The Chicago Bulls ended their season on a high-note, winning in comeback form over the historically bad Philadelphia 76ers (10-72) 115-105 at the United Center Wednesday night. The Bulls ended the season a disappointing 42-40, a record that would’ve made the playoffs in the East most other years.
- The strangest thing happened Wednesday night: The Bulls were going through the motions and getting beat down by one of the worst teams in NBA history 60-39 in the 2nd quarter, the lead was 24 at one point, and then the crowd started to boo mercilessly.
- Except instead of digging themselves an even bigger hole, they began to click and showed some energy, knowing down 3’s from all over the court and playing pretty stifling defense at times. The result was a demanding 32-4 run by the Bulls to put them up 71-64 and they never looked back.
- The comeback charge was led by Nikola Mirotic and Justin Holiday. As for Mirotic, the forward shot lights out from deep, 7/11, on his way to 32 points. We knew Mirotic could knock down a few shots, but it was the rest of his game that impressed those in attendance. The Montenegro native stuffed the stat sheet with seven rebounds, four assists, five steals, and even three blocks. Mirotic making the hustle plays seemed to spark the rest of his team to do the same. The fact that he only turned the ball over only twice in 39 minutes is just an added bonus for Niko on the night.
- The other spark plug on the night was Justin Holiday. The guard dropped a career-high 29 points in the win over the Sixers and must have impressed Fred Hoiberg with his ability to run the offense. Holiday showed great court vision and made the right decision with the ball more times than not on Wednesday. Holiday also proved to be a two-way player causing havoc on the defensive side of the ball with his length, and athleticism. The season-finale was a strong audition from a player hoping to stay in the rotation for next year.
- It wasn’t just Mirotic and Holiday knocking down threes on the night. The Bulls as a team shot 63% (15/24) on the night as the Bulls pleased their coach by finding open jump shots early in the shot clock on a consistent basis. The key to this was the quick ball movement and unselfish basketball. Once the Bulls started their comeback there was little standing around on offense and everyone was making the extra pass on the perimeter to set up an even more open shot. The result was the Bulls putting up 99 points over the final three frames.
- One of the bright spots for the 76ers was Robert Covington. The Bellwood, Illinois native must relish playing against his former hometown team. Covington put up 25 points the last time these two met and was just as good last night. Covington put away 27 points on 7/17 shooting, including 7/7 from the charity stripe and was the reason the Sixers had such a big lead early in the 2nd quarter.
- Coming up: The 2015-2016 season comes to a close as the Bulls fail to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. This is a crucial offseason for Gar Forman and John Paxson to correct the dysfunction within the organization.
- A note from DRaT editor Jake Weiner: Thank you so much to everyone that joined us for our coverage of all 82 Bulls games this season. It’s been a depressing year for Bulls fans, but we’re so glad to have been able to share the ups and (mostly) downs with all of you. We’re looking forward to joining you all again next season!
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.