BULLet Points: Bulls hold off Lakers in Kobe’s final trip to United Center

While Kobe Bryant‘s retirement tour is dragging on a little more painfully than some of us would prefer, the Mamba’s last game in Chicago was a delight. Bulls fans came prepared to cheer Bryant toward retirement, and Kobe delivered a few vintage moments in response. Ultimately, the Bulls were too much for Byron Scott‘s atrocious defense, prevailing 126-115.

  • Derrick Rose continued his run of superb production, especially with Jimmy Butler still nursing a knee strain. Rose tallied 24 points, seven rebounds, and six assists on 8/15 shooting; he also got to the stripe eight times. Derrick has been an absolute beast inside the paint lately, converting regularly and drawing more free throws to boost his efficiency. If Rose can keep this up when Butler returns, the Bulls will have their most dynamic backcourt yet.
  • Starting alongside Rose, E’Twaun Moore was fantastic once again, pouring in 24 points of his own on 10/14 shooting in a team-high 41 minutes. Moore, a career 36%  three point shooter, was 4/4 from distance to increase his rate to 46% this season. While that number is bound to drop some, the emergence of Moore’s defense and floor-spacing has solidified his role as a legitimate rotation player. I hope the Bulls can re-sign him.
  • Following up on his career performance against Toronto, Doug McDermott knocked down 6/9 shots (3/4 from deep) for 16 points. He did not record any other statistics. While McDermott’s inability to force turnovers, rebound, or assist is alarming, his shooting ability is truly elite. Hopefully the young wing can start improving on the edges as he hones his scoring game.
  • For the first time in nearly two seasons, we got a glimpse of why Bulls’ management wanted both Mike Dunleavy and McDermott on the squad. Dunleavy added 17 on just six field goal attempts, as he and Doug alternated as Chicago’s premier floor-spacer. It’s really nice to see Dunleavy getting comfortable again. He’s a vital part of the Bulls’ rotation; they were +14 in his 25 minutes and outscored by three in the other 23.
  • Another encouraging game for Bobby Portis. BP had 17 points, seven boards, and three assists in 25 strong minutes. Most encouragingly, he drilled all three of his attempts from long range. Portis is up to 38% (11/29) from distance on the season, and he looks good shooting from out there. It’s a small sample, but a very exciting one. If Portis can utilize the three as a weapon, it will make his inside and in between games even more difficult to guard. Defensively, I’m also excited by Bobby’s positioning and tenacity, even if it isn’t fully translating into results now.
  • Pau Gasol dominated this one, posting 21 points, seven boards, five assists, and five blocks. He was a team-high +19 and did not turn the ball over in 38 minutes. Fred Hoiberg didn’t have much of a choice, as both Portis and Taj Gibson committed five fouls. To be honest though, Hoiberg probably should’ve let Portis play to a sixth foul instead of tacking more minutes onto Gasol. If the Bulls truly want to bring Pau back, playing him huge minutes at age 36 in a basically lost season is a big head-scratcher.
  • Kobe was a very fun 8/20 for 22 points. He actually knocked down 7/13 from inside the arc, mixing in an exciting array of classic Kobe step-backs and fadeaways. Bryant’s absurdly bloated role in LA has probably hurt the long-term development of the Lakers’ young players, but you can’t deny the fun of some of the moments Bryant has provided this season.
  • Briefly: Julius Randle looked pretty awesome, though he has struggled to do anything besides rebound effectively this season. With the NBA downsizing, maybe he can tailor his game more to small ball.  DeAngelo Russell is very clearly a highly talented point guard who I wish had the chance to explore his game under a different coach. Still, if the Lakers retain their top-three pick, fire Scott, and right the ship…this was the best case scenario.
  • Coming up: the Bulls host the struggling Wizards on Wednesday night.
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