BULLet Points: Shorthanded Bulls come up short against Blazers

A night after getting trounced in Atlanta and hosting the red-hot Portland Trailblazers, the Bulls were in a tough position on Saturday night. They went down big at times in the first half and entered the break losing 51-41. They used a solid third quarter to get back in the game but couldn’t find enough late to complete the comeback. They stuck with the fast-paced Blazers til the end, but ultimately came up short, losing 103-95.

  • Derrick Rose missed his third straight game with hamstring tendonitis. While I’ve been one of the stronger proponents of Rose missing occasional games to stay healthy in the long run, his inability to suit up against Portland was a definite red flag. This appears to be a legitimate issue for Rose, not just a matter of strategic rest or “general soreness”. Hopefully he’s back on the court soon, because he’s looked as good as he has in years lately.
  • Pau Gasol took control of the offense with Rose and Jimmy Butler out. He tallied 22 points, 14 assists, and 16 rebounds, his first triple double in Chicago. Gasol’s passing has been a major key lately and indicative of how “Hoiball” can look when the ball isn’t constantly stopped on the perimeter. While Butler has taken plenty of heat for this issue, Pau has been a culprit as well. If the Bulls can get this kind of buy-in from their starters when everyone is (hopefully) healthy, the offense may start to look a lot closer to what we’ve envisioned.
  • I like to think of Portland as the Baby Warriors. The Bulls just didn’t have anything close to enough firepower to keep up with them, even on an off shooting night for the Blazers. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, one of the league’s most talented backcourts, average 5.4 threes on 14.3 attempts and 46 points per game. They combined to go 0/9 from behind the three point line. Nonetheless, Lillard poured 31 points in against the Bulls nonexistent paint defense while McCollum was able to add seven assists.
  • E’Twaun Moore continued to impress with another strong performance. He scored 19 points with three rebounds and assists apiece. Moore is a very solid defender on both guard positions and has proven to be a reliable scoring option. I expect to see him continue playing a big role even as Rose and Butler get back on the floor.
  • Mason Plumlee frustratingly played Taj Gibson off the floor. Plumlee grabbed nine boards and scored 16 points on the back of 13 free throw attempts. Gibson had just seven points and three rebounds in 20 minutes.
  • On the plus side, Bobby Portis snatched 16 rebounds and added 10 points for another double double. While Portis is not yet close to being a truly impactful player, he continues to shows plenty of encouraging signs for his future. I’d like to see a little defensive improvement in the next few months, but next year will be the real test.
  • Doug McDermott stayed hot with 18 points, his fifth straight game with at least 14. His shooting splits in that stretch are .578/.500/.933, some next-level efficiency. This should continue to be a valuable tool for Fred Hoiberg, but McDermott is still a complete zero in every other aspect of the game. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging only 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.1 blocks. That is pretty dire stuff.
  • Ed Davis is mini-DeAndre Jordan. Or at least he sure looked like it against the Bulls on Saturday. In 25 bench minutes, Davis tallied three steals, five blocks, nine points, and nine rebounds. He looked ferocious rejecting shots at the rim and slamming them down on the other end. Good find for Neil Olshey and Portland.
  • Newest Bulls player Justin Holiday played a hefty 16 minutes and added one rebound. That’s it. Did you know he turns 27 in April and is Jrue Holiday‘s older brother? Both the Warriors and Hawks have already given up on Justin, who seems destined for an overseas career.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head to Miami to take on Dwyane Wade and the Heat on Tuesday night.
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