Chicago Bulls: Dallas Mavericks
Butler, who has been starting in place of the injured Marco Belinelli, was coming off two outstanding games: 20 points in a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday and 17 points in the win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
He had only four points Saturday. But far more troubling for him was the two points he felt he should have gotten but left at the free throw line.
With 15.9 seconds left, the Bulls had a one-point lead and Butler was at the line for two shots. Everyone connected with the Bulls felt good. Butler entered the game making 84 percent of his free throws.
But he missed both, and afterward, he was suffering.
“I’m not going to say I was nervous, because I was really confident,” Butler said. “I’m supposed to be a good free throw shooter, [but I] missed two. I don’t care what anybody says; that’s the reason we lost that game. I don’t care what my teammates say; I know better.”
The Dallas Mavericks promptly came down the court, and Dirk Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer to give them a 100-98 victory. A case could be made that, at best, Butler’s two free throws would have meant a tie score with the game going to overtime.
Butler wasn’t hearing it.
“If I would have made those two, we would have been up three, and then we just make them go to the basket,” he said. “This one’s on me without a doubt, and that’s that.”
It was a maddening day overall for the Bulls.
They were sensational from 3-point range. Led by Nate Robinson, who was 7-for-7 from distance, the Bulls made 57 percent of their 3-pointers.
But they were only 10-of-18 (56 percent) from the line.
The Bulls left Dallas knowing that if they were as efficient at making easy shots as they were making the hard ones, it would have been a far less frustrating day.
On Saturday afternoon, the Chicago Bulls had a 12-point lead with less than four minutes left in their game with the Dallas Mavericks and also managed to lose.
The only difference was the Mavericks didn’t need overtime.
In their first game since ending Miami’s 27-game winning streak Wednesday, the Bulls were equal parts excellent and inept. Twice in the second half, they seemed to take over the game as they built double-digit leads in the third and fourth quarter. Each time, they could neither match the Mavericks’ toughness nor their focus and seemed to crumble when the Mavericks played with desperation.
After building an 97-85 lead on Luol Deng 3-point shot with 4:07 left, the Bulls scored exactly one point the remainder of the game. Afterward, they were sensitive when asked about their effort and about a possible letdown.
“I don’t think we ever let down,” Deng said. “It was just great players -- great players that made great plays. I’ve been in a game [like this] where we’ve won.
“This was similar to the Kansas game last night. I felt like we controlled the game, and we lost it in the last three minutes.”
The final blow was delivered by Dirk Nowitzki with 2.9 seconds left when he buried a 3-point shot as the Bulls gave him the slightest opening that he needed. Nowitzki never hesitated.
“We had a slip, and we were in a scramble,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought there may have been a travel there, but that’s the way it goes.”
The Bulls wasted an excellent offensive effort by Deng, Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson, each of whom scored 25 points. Robinson was spectacular in the final period, scoring 14 points and hitting a 32-foot 3-pointer that barely beat the shot clock with a little more than six minutes left.
After beating the NBA’s best, the Bulls lost to a team that is 10th in the Western Conference standings. And they lost a chance to make up ground on Brooklyn in the battle for fourth place in the East and a first-round home-court advantage.
“This was definitely a tough loss,” guard Kirk Hinrich said. “We knew this was going to be a tough game coming in, because they are fighting for a playoff spot.
“I thought we played with high intensity most of the game, but we just didn’t finish it out. They have a lot of guys with lots of experience, and I give them credit.”
CHICAGO -- Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo spent his childhood just like pretty much every other basketball-loving kid of his era -- following Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
"Yeah, we all did," Mayo said before Wednesday night's game.
Mayo shared his own Jordan and Bulls memories during the Mavs' visit to Chicago.
"I had some favorite Chicago Bulls sweats that I used to wear,"he said. "A lot of Bulls shirts and jerseys. Michael Jordan, he was a basketball icon, a legend, so I think we all have a little Bulls fan in our heart."
CHICAGO -- Taj Gibson spoke for all of his Chicago Bulls teammates, especially his beleaguered benchmates after Wednesday night's 101-78 trouncing of the Dallas Mavericks.
After blowing a 27-point lead Monday to the Milwaukee Bucks -- in a game in which only three reserves played -- Gibson and the Bulls took advantage of the opportunity Tom Thibodeau finally gave them.
"We were angry," Gibson admitted. "Because I felt that we should have won that game. We should be on a two-game winning streak. We understand that every game in this league is hard to win. Especially being on the other side of this; having a tough go-round so far early in the season. Every game is tough to win ... and we've got a lot of guys that take a lot of pride in wearing the Bulls logo across their jersey so getting this win tonight, it was real special."
CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls earned a 101-78 over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at the United Center.
How it happened: Luol Deng led the way for the Bulls, scoring 22 points and grabbing six rebounds. Joakim Noah had another solid outing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Nate Robinson added 14 points and six assists off the bench. After barely playing in the Bulls' embarrassing loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night, the second unit played with a confidence, as a group, that hasn't been seen all season.
What it means: The Bulls' bench obviously took to heart all the criticism it received in the past few days. They came out and set an early tone in the second quarter, giving the Bulls a lead they would never relinquish. Marco Belinelli hit his first 3-point attempt of the game and it seemed to loosen everyone up. Jimmy Butler played his best game of the season, and Robinson was more under control than usual. Taj Gibson played with his energy from last season, and even Nazr Mohammed added five rebounds in 12 minutes. This was exactly the way Tom Thibodeau was hoping his team, specifically his bench, would respond after giving away a 27-point lead Monday night.
Hits: Butler had 13 points and three rebounds off the bench. He was active in 27 minutes. The second-year forward was 9-for-10 from the foul line.
Misses: Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich combined for just 16 points.
Stat of the night: The Bulls' bench outscored the Mavs', 50-34. This came just two nights after Milwaukee's bench outscored the Bulls' bench 56-10.
What's next: The Bulls face off against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
"Some people say, 'Well (if) you have a chance to make the playoffs or (are) in the playoffs, come back.' Some people say, 'If you don't have a chance maybe hold out a year,' but I think you should still go out there and get some games under your belt and work out some kinks and wrinkles," Mayo said. "Which is never too bad because he's been training for a whole year and excited about coming back and playing so you don't want it to be a whole year and a whole (other) summer and wait until the offseason because D, he doesn't really play too much pick-up in the summer. So I think it would be good for him to come back whenever he's ready and just work out some wrinkles and kinks."
Rose tore the ACL in his left knee in the first game of last spring's playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers.
"We grew up together," Mayo said. "We started playing each other since we were 8, 9 years old. So to see him go down, it was pretty heartbreaking. I know he's going to work hard to get back and be out there helping his team. I know it's killing him right now not to be able to get a chance to help his guys, but he's a great player and a hard worker so I know he'll get back to (being) himself."
CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose still isn't close to being 100 percent healthy and probably won't be for the rest of the year.
His teammates don't care.
Obviously, they want him to feel better, but at this point in the year, they'd rather have him on the floor than watch him languish on the bench. A hobbled and rusty Rose is still better than no Rose at all. That was the case on Saturday night as Rose scored 11 points and dished out eight assists in the Bulls' 93-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
"He was great," Bulls' guard Rip Hamilton said. "The one thing I told him before the game, I said, 'your presence is going to make a big difference in everything we do.' I felt as though it was tonight. Just him being out on the floor, regardless if he was scoring, passing or whatever, just his presence made a big difference for us."
The veteran sharpshooter knows better than most how important a star can be to a team, especially as it heads into the playoffs. Having won a title in Detroit, Hamilton understands what a team needs in order to win a championship, and he and the rest of his teammates know the Bulls won't attain their goal unless Rose is on the floor.
"We want our whole team back," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "Whoever we're missing whether it's Rip, Joakim, Booz, Derrick anyone, even from the bench, you get used to how you play. That's how we play. That's our rhythm. Everyone knows their minutes, knows when they're coming out. We keep everything kind of consistent so having him back for the next few games is really going to help everyone's rotation."
With Rose back on the floor, the Bulls are getting the emotional boost they need heading into the postseason. He is the man the rest of his teammates take its cues from.
"He looked good taking into consideration I think he played a very controlled game," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He was taking care of the ball, running the offense and just trying to get a feel for being out there again. I thought it was a good first step."
But was it a step Rose was ready for?
For as much of a lift as Rose gave the Bulls, he still looked to be like a shell of his old self. The explosiveness that has become his trademark was missing, and he did not want to drive to the rim most of the night.
"I got to the lane a little bit during this game, but my confidence wasn't that high driving the ball," Rose admitted. "Hopefully in the next couple of days it's going to get better, and you'll see me back to my usual self driving to the hole trying to get fouled and putting a lot of pressure on the defense."
Rose, who also acknowledged that he dealt with some 'throbbing' in the ankle, remains convinced he will be able to return to his old form soon.
"When the opportunity comes and I know that I'm totally healthy, I will," he said. "But until then I'm just trying to make the game easy, doing whatever it takes to win this game. Today it was me passing the ball, getting guys open, putting them in situations where they can make a great play."
For the foreseeable future, that will be Rose's main job. Until he can regain that extra burst that separated him from the rest of the NBA, Rose will continue to be a more controlled playmaker. That's fine by him as long as he can stay on the floor. Considering all the injuries he has dealt with and the fact that he played in just his fourth game in almost a month in a half, it was just a relief for the reigning MVP to be able to contribute to a victory again.
"It was good, man," he said. "My spirits are up, just being out there getting a lot of love from the fans. It brought me up. Where there's been times I felt down, but I just love the game, love being on the court. Just being with my teammates really. Just being out there having the ball in my hands, it was an unbelievable feeling."
How it happened: The Bulls had five players in double figures, and played solid defense most of the night. Luol Deng led the way with 22 points and six rebounds. Rip Hamilton bounced back after a poor performance in Miami, scoring 19 points. Joakim Noah added 14 rebounds. The Bulls win and the Miami Heat's loss means that the Bulls' magic number to clinch the best record in the Eastern Conference now stands at one.
What it means: Playing with Derrick Rose for the first time in a week, the Bulls' offense still looked rusty. The good news for Tom Thibodeau is that Rose was back on the floor and setting up the offense for his teammates. He still doesn't look to be close to 100 percent -- he may not be for the rest of the year -- but his mere presence gives his teammates the confidence they need heading into the last week of the season. Rose has another week to get himself back up to speed and work his way into an offensive rhythm. Aside from Rose' health, the problem for the Bulls is that their offense continues to look lethargic at times. They shot 45 percent from the field, but they aren't playing to the level they set for themselves earlier in the season. It's a conundrum that Thibodeau must work his team out of before the playoffs begin next weekend.
Stat of the night: After going 2-for-16 from 3-point land on Thursday, the Bulls went 9-for-20 from beyond the arc against the Mavericks.
Deng’s charge: With his team leading by six points with a little more than two minutes to play, Deng scored five in a row, including a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:55 left to play. It was the dagger shot the Bulls needed to close the game.
What's next: The Bulls take on the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in Indianapolis.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose participated in most of Saturday morning’s shootaround and was feeling better after dealing with a recent right foot injury.
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A league spokesman on Sunday confirmed an NBA.com report that the schedule will be released Tuesday afternoon. NBA TV will broadcast a schedule show starting at 2 p.m., with the schedule to be sent out at 2:15 p.m.
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The Bulls' 22-year-old All-Star point guard sees the high level Kidd has played at for so long, and he just shakes his head.
"What's this, his 17th season?" Rose asked with a chuckle Friday morning. "I don't even think I'll be able to do that. It's a blessing that he's out here playing, but they're still doing good, still playing good basketball.
"And he's still one of the best point guards in the league."
The respect is mutual.
Kidd chuckled earlier this summer at Team USA's training camp in Las Vegas when I asked him whether Rose could take over the torch as the next great point guard for the national team.
"Yeah," he said. "Twenty-one, and he has all the tools to be a great point guard in this environment, and also in the NBA, so the future's very bright for him.
"He's a guy who works extremely hard."
Rose wasn't the only one singing Kidd's praises.
"Oh, great vision," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Great decision making. Great rebounder [who] busts out with the ball.
"But the thing that gets overlooked, he's one of the all-time great three-point shooters in the history of the league. For a guy who came in, who wasn't a great shooter, he's sure made himself into a great shooter now. It's another three-point shooter on the floor. You got to close out to him; you close out too hard he has the ability to go by you. And then his decision making, he's an offense into himself."
Obviously, Thibodeau would be ecstatic if Rose turned into the type of player Kidd has become. And there is a certain aspect of Kidd's game that the veteran coach would like to see his new protege work on.
"The rebounding component into busting out to it, because those are the hardest fast breaks, I think, to stop," Thibodeau said. "I think Kidd does it great, and he has his whole career. He's been a great fast-break point guard for every team that he's been with."
Right now, Rose is still trying to learn the ropes. He's still trying to climb the NBA mountain which Kidd has already scaled. But, as Kidd himself told me earlier this summer, there's no doubt Rose has the ability to do it.
"Coming out of college he was everything that he was supposed to be," he said. "He's an athlete, he can get to the basket, he can score. He's a guy who can find the open guy and plays extremely hard, so when you're all that, the sky's the limit."
The Bulls announced their eight-game preseason schedule which begins Oct. 5 in Milwaukee against the Bucks. The Bulls also host preseason games against the Toronto Raptors (Oct. 12), the Dallas Mavericks (Oct. 15) and the Indiana Pacers (Oct. 22), all at the United Center.
The Bulls open the regular season on the road Oct. 27 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.