BULLet Points: Bulls overcome ugly start, blow out 76ers

  • It was a tale of two halves Monday night at the United Center. While the Bulls ultimately cruised to a victory that saw the brief liberation of Bobby Portis, the first 24 minutes were some of the ugliest the Bulls have played this season.
  • After a slow offensive start to this game from both teams, the 76ers had a huge second quarter. Jahlil Okafor was 4/4 in the period and flashed some impressive moves in the post, going over, around and through Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. Okafor finished the game with 22 points on 9/17 shooting, but his impact was not felt at all beyond halftime.
  • Had it not been for the huge effort of Jimmy Butler, the Bulls would have needed to overcome a lot more than a five point halftime deficit. Butler was 8/9 from the field and 3/3 from the line over the first two quarters of the game. Butler connected on a couple of lobs to the rim and looked like the only Bull playing with any energy or effort on the offensive end. Jimmy finished the game with 23 points (7/7 from the line) and only played 10 second half minutes in a game the Bulls had secured before the fourth quarter.
  • Derrick Rose had one of the most discouraging performances to date Monday night. In 26 minutes of action, Rose scored only six points and grabbed one rebound. More concerning than his point total was the fact that he only attempted three field goals and had just four shooting possessions against an opponent that does not exactly feature premier point guard talent. Philadelphia played without shot blocking machine Nerlens Noel, but Rose still seemed unwilling to attack the basket at all in this game. In the first half, with his team struggling to generate any good looks, Rose was uncharacteristically passive on offense. For a player mired in a season long slump from close range, a home game against Philly seemed like a good chance to build up some confidence. (Editor’s note: after the game, the Bulls said that both Rose and Butler are a little sick).
  • If Rose isn’t going to attack with the ball, he needs to start playing better without it. Rose, who is a putrid 23% from three this season, is not helping anyone by standing still around the arc when another Bull has possession. He needs to start moving effectively off the ball to create some easy scoring chances on cuts to the hoop.
  • Fred Hoiberg’s decision to move Mirotic to the bench in favor of Taj Gibson continues to pay dividends. The matter of who starts the game is not as important to me as the shake up of the big man pairings. Gasol and Mirotic never made sense as the duo to soak up the largest share of minutes. With two defensive minded and two offensively inclined big men it always made sense to stagger the rotations to consistently have complementary pieces on the court.
  • Mirotic found his groove in this game against Philadelphia’s second unit. The streaky second year man contributed 17 points on Monday and connected on 5/8 of his three point attempts. Whether the boost came from playing alongside the scrappy Joakim Noah or he is not yet good enough to compete with NBA starters, this night hopefully marks the start of consistent production from Niko.
  • The Bulls took control of this game after outscoring the 76ers 34-12 in the third quarter. More than a third of the offensive output came from Tony Snell, who played his best game of the season. Snell scored a season high 16 points on 5/10 shooting and did most of his damage by being aggressive in the paint. Snell struggled to find his shooting stroke but was able to score three the hard way on two occasions during his explosive third quarter. While Snell’s performance was encouraging, I want to see him do it against a roster better than the summer leaguers Philly plays every night.
  • Joakim Noah finished with a very Joakim Noah box score: five points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists. Noah, whose two field goals came on offensive rebound put-backs, was able to dominate the inferior competition and displayed the hustle and effort that has sustained him his whole career.
  • While four minutes and twenty six seconds is nowhere near long enough to satisfy my appetite, it was nice to see Bobby Portis go to work in garbage time. Portis scored three times in his brief stint, flashing a smooth post move and a confident mid range jump shot. The Bulls maintained a lead of at least twenty points for nearly the entire fourth quarter, and I wish Hoiberg had given Portis a little more time to get into the flow of the game. In his garbage time run, Portis saw the offense run through him in the post. I want to see what Portis can do as an energy player cutting off the ball or diving to the hoop on pick and rolls. If he’s restricted to nothing but garbage duty, the Bulls will enter an uncertain offseason unsure of what they have on their hands.
  • Coming up: the Bulls face the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday at the United Center.
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