Thursday night the Bulls continued their road trip with a stop in Salt Lake City. Coming off the win in Portland on Tuesday, the Bulls hoped to carry their momentum to 8-4. Meanwhile, the Jazz came in with a 7-5 record with star Gordon Hayward playing some of the best basketball of his career. Averaging a very strong 22 PPG, the now six-year veteran is looking like a true superstar. Called for a 9:30 CST start time, we didn’t have tip-off until 9:45 CST.
- Plenty of green sits were available at the Vivint Smart Home Arena for what have been a marquee matchup twenty years ago. The Bulls supporting their classic all red road jerseys, while the Jazz wore the hit or miss sleeve jerseys with a musical note in the upper right corner of the uniform. Robin Lopez beat out the newly paid center, Rudy Gobert, and Bulls basketball was on the air. Lopez also was the first player to register a point, followed by a Boris Diaw three from the corner a few possessions later. The first TV time out came around, the Bulls led 16-15. A majority of the first quarter was quite the chess match, as both teams fought back and forth. At the three-minute mark, the Jazz led 21-20 with Dante Exum leading the way with six points. In the final minute, both teams played strong defense and the score through one was 26-25 Utah.
- The second quarter began with Denzel Valentine checking in for the Bulls. Valentine was one of the many bright young talents that were on the floor at the start of the second, with the likes of Bobby Portis and Trey Lyles. The Bulls began the quarter on a seven to one run. This run was created because Gobert was off the court, and the Jazz had no protection at the rim. As a result, the Bulls were free to attack the basket. Once Gobert returned to the court, the Jazz again were able to get back into the game, protect the basket, and eventually tie the score. As we came close to the five-minute mark, the game continued to bounce back and forth. Rudy Gobert continued to do Rudy Gobert things, blocking, rebounding and scoring. The scoring portion was somewhat limited, as with under five minutes to go, both teams had yet to reach forty points. Yet, water seems to always find its level. The Jazz made a small run in the final two minutes, and at the half the Jazz led by two after Jimmy G. Buckets drilled a deep three at the buzzer. The G… it stands for Gets.
- The second half began with a three attempted by Rodney Hood that was well short. The Bulls took the momentum from Butler’s buzzer beater right into the second half, as they jumped out to a six-point lead at the 9:30 mark. Jerian Grant started off the quarter strong, he was attacking the rim very well despite the tall Frenchman not named Diaw near the basket. The timeout that occurred at the 9:30 mark did not really slow down the Bulls. The offense started to click, again led by Grant, as the Bulls led by nine with just over five minutes in the third. However, just as it seemed things would really crack open for the Bulls, the Jazz cut the lead right back to five as Gordon Hayward made a strong defensive play on Jimmy Butler. In typical NBA fashion, the Bulls decided to play their hand and extended their lead once again to ten at the 1:30 mark. There was an opportunity for another buzzer beater at the end of the quarter, but Gobert missed a layup where he easily got fouled, however there was no call. After three, the Bulls led 66-58.
- After some maintenance on the hoop and an extended soundbite of “We will rock you”, the fourth quarter began with a great possession by the Bulls, as they spread the ball out beautifully, and Dwyane Wade scored one of the easiest layups in his career. But the strong basketball didn’t stop there. Denzel Valentine drilled a three and extended the Bulls lead to fifteen. It didn’t stop there. This game was the Bulls to lose. With less than ten minutes to play, the Bulls led by seventeen and had only allowed to the Jazz to score sixty points. Once again, in typical NBA fashion, a run was made. At the 6:43 mark, Joe Johnson hit a floater to cut the Bulls lead to twelve. Utah cut the lead down to eight, as the Bulls could not get any offense for quite a few possessions. But then, D-Wade took over. After Dante Exum hit two free throws, the veteran drilled a big mid-range jumper to put the lead back to ten. Yet, these Bulls proved that they are not the Bulls that we’ve come to know (sound familiar?). Jimmy hit a massive twenty-foot jumper to extended the Bulls lead back to seven with just over a minute remaining. Final score: Bulls win a slugfest in the land of the Mormons, 85-77. Drive home safe Chicago.
- Overall, this game just added to the argument of why having no Rajon Rondo might be a good thing for the Bulls. It’s just very clear that their defense is a lot better when he is not on the court. There is no way that you could hold a team to under 85 points, even if they are a poor offensive team, with Rondo in the starting lineup. So questions will certainly start to arise as to what the Bulls will do with Rondo.
- Up Next: the road trip continues as the Bulls will be in Los Angeles until Sunday night, as they will play the Clippers Saturday and the Lakers the following day.