The Bulls came into Tuesday night’s game having not won a game in Portland since 2007. Fortunately, they were facing a Blazers team that no longer has the benefit of superstar LaMarcus Aldridge, who went to San Antonio this past off-season. Portland sorely missed Aldridge down the stretch, when C.J. McCollum was the guy left trying to be the game-tying hero in the final seconds against a stout defender in Joakim Noah. The Bulls hung on at the end to improve to 9-4; here are the BULLets:
- The Bulls got off to a great 10-0 start with quick ball movement to generate open looks, often utilizing the now-standard dribble hand-off weave to create action, and taking advantage of a Portland team that looked lost on defense in the opening minutes. They pushed the ball in transition and even on made baskets, forcing the Blazers on their heels for much of the game, as the Bulls led from start to finish, for once turning the Trailblazers into the Trailing Blazers on their home court (terrible, I know).
- Offense: Joakim Noah did some work in the post on two consecutive possessions, one from the right side, which isn’t his preferred method of attack, and he hit his first jump shot of the year, a 20-footer. He was also active on the boards, with a final stat line of seven points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. If Jo can be even an occasional threat on offense, it will bring another dynamic that was non-existent and severely hampering during last season, as it would force the defense to pay a little attention to him and open up opportunities for the likes of Butler and Rose, who combined for 39 points, on 13/33 shooting and a +/- of 12 when paired together, the highest of any pairing of the night.
- Niko got his three-ball game going, shooting 3/4 from long range, and 4/8 overall for 13 points. The most glaring improvement he needs is to go up stronger near the basket and get rid of the wacky-waving-inflatable-arms-flailing-tube man act, which rarely yields a call from officials.
- After Kirk’s impressive retro performance against Golden State last week, he was mostly back to his old-new self in this one. I’m just gonna leave this right here, taken from the Game Book:
- Defense: Overall, the Bulls have limited opponents to 40.9% shooting from the field, second best in the league, but give up 33.9% on 3-pointers, just 12th in the NBA for a team that historically has been much better at limiting threes. Against the Blazers, the Bulls continued to struggle with closing out on shooters and leaving men for open looks (*cough* Niko). With the exception of Butler (always), Snell (usually), and Moore (sometimes), the whole team needs to improve in this area. Luckily, for the Bulls, the Blazers missed open looks and only shot 6/22 from beyond the arc. Derrick’s PnR defense left something to be desired for the first part of the game, going over screens clumsily and often trailing the ball-handler, and even failing to stay in front of his man on one-on-one matchups (granted, this is Damian Lillard we’re talking about).
- Doug McDermott had a rare moment of good one-on-one post defense where he didn’t fall over, commit a foul, or defend the ball-handler while standing out of bounds baseline (yes, this happened), but it’s depressingly remarkable that I’m commenting on the one time he didn’t screw up on defense.
- Jimmy Butler was his normal superstar self posting 22 points on 6/13 from the field and 8/8 from the line, with four assists and four steals. He’s been so good the last couple years, that writing about his game-to-game performances doesn’t even seem like news anymore, and this is an incredible thing to take for granted. He has blossomed into easily the Bulls best and most reliable player on both ends – scoring, defending (team and individual lock-down), IQ/playmaking, rebounding, and just being an overall game-stopping badass. I could write an article on his badassery, but instead, click here for an awesome link by Chris Terzic at Blog-A-Bull about how Jimmy has single-handily kept this Bulls franchise in the conversation as contenders.
- The Blazers are struggling this year, now 6-10 on the year, but still have some bright spots. Namely, Damian Lillard, who has well-established himself as a star; he was flirting with a triple-double (19 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) but on 4/22 shooting and missing all six three-point attempts. CJ McCollum is also a reliable guard, the Lehigh University grad responsible for toppling number two seed Duke as a 15 seed in 2012 when he scored 30 of their 75 points. He continues to show his versatility on the scoring end in the NBA, posting 18 points last night, and averaging nearly 20 a game, along with three and a half rebounds and three assists.
- Coming up: the Bulls finish the circus road trip in Indiana on Black Friday.