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.
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.
The Bulls are simply not a good team right now. They’re missing their best player, Jimmy Butler, as well as the heart of the team and a key defensive contributor in Joakim Noah. Nikola Mirotic somehow had a complication from his appendix surgery (only the Bulls), meaning he won’t be back anytime soon either. With a roster that is clearly flawed at full strength, the Bulls have slipped deep into a dangerous place while trying to fend off the injuries. The rest of this year should be more focused on the future than the present.
While many front offices might look at the factors in play and decide to trade some impending free agents and slip into the lottery, the Bulls…did nothing. Kirk Hinrich was shipped away as a salary dump, a surprising but nonetheless confusing move for Gar Forman. Moving Hinrich amounts to nothing more than a money saver for Jerry Reinsdorf, but it also underlines the Bulls’ clear understanding that they lack a championship roster. There were no major rumblings of win now moves, and the Bulls disappointingly passed on trading Pau Gasol. The latest out of Chicago is that re-signing Gasol is a top priority for the team. Gar is also denying calling this a championship roster in the preseason, so I guess we all just imagined that together! Let’s get to the BULLets before I lose my mind.
- Derrick Rose was fantastic yet again, continuing his run of highly encouraging play. Rose had 28 points and seven boards in 30 minutes, including 18 at the half that kept the Bulls alive. He only notched two assists, but as Jeff Mangurten points out, the Bulls missed on 12/14 shot attempts off potential Rose assists. Derrick continues to score more efficiently, mixing in lethal step-back jumpers with increasingly effective acrobatic layup attempts. The rest of this lost season should provide a low-pressure environment for Rose to continue getting his groove back. Check out this article by Mika Honkasalo about how Derrick’s bank shots are a massively important addition to his game.
- E’Twaun Moore received the start alongside Rose again but struggled to match his recent play. Moore scored five points with no assists in only 22 minutes. He was supplanted by Tony Snell, who actually grabbed seven boards and added nine points in 33 minutes of his own. The return of Mike Dunleavy Jr. won’t help Tony find more playing time, but there is undoubtedly a place for him in the rotation if he starts playing better. The Bulls could use a boost like that too, after Snell had very little trade interest around the league.
- Bobby Portis notched a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. While he still struggles to be an impact player, this is hardly discouraging for a rookie. Rather, we should be excited about his aggressiveness on both ends and commitment to strong positioning and helping on defense. As long as Portis keeps getting minutes and learning on the fly, he should develop into a key rotation player.
- LeBron James had a typically stellar game, notching 25 points, nine boards, and nine assists. He had plenty of help from his teammates, with Tristan Thompson dominating the boards en route to a double-double. On a more encouraging note, Kyrie Irving was thoroughly outplayed by Derrick Rose.
- Coming up: the Bulls head home to host the surging Toronto Raptors tonight. They should be fairly heavy underdogs.
The Bulls are a trainwreck right now, in too many ways to count. Their stretch of nightmare play continued last night with a disheartening 113-90 defeat to Atlanta on the United Center hardwood. Not even returning home from a seven game road trip mustered enough out of the Bulls, who were loudly and understandably booed by the home crowd throughout the fourth quarter.
- The Bulls held tight throughout the first half, entering the break down just five. The wheels fell off in the third quarter, though, as Atlanta sliced up the Bulls’ fledgling defense for 38 points. Through constant screens, actions, and pinpoint ball movement, the Hawks were time and again able to find wide-open, high percentage shots for their scorers. Jeff Teague paced the starters with 17 points while his backup, Dennis Schröder, led the Hawks with 18. It was a true balanced attack, with Atlanta’s offense content to take advantage of whatever open shot the Bulls would eventually surrender. The Hawks made 13 of their 33 three pointers.
- With Jimmy Butler out for the next three to four weeks, E’Twaun Moore continues to start. Moore has actually been a rare bright spot for the Bulls this season, and he turned in eight points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals last night. E’Twaun is a capable defender of both guard positions and a far more confident scorer than Tony Snell. He’s a nice rotation player who has pretty clearly established himself as the Bulls’ best guard off the bench.
- Pau Gasol led the Bulls with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. He continues to be one of the only reliable aspects of the Bulls bottom-five offense. Gasol’s defense and effort still leave plenty to be desired, but there has also been a noticeable improvement in these areas as Pau has been unafraid to call out the team publicly. Chicago’s smartest move would be to trade the All-Star (named as Butler’s replacement) if a decent offer exists, but the latest rumor has Gar Forman pining to throw $20 million at the aging big man. This would be an epic disaster.
- Derrick Rose was 6/18 for 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Not his best night, as he struggled to convert his usual layups and mid-range shots. Interestingly, Rose drained both his three point attempts. He looked good physically after sitting out Monday night with general soreness (perfectly fine with me if we’re getting a 70 game season out of Derrick).
- Doug McDermott led the team with 37 minutes and added 17 points on 6/12 shooting. He’s a very talented offensive player, and Fred Hoiberg absolutely needs to draw up more plays for the sweet shooter. Unfortunately, Doug is still disastrous on defense, and he posted a team-worst -29 last night.
- Taj Gibson had a quiet night before leaving with a foot sprain. I assume he’ll be fine after the All-Star break, but the Bulls seriously can’t keep anyone on the floor right now.
- With trade rumors swirling, Al Horford and Kyle Korver were both awesome last night. I understand why Atlanta is considering making big changes and moving on from some of their veterans, but you have to appreciate these guys. They play the game the right way, and more often than not that pays off for them.
- Cameron Bairstow is not an NBA player. He has zero NBA skills and has failed to show anything resembling competence offensively from his first appearance last season. I was mildly shocked that he made the roster again and I’m even more confused by Fred Hoiberg’s usage of the Australian in his rotation. I understand the Bulls are banged up and in a bad place, but Bairstow cannot play important minutes on a team that wants to win. I’d much rather see Hoiberg either 1) distribute all 96 frontcourt minutes evenly between Gibson, Gasol, and Bobby Portis or 2) experiment more with Doug McDermott or Mike Dunleavy at power forward.
- Coming up: nothing, thank the lord. The Bulls take some much-needed time off for the All-Star break. Pau Gasol is Jimmy Butler’s replacement, so both will be on hand to enjoy the weekend’s festivities.
After dropping two in a row, including an ugly loss Friday night in Boston, the Bulls went into Cleveland as big underdogs. With Tyronn Lue taking over for recently fired head coach David Blatt, the Cavs were expected to reassert their dominance in a comfortable double-digit victory over the Bulls. Instead, Chicago pulled out an impressive 96-83 win on ABC primetime.
- Derrick Rose continued to play in all-out attack mode. While he didn’t convert as efficiently as he has been lately, Rose got himself plenty of good looks that helped open the floor for the rest of the team. He finished 5/21 with 12 points, but he played much better than his stats.
- Jimmy Butler had another solid performance, notching his customary 20 points and adding nine rebounds. He’s been a beast on the glass lately, always finding ways to contribute outside just scoring. Butler also did a great job on LeBron James, who struggled mightily when guarded by Jimmy but excelled otherwise. James finished with 26-13-9, but he shot poorly and padded his stats when it was too late to count.
- Pau Gasol was the Bulls MVP in this one. He posted 25 points on 11/16 shooting along with 10 rebounds and six assists. Even more importantly, Gasol showed more effort boxing out, playing help defense, and executing offensively. He’s still going to miss a few rotations and throw away a few lazy passes each game, but the Bulls can be a lot better when Gasol holds himself to a higher standard.
- For the first time in a couple weeks, Nikola Mirotic showed some confidence. He drilled three three pointers and added 17 big points in 25 minutes. The Bulls need Mirotic to play like this more consistently; he’s too talented to bury in the rotation. Niko’s ability to drill long-range shots, draw fouls anywhere on the floor, and make plays with the ball in his hand is highly rare for a big man.
- Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were complete nonfactors in this game, though Irving is still working his way back from knee surgery. Love only grabbed five rebounds and was ineffective offensively outside the post. It’ll be interesting to see how Tyronn Lue works Love into the offense more, likely with touches at the elbow. It will be a process, but the Cavs also don’t have a ton of time to make sweeping changes.
- Coming up: the Bulls take on a hobbled Miami Heat team tonight.