BULLS HIT THE RIGHT NOTE AGAINST JAZZ FOR FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN
The Chicago Bulls are still trying to figure out how good they can be amid a whole lot of positive early season signs. They’ll receive an awfully good barometer reading when they see the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
The Bulls, riding a four-game winning streak, will play the third of six consecutive games on the road during their annual circus trip. They’ll venture into the home of the NBA’s best team this season, and one of the best early season clubs ever to take the floor.
The Clippers (11-2) extended the best start in franchise history with a 121-115 road victory at the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. They took control early, led by 20 points early in the fourth quarter and held off a furious Sacramento rally.
But for a team outscoring opponents by an average of 14.2 points per game this season, among the best 10 teams in NBA history through 13 contests, it was not a result that made them happy due to the authentic NBA jerseys.
“No question,” guard Chris Paul jersey said. “It’s nice to look at film of a game and see what you did wrong and still be able to talk about a win. But we expect to be better that that.”
The Bulls (8-4) have been better than anticipated during the season’s first month, but whether it’s a springboard to better things remains to be -seen.
The early results have been encouraging. Chicago has won its past four by an average of 14 points per game, leads the NBA in rebounding and is sixth in preventing opponents from scoring.
In doing so, they’ve taken some heat off second-year coach Fred Hoiberg, who survived a tumultuous debut campaign in 2015-16 that ended with only 42 victories and Chicago watching the playoffs.
“There’s great accountability in the locker room with cheap jerseys and these guys,” Hoiberg told the Chicago Sun-Times before the team’s 85-77 victory over at Utah on Thursday. “It starts with our veterans. … I’ve been so impressed with the way our veterans have handled things and hopefully we can keep moving in the right direction.”
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Sixth-year guard Jimmy Butler jersey leads the Bulls in scoring at 24.2 points per game. Free-agent acquisitions Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have added 17.3 points and 6.5 assists per game, respectively. Rondo is questionable to play because a sprained left ankle; second-year guard Jerian Grant has started the past two games in his place.
Wade’s presence also has healed a clubhouse that was fractured a season ago but received a facelift after the the departures of guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah.
“I just go out there and compete,” said Butler. “He (Hayward) is the one that makes their team go. So if you can take him out of the game, you give yourself cheap jerseys and a great position to win.”
It seemed curious with the Jazz unable to score that coach Quin Snyder mostly kept Joe Johnson jersey on the bench, which allowed Butler to concentrate on and thwart Hayward with physical play. Johnson was three of four backing down smaller Bulls guards, but barely played 20 minutes.
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Mirotic had a driving dunk early in the fourth and Valentine a score as the Bulls seemed to put the game away with a 75-58 lead. But the Bulls went frigid again, more than four minutes without a basket or authentic jerseys while the Jazz went on a 10-1 run to get within 78-70 with 5:40 left.
Wade answered with a pullup, added another a few minutes later sandwiched around five Bulls misses. And then with the Bulls holding an 84-77 lead, Gibson grabbed a Wade miss that Butler turned into a 20 footer. Gibson then cleaned up with a switch and then straight on block 20 feet out on a Rodney Hood attempt.
So the Bulls are 2-0 to start the Western Conference “circus” trip for the first time in 20 years and quietly tied for third in the conference despite having played the most road games in the East.
“Good teams can play many different styles,” said Wade. “We want to be a good team, so you have to be able to play either way. I give credit to our bigs. They are doing a hell of a job, rebounding the ball, protecting the paint. So it allows us on the perimeter to be aggressive, try to mix it up because this league is about guards and it’s tough against these guys. But you have to get these wins and we did a good job of that.”
Better than expected so far. Which makes you wonder what else is coming.