By Chuck Swirsky
Bottom line: Bulls (3-2) 108 Cavaliers 94. The Bulls put the game away with a 36 point 4th quarter.
CCI game balls go to: Justin Holiday: 28 points 11 rebounds. Robin Lopez: 10pts 5 rebounds. Lauri Markkanen 18 points (4 of 7 3s)- a plus 10 off the bench.
Coach Fred Hoiberg ran early plays for Lopez on a matchup against Kevin Love and “Rolo” got the better of him on the block setting the tone. Holiday was in a consistent rhythm draining 4-3s. Markkanen who went 1-9, missing all 6 of his 3pt fgs attempts Sunday against New Orleans responded knocking down long range jumpers and let the game come to him.
Inside the locker-room: I spoke to Lauri following his barrage of three pointers against the Cavs.
Chuck: At what point did you sense that this was going to be a special game for you?
Markkanen: “As the game went on I felt more comfortable. It felt kind of weird actually stepping on the floor competing against those guys (Cavaliers). As the game went on I was lucky enough to stay on the court even though if I made a mistake I’ll learn from it.”
Confidence has never been an issue for Markkanen: “I feel good. I’m trying. It’s process. It doesn’t come overnight. I’ll go back to the gym and work on my game.”
And on being on the floor with LeBron James… “It felt surreal at first. I am lucky enough to play against him.”
Player spotlight….Starting point guard Jerian Grant:
Coach Hoiberg: He’s been solid going back to our first pre season game going back to New Orleans. The message this week has been consistency, getting the ball up the floor, then pace in our half court sets.He is more comfortable and stronger, he had a really good off season in the weight room.
Chuck: Is he more confident in year two under your watch?
Coach Hoiberg: He is more confident. The biggest thing I’ve been pleased with is his commitment to getting downhill. He’s done a nice job collapsing the defense and getting in to the paint, more often than not, making the right play
Meantime, Grant says, “I learned under a lot under Rajon Rondo, a great point guard and leader and being able to learn from him, (Dwayne) Wade and Jimmy (Butler).”
Grant has averaged 22 minutes in pre season games. Last year he played in 63 games and averaged 16 minutes, needless to say, this is a huge jump and more responsibility.
“Last year, I had to look over my shoulder, you don’t want to make a mistake, you feel you may not play for a while. I’ve been able to take care of the ball and even when I turn it over I’m not looking at coach, it’s like next play, he (Coach Hoiberg) has been able to put that confidence in me to make the next play.”
Thoughts here and there…..Granted, it’s pre season but the vibe with the Bulls is very good. Competition is healthy. The players enjoy the pace and space. The Bulls are averaging 26 assists per game.
Holiday has emerged as a true leader on this team. I’m still scratching my head why the Knicks let him walk. Holiday loves being back in Chicago.
Ryan Arcidiacono has 15 assists 3 turnovers in 5 pre season games.
It was great catching up with Derrick Rose and Dwayne Wade prior to the game. Both look terrific and are happy in their new surroundings but each enjoyed their time with the Bulls. Rose’s son PJ, who turned five years old two days ago already has a pretty good handle.
NBA notes: The rookie class could turn out to be one of the best in recent memory. Keep your eye on Utah’s Donovan Mitchell.
You make the call…when Isaiah Thomas returns from injury, do you like the Cavs or Celtics in the East?
Up next Friday night at the United Center. Bulls vs Raptors. Toronto blew out Detroit on Tuesday 116-94.
Always a pleasure. Drop me a line at email@example.com