Every night in Orlando at Disneyworld, they have a parade. It’s a fanciful tribute to the many different characters who make up the team. The Bulls Tuesday joined in with their Parade of Point Guards, Jerian Grant starting for Michael-Carter-Williams, who returned to non playing status.
But once again it was the Peter Pan of the Bulls, Dwyane Wade, who refuses to age even if he can’t much fly anymore.
The clever veteran guard had 21 points, seven steals, seven rebounds, three assists, most in the fourth quarter with lobs to center Cristiano Felicio for scores as the Bulls pulled away for a 100-92 victory over the Magic.
“He has been huge lately,” said Jimmy Butler, who added 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three of the team’s 13 steals. “He is taking and making shots, tough ones. Passing the ball to the open guy, getting everybody easy shots in rhythm, which they love to take. We need that from him.
“Just how calm he is and how professional he works,” Butler added about Wade’s presence after Wade’s 30 points Saturday against Sacramento. “When everybody else is nervous and their nerves kick in, he is the Hall of Famer. He is like ‘I have done this a million times and it is nothing to me.’ I just follow his lead. If he is calm, then I am calm. When he starts to panic then that is a reason to panic.”
But Wade showed there wasn’t this night even with his own zero for five start in a 22-20 Orlando first quarter.
“If you don’t stay with it, then you are never getting out of it,” said Wade. “Plus, I have shot a lot of shots and they didn’t go in and I have made a lot. So I am fine. Don’t worry about me. I can be zero for 19 and I think I am going to make the 20th.”
It’s the mantra of shooters, and it was Wade’s three that began to break open the game with the the Bulls leading the Magic 81-77 with nine minutes left. Then there was a Wade lob pass to a rolling Felicio for a score, Wade with a driving basket and Felicio, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds, with a follow of a Wade miss.
“It is easier whenever you are ahead down the stretch,” said Butler. “I think we did okay with closing games out this year. It has been earlier on in the game where we have dug ourselves a hole and have to fight back and then get that lead again in the fourth quarter. If we are ahead going into the fourth quarter then we are very, very confident.”
Suddenly, the Bulls led 90-79 with 6:52 left and there wasn’t much chance the league’s poorest offensive team was making a comeback. Butler soon added a steal on an inbounds and run out for a dunk for a 92-80 lead with under six minutes remaining. There was no sweating out late officials’ calls this time.
“His start wasn’t Dwayne’s best,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg acknowledged. “Obviously, he’s a guy that can get it going at any time. He was awesome when we put him back in, especially in the fourth quarter to close the game. I thought he and Jimmy did a good job kind of taking turns out there as far as who was handling the ball and who was playing the role of playmaker. A good win for us. Obviously, it wasn’t great out of the gate. It didn’t start out pretty. The second half, I thought we really guarded after giving them over 50 percent in the first half.”
And so the Bulls move back to .500 at 23-23 with the continuing intrigue than transcends their average record.
Hoiberg, Captain Hook, as it were, said he expects to retain Grant as a starter for Wednesday’s home game against Atlanta.
“I thought Jerian was solid,” Hoiberg said. “He was a little timid on a couple of his shots. That’s why he is out there, to space the floor, knock down shots. He’s got to step up and shoot with confidence. He’s been playing well in practice. I thought he played really well in that game in Atlanta last week when we were coming back after disaster in that first half. So, it’s just continuing to get him some confidence and go out there, but I do think he fits well with that first group.”
That first group, however, was again slow to start the game, walking the ball up and falling behind 16-8. It might have been more if the Magic, 18-29 and sinking, hadn’t missed three of their first four shots with a pair of turnovers. The Bulls missed six of their first seven, but Wade’s two steals kept the Bulls going. Then it was the Bulls bench with 22 of the team’s 32 second quarter points that gave the team some thrust and a 52-49 halftime lead.
That was thanks to road warrior Doug McDermott, who had 12 points in the game and all four of his three pointers (four of six overall) in the second quarter. McDermott also was valuable in five fourth quarter minutes even though he didn’t attempt a shot. After making those threes, the Magic defenders had to stay close to him. Which opened space for Wade to operate successfully inside with Felicio, the latter who was able to roll to the basket without the interior being clogged.
“Cris was really good all night,” said Hoiberg. “Going out there and getting the double/double for us (third in the last month). He gives us that fourth rim roller, especially when he’s out there with that spread lineup. He got the dunk. D-Wade gave him a great pass, cleared the side for him. I thought he battled (Nikola) Vucevic, rebounded the ball well and started our break.”
Now if McDermott can make some of those shots at home, also.
It’s seemed clear McDermott has pressed in the United Center, the fans anticipating every time he shoots that three. The sample is getting larger now into the second half of the season. McDermott is shooting 30.2 percent on threes at home and 43.7 percent on the road. Overall, he’s 41.3 percent at home and shooting 46 percent on the road, where he averages about 11 points compared with about nine points at home.
But this Bulls season seems to remain a work in progress mostly throughout with Felicio becoming pretty regularly the closing big man. Paul Zipser with a quiet five points was sixth man again and played the entire fourth quarter while Grant went into the starting lineup for Carter-Williams with Rajon Rondo remaining the backup.
“This was something like the sixth start or something that we (with Grant) played together and we have had some success,” said Wade. “He is going to be tough on himself and he didn’t shoot it the way he wanted to (one of four with all threes). But one thing I always tell him is if you are in the lineup with myself and Jimmy and you bring the ball up, once you get rid of it now you’ll score.”
The move keeps Rondo in place to play with the floor spacers. It seems obvious by now Hoiberg doesn’t care to use him with Wade and Butler. Rondo played well with that second unit in the second quarter, finding McDermott with the 40-foot baseline pass he can make for a three.
So after starting the last 12 games, Carter-Williams moved back to not playing. He said earlier in the day the move was unexpected and he was surprised. Carter-Williams was two of 12 the previous two games for a total of five points after averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds the previous nine games.
Rondo was benched when Carter-Williams returned from injury last month, the feeling being that Carter-Williams’ defense on taller players would help. But Carter-Williams has been troubled on defense against smaller guards. It also seems obvious that Hoiberg is trying to get to a game with more three-point shooting and court spacing even if it isn’t the specialty of the roster.
So with Butler and Wade handling the ball and making plays more often, like point guards, Hoiberg seems to be trying to get more shooters to play off then. Like continuing to use McDermott and Nikola Mirotic together and starting Grant to play off Wade and Butler because Grant, in theory, is a good three-point shooter and can defend the smaller, quicker point guards.
Though it’s difficult to find a shooting stroke playing infrequently. Grant is shooting 32 percent on threes this season, but has only attempted 60 in 35 games. He ‘s sat out 11 games, including Saturday against Sacramento.
“That is what is asked of you on any given night,” said Butler when asked about the rotating guards. “It comes with the job. That is part of being in the best league in the world, so I don’t think that is an excuse for it being a different guy every night. On the opposing end, the other team has a different guy every night.”
Well, that’s one way of looking at it.
And so the cavalcade of magnificent characters continues. That’s the fun with these sorts of parades, or teams. You never know who’s coming next. Hey, kids, look! Who’s that? No need for any anyone grumpy now.