Tag Archives: Bobby Portis

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls shock Boston in Game One 106-102 to steal home-court from East’s #1 seed

One win down. Three to go. In what shall henceforth be referred to as the Bobby Portis Game, the Chicago Bulls stunned the #1 seed Boston Celtics by a score of 106-102 in the TD Garden to take a 1-0 series edge in this best of 7 first round clash.

Bobby Portis had far and away his best game as a Bull, scoring 19 on 8/10 shooting and 3/4 from deep while grabbing nine boards, the Arkansas product kept the Bulls in this game when it looked like Boston may take hold of the game. Ending the game with a +/- of +12, Portis’ confidence shown through at a critical time in this game when Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade were unable to find their shot.

In a back and forth affair throughout, this was by no means the prettiest playoff basketball on display thus far. There were turnovers, 35 total, poor shooting, neither team shot above 43 percent, and just overall sloppiness in this contest. But that didn’t mean this one was without intensity.

After tragically losing his sister Chyna in a car accident on Saturday, Isaiah Thomas somehow managed to suit up in Game 1 for the Celtics and did not disappoint. Thomas ended the game with 33 points, six assists, and five rebounds on 10/18 shooting in an inspirational effort by the diminutive guard. Thomas was able to get in the lane at will against this Bulls squad until Butler switched on to him in the last half of the 4th quarter. From that point on, Thomas found it much tougher treading as the Celtic offense struggled down the stretch with their best player being locked down by the Bull’s superstar.

In a first half where both teams probably felt fortunate to be in the game, the Bulls went into the locker room with a slim advantage 48-46. The Bulls were shooting a measly 2/14 from beyond the arc and only 38 percent overall. Meanwhile, the Celtics had turned the ball over 11 times before the break and had surrendered a whopping 16 offensive boards already. While both teams were feeling fortunate to be in the game, they also both were probably shaking their head at the inability to create a double-digit lead due to the other teams poor play.

In the second half, the difference came down to bench productivity and one team having Jimmy Butler. Both those landed in favor of the Bulls, as on top of Portis, Jerian Grant and Cristiano Felicio each contributed positive minutes with Grant hitting a huge three late in the last frame.

After that, Jimmy Butler did what he does best, try to single handedly close out games for this inconsistent Bulls squad. Fortunately, he was able to do so. Scoring 23 of his 30 points after halftime, Butler stepped up when his team needed him most, knocking down some clutch contested treys while the game hung in the balance. His defense down the stretch on IT also proved critical in shutting down the Celtics the last five minutes.

While Sunday night was a rare bright spot for this organization over the past few years, it wasn’t without its reminders of why the Bulls secured the East’s 8th and final playoff seed. Nikola Mirotic was downright horrific in Game One. In 19 minutes, the forward scored just four points on a dreadful 1/9 from the field including 0/5 from three. His defense also showed little to be desired as his mere presence on the court put the Bulls at a disadvantage on both ends. The Bulls will need Mirotic to step up his game if they want to take three more in this series to pull the upset.

Additionally, while the Bulls somewhat solved their woes in the 4th quarter, they still struggled to close out the game. Thanks to a couple unforced turnovers by the Bulls, the Celtics received ample opportunities to come back in the final minute of play. If they hit one of their open threes in that final minute, we could easily be talking about another 4th quarter meltdown for Los Bulls. Fortunately that was not the case, but again, they need to tighten this thing up if they really are going to push the Celtics in this series.

As for the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas was great. His effort was nothing short of herculean given what he went through over the last 24 hours. Unfortunately, there were times when he seemed to be on an island out there getting no help from his teammates. Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley need to perform better than their 9/25 combined shooting night to take some of the pressure off of IT. Thomas ended the night with a +/- of +12 in 38 minutes of play. The Celtics can’t be that bad in the 10 minutes per game Thomas is on the bench, and with the bench combining for only 22 points, that was not the case on Sunday night.

Up Next: The Bulls will look to take a commanding 2-0 lead back to the UC on Tuesday night in TD Garden where the Celtics will be out for revenge.

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Note-A-Bulls: Bulls end the first half on a high note with gritty win over the Celtics

17. That’s how many Thursday night home games the Bulls have won in a row on TNT. That’s incredible. Is that an obscure stat? Perhaps. Is it an explainable fact? Absolutely not. What makes this streak even more incredible is almost every game in that stretch has come against a very good basketball team. You don’t play the Jazz on TNT, you play the likes of the Celtics, the Cavs, the Raptors. Like I said it defies explanation, which is also a phrase that could be uttered to describe the ending of the Bulls (28-29) 104-103 win over the Celtics (37-20) last night.

With one minute and twenty seconds left in the fourth quarter, Doug McDermott had just hit his second consecutive free throw to pull the Bulls within one at a score of 103-102. Over the next three combined possessions that included two consecutive Bulls offensive rebounds, both teams could not add to their tally. So with eight seconds remaining and Bulls trailing by one, it came down to Jimmy to decide things.

Butler took his time setting up his move insuring his shot would be the last. From the right wing Jimmy awkwardly pulled up for a game-winning attempt while falling off-balance, the shot did not go. But after a dejected Bulls began heading toward their bench, they had realized a somewhat questionable foul had been called. Objectively, Marcus Smart played some pretty great D and may have grazed Jimmy’s elbow on the shot, but that’s not a call you make in that circumstance. As he has done so many times this year, Jimmy came through to knock down the ensuing two free throws to take a one point advantage. A last ditched effort from Al Hereford careened off the rim and the Bulls were heading into the All-Star break on a winning streak after back-to-back impressive wins over the Raptors and Celtics and within a game of the six-seed in the East.

My unsung hero of the night goes to the oft-maligned Bobby Portis. The reserve forward had a career high 19 points to go with eight rebounds on 8/13 shooting from the floor. 13 of those points came in the first-half when the Celtics were threatening to run away with this one as they shot 53 percent in the half. Portis was hitting jump shots from all over, including one from deep, and displayed the type of hustle the Bulls had dreamed about when they drafted the 2nd year pro number 20 overall in the 2015 draft. Portis still struggled a bit on the defensive end and turned the ball over twice from traveling, but the Arkansas grad showed something the Bulls hadn’t seen out of him in a long time, potential.

Another reason the Bulls won this game was due to their dominance on the glass. The Bulls out-rebounded the Celts 51-31 on the game including a staggering 15-4 edge on the offensive boards. This allowed the Bulls to win thanks to shooting noticeably worse than the Celtics thanks to the 13 extra shots they attempted compared to their opponents. This also resulted in a decided edge in second chance points, 22-4 in the Bulls favor.

Not everything went right for the Bulls, as they continued to stink up the joint from behind the arc. They shot 6/25 on the night (24 percent), lowering their league worse average from 31.8 percent. The lack of spacing in the Bulls offense often creates a log jam in the paint which makes it much more difficult to drive with any sort of efficiency. Doug has been hit or miss, while Niko got a DNP coach’s decision leaving the Bulls ammo-less. The Bulls will never be the Warriors in terms of shooting, but you have to at least make your opponent respect your shooting ability to free up space.

Isaiah Thomas continued his recent hot-stretch going for 29 points on 8/18 shooting while going an impressive 9/9 from the charity stripe and dishing out seven assists. The diminutive guard didn’t have his usual 4th quarter heroics, often forcing up shots in the final frame, but his ability to manipulate his body to get shots off in the lane against bigger defenders is extraordinary. Thomas is a worthy all-star, and I hope he doesn’t get overlooked (no pun intended) for his stature as his game speaks volumes.

Up Next: The Bulls get a reprieve for awhile as Jimmy Butler heads to New Orleans for the All-Star game this Sunday in the annual East vs. West clash.

The Lineup Laboratory: Let’s Make Space

We know who is going to be playing for the Bulls. A flurry of moves this offseason resulted in one point guard being shipped out and another high profile one being signed on. The Bulls followed up the Rondo signing with the (second) most surprising move of the summer by luring Dwyane Wade from the Heat on a two year deal.

In a vacuum, both of these signings are very justifiable. After the Rose trade, the Bulls were able to get a proven veteran coming off a very good season on what is basically a one year deal. Compared to some of the supersized contracts that were handed out the first week in July, Rondo is almost a bargain, and fills a clear positional need.

Wade, coming off his healthiest season in years, absolutely has gas left in the tank. The Bulls are more than a wing short of being able to contend with the Warriors and Cavaliers of the league, and adding Wade, despite the high cost, bolsters what is generally a shallow position across all 30 teams. While Wade has never figured out how to shoot threes, his herky-jerky “dad at Lifetime wearing a knee brace” game figures to age well.

These would be great signings if basketball was baseball. Baseball is a game of one on one battles, and the team that has more talent in their lineup tends to win. In basketball, simply acquiring talent is not enough. In basketball, a player’s ability to succeed is impacted as much by who he shares the court with as how good skilled he may be as a shooter or driver. Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler would make a killer 3-4-5 in a batting order. But as a 1-2-3 on the basketball court, these undeniably talented players add up to less than the sum of their parts.

The projected Bulls starting lineup – Rondo, Wade, Butler, Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez – features just one above average three point shooter. The streaky Montenegrin is going to need to improve his consistency from beyond the arc if the Bulls starting group hopes to have any space to operate on offense.

The severe shooting deficit in the Bulls backcourt will ultimately limit one of the few strengths of this roster. Between Mirotic, Lopez, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio, the Bulls have a very deep PF/C rotation. Unfortunately, it will be spacing suicide anytime two of these players share the floor and one is not Niko. To cover up the flaws of the roster’s architecture, Chicago is going to need to get creative and find a way to squeeze 48 minutes of outside shooting from the power forward spot.

Already we are hearing about Fred Hoiberg‘s plan to have Doug McDermott play power forward. The 6’8″ McDermott is far too weak a rebounder to hold up at the position for long stretches. But against some of the other stretch fours in the league, McDermott may be able to provide valuable spacing on offense while avoiding his biggest weakness: perimeter defense.

I expect the Bulls will also use Jimmy Butler at the 4 at times during the season. Butler is strong enough to hold up in the post against most big men (including LeBron James). Butler has the quickness to torture other power forwards on the perimeter, and his less than great three point shooting upgrades to average when he’s considered a four. Lineups with Wade, Tony Snell and Butler will give the Bulls the flexibility to switch often on defense, the strategy used by the Thunder and Heat to stop the Warriors in the playoffs.

I imagine Taj Gibson, who has played 89% of his career minutes at power forward, will see most of his playing time come as the backup center. A Taj and Lopez pairing, which should be superb on defense, is just not going to result in a functioning offense with the spacing issues across the roster.

The real losers in this roster shakeup are Portis and Felicio, two players who desperately need on court experience to improve their feel for the NBA game. There are just not going to be enough minutes for these guys on a consistent basis. Both players showed they are not afraid to take a perimeter jumper last season, but until defenses start respecting Portis and Felicio outside the paint, their presence will only further clog the dirty drain that is the Bulls offense.

We still have a long time between now and the start of the regular season and the Bulls may not be done tinkering with the roster. Just a few hours ago it was announced the Bulls signed Isaiah Canaan, who instantly becomes the best shooter in the Bulls backcourt and will provide value off the bench and off the ball. The team could also shake things up by trading Taj Gibson, making $9 million in the last year of his contract, for a three point marksman. Should the Bulls stand pat with this group, Fred Hoiberg is going to have to get very creative with his rotations.

BULLet Points: Comeback falls short as Bulls drop fourth in a row

The Bulls did not begin the Week of Reckoning on a good note, losing Monday at home against the Atlanta Hawks 102-100. With upcoming games against the Pacers, Rockets and Pistons, the playoffs are beginning to seem like a fantasy. The Bulls played with effort and urgency down the stretch of this game, but their inability to string together 48 quality minutes doomed them against a quality opponent.

  • Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler turned in miserable performances in this one. The starting back court combined to shoot 31.7% on 13/41 shooting. This team can really only go as far as their star guards can take them, and on nights when nothing is falling, it’s tough for the Bulls to compete against any team.
  • Butler’s lack of explosion and willingness to go inside is very concerning and causes me to wonder if he should even be on the court. Butler attempted 16 field goals in this game with only four coming in the paint. He attempted just three free throws, with one coming off of an insane four-point play in the final minute. To Atlanta’s credit, they do have the second best defense in the NBA this season and have been even better than the Spurs in recent weeks. But without a true rim protector on the roster, Jimmy should have felt confident forcing the issue at the basket. Instead, Butler attempted seven threes and settled for a handful of long twos off the dribble.
  • Derrick Rose was at least missing his shots from theoretically good places to attempt shots from. Rose was not shy about calling his own number against Atlanta, shooting 25 times in 34 minutes. Rose was looked more like the November version of himself, unable to elevate and finish over defenders in the restricted area. Usually when Rose is lacking athletically he turns to the bank shot, but it seemed he forgot he had that in his arsenal against the Hawks.
  • Rose was atrocious on the defensive end. The Bulls were killed in the pick and roll all night by Atlanta, and part of that was due to Rose getting hung up on screens and failing to track his man off the ball. During one sad stretch in the fourth quarter, Rose was back-cut three times on two possessions.

  • It takes two to tango and it also takes two to play horrible pick and roll defense. Pau Gasol was more lamppost than anchor in this game, immobile against the Hawks driving attack. Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder combined to shoot 15/28, mostly by attacking Gasol in the pick and roll. The diverse skill sets of Al Horford and Paul Millsap froze Gasol in space, and his lack of agility made it impossible to recover when it became clear the point guard was going to attempt the shot. Gasol stuffed the box score with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, but nearly all of his points came on long twos and everything he scored was given right back on the other end.
  • Taj Gibson was the only Bull playing with intensity from tip until final buzzer. Taj grabbed a team high 12 rebounds, four offensive. He blocked four shots and contested countless others. He scored just nine points but shot 50% from the field and did not turn the ball over.
  • The Hawks allowed the Bulls to grab 18 offensive rebounds. Atlanta has been one of the worst defensive rebound teams in the league, rare for a very efficient defense. But what they lack in rebounding ability they make up for in effort. Almost every time the Bulls pulled in an offensive board, there was no easy putback shot available. The paint was always filled with Hawks determined not to let up until possession was theirs. The Bulls attempted 105 field goals, 20 more than their opponent. But the Hawks made all 105 of those shots as difficult as possible.
  • Bobby Portis continues to encourage me on the defensive end. His rotations are sometimes off and his help instincts require some improvement, but those are skills that take time to develop. What I’ve enjoyed watching are possessions when the rookie is isolated against a ball handler on the perimeter. More often than not, Portis is able to move his feet and force a pass or a difficult shot. Bobby will only get better as his mental ability catches up to his physical gifts.
  • Aaron Brooks had a crazy fourth quarter, scoring seven points on three very high degree of difficulty shots that kept the Bulls in this game until the final few seconds. Brooks finished with 16 points on 7/10 shooting. But despite the impressive shot making ability, Brooks is still a huge negative on this team when he needs to run the offense. Playing alongside Rose for much of the fourth quarter, Brooks was able to play shooting guard and didn’t have to concern himself with his teammates. Poor Doug McDermott never has a chance to get cooking when he has to share the court with Brooks.

  • Potential offseason target Kent Bazemore was 1/9 from the field. I still think they should offer him a nice deal this summer. The Bulls need to add another athletic wing to the roster to lighten Jimmy Butler’s load.
  • Coming up: the Bulls take on Indiana Tuesday night in a “well, if we lose this, it’s definitely over” match-up.

BULLet Points: Pack it up, the Bulls’ season is over

Yikes. The Bulls had an opportunity to assert themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a back-to-back against the conference bottom-feeder New York Knicks. After getting played out of the gym in the third quarter yesterday, the Bulls came right back out and got smacked again. The Knicks took an eight point halftime lead and never looked back, winning 106-94.

  • The Bulls offered zero resistance defensively on Thursday night. Sasha Vujecic got the Knicks going nice and early with three long distances makes (his only three attempts from deep) in the first eight minutes of the game. The Knicks never looked back, drilling shot after shot to methodically put the Bulls away. The Bulls cut it do 47-45 as the first half dwindled down, but Kristaps Porzingis drained back-to-back threes to end any threat. At the end of the third quarter, Arron Afflalo made a contested pull-up mid-range shot to beat the buzzer. The Bulls just couldn’t get a stop all night.
  • The Knicks shot 51.3% overall on 43.3% from deep. While the Bulls forced more turnovers (17-12), Chicago shot just 41.6% and 24% from three. The bench unit that’s found much offensive success lately came up horrifically short. Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, and Doug McDermott combined for just nine points on 2/16 shooting. Mirotic dropped 35 himself the night before (and had eight of those nine points last night).
  • Derrick Rose had another superb offensive game, even turning in his first dunk of the season!

  • Rose finished with 30 points on 13/23 shooting in 39 minutes. The playing time is excessive, especially given that Rose was questionable with a back injury. Furthermore, the Bulls were never really in striking distance to complete a comeback. Regardless, it was so much fun to watch Derrick fly around the court and show off his athleticism. You should absolutely read Drew Hackman’s analysis of Rose’s season here.
  • Cristiano Felicio weirdly played 21 minutes, and I just don’t see the infatuation with the guy. He may well be worthy of an NBA roster spot, but Fred Hoiberg‘s decision to play the undrafted free agent more minutes than Bobby Portis is a head-scratcher. Especially in light of the heavy minutes Rose and Jimmy Butler (a nauseating 39 minutes himself) are continually being forced to play. It sure sounds like Butler needs knee surgery. The Bulls need to stop overlooking the importance of minutes management and health. In a lost season, it’s incredibly destructive.
  • After dropping both games with New York, the Bulls are now big underdogs to make the playoffs. They’re 1.5 games back of Detroit with Washington hot on their heels. More importantly, they’ve simply been a bad team for weeks at this point. It appears to be (well past) time to throw in the towel on 2015-16.
  • I absolutely adore Kristaps Porzingis‘ skillset/game. He’s 7’3″ with the silky athleticism of a much smaller wing player. Porzingis is unafraid to hoist long distance shots, a ridiculously dangerous weapon because literally no other NBA player can really contest his shot. He’s only hit 33.3% of his triples this year, but European players traditionally take at least a year to adjust to the NBA three. Porzingis’ natural feel for the game, excellent rebounding, and all-around positive nature all lead me to feel confident in saying that he will be a major star. He doesn’t turn 21 until August.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head to Orlando on Saturday night. Honestly, who cares though? This team probably doesn’t deserve your attention unless you’re a masochist.