. And despite what the tides of Twitter may tell you, dear reader, you’re more than welcome to join me on the hate train—which is suddenly far less crowded than it was two weeks ago—for what is sure to be another exciting season of literally hoping a complete stranger sucks at his job in a way that will disappoint millions of people. All aboard!

BULLet Points: Heat put likely final dagger in Bulls season

The Bulls came into the game tonight absolutely needing victory, and they could not deliver, falling 106-98 to the Miami Heat. Down three games to the Detroit Pistons and three and a half to the Indiana Pacers, although not mathematically out of it, the elimination number is one. Tonight, we got the version of the Bulls that can’t play defense; although putting it on one man’s shoulders is rarely appropriate, it’s hard not to point directly at Pau Gasol. Normally, here would follow a string of videos demonstrating his inability to move laterally, box out, help, switch, or contest effectively, but I’ll spare it – there will be plenty of videos next year. Instead, I’ll show all the things I’m excited about.

  • I never thought my first BULLet Point would ever be about Cristiano Felicio, but it is. With Taj Gibson out (ribs), Felicio was called upon to fill in once again. He has plenty to work on, but he’s a big body who has grown tremendously in a short timespan, and does a lot of little things right: screens, rebounding, effort and loose balls, and even fast breaks. He led the team with +8 in 14 minutes. Here are some of the videos I captured of his good work:

  • I said I wasn’t going to pick on Pau, but I lied. Gasol had 21 points and 12 rebounds but led the team with a massive -17. Here he is struggling with communication on a switch, followed by an inability to contest a drive, and finally Bobby Portis securing an offensive rebound by securing good position, another foreign concept to Pau:

  • Okay, back to the things I’m excited about… the Bulls played some Hoiball tonight on offense, converting on primary and secondary breaks through layups and threes, and taking early and open shots. Fred Hoiberg‘s after timeout plays (ATOs) were also effective, plus he utilized Derrick Rose with the second unit for a few stretches, which shook things up in a good way. Rose came out to start the second quarter, but then rested in two short spurts instead of one, still playing 17 minutes in the half. It was nice to see, but too late in the season.

  • I never get tired of Rose driving. He ended with 17 points and three assists on 7/16 shooting in just under 36 minutes.

  • Doug McDermott didn’t have a great night, but at least he (sort of) tackled Hassan Whiteside and was (wrongly) given a flagrant foul. This was the Bulls’ first flagrant foul of the season, coming in the 79th game. It was also Doug’s first flagrant or technical foul in the NBA, and he had no technicals in his 145 games at Creighton.

But that second angle though…

  • Aaron Brooks was given the DNP tonight by Hoiberg. Honestly, if all that happened in this offseason was getting rid of Pau and Brooks, I would be happy. As for exploring the other moves available to the Bulls – that’s for another day.
  • The Heat won their 46th game of the season, moving them into a tie with the Celtics for 4th. Dwayne Wade notched 21 points, along with six other Heat players in double figures, including all five starters, as the Heat shot 47.8% from the field.
  • Coming up: The Bulls take on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in what is likely to be a meaningless game.