Tag Archives: Los Angeles Lakers

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls stifled as Bench Mob fails to get the job done

Coming in four games over .500, the Bulls looked to provide some cushioning on Wednesday night against the Lakers, with a matchup against Cleveland looming. Despite maintaining a lead through much of the game, the Bulls ultimately let one get away at the Madhouse on Madison. Ultimately, it was a tale of two benches as the Lakers were able to squeeze past the Bulls with contributions from throughout the rotation.

  • With everyone healthy, Hoiberg’s usual lineup of Rondo, Wade, Butler, Gibson, and Lopez started the game off. Despite some sloppy offense, the lineup managed to keep the Bulls ahead by contributing defensively.
  • The Bulls started the game off strong in the 1st quarter. Scoring 28 points and holding the Lakers to 17 would usually be enough for a win. After being up by as many as 14 points, the Bulls looked ready to distance themselves early.
  • With 11 points of cushioning going into the 2nd, the teams switched roles. Twice, the Lakers managed to chip away at the Bulls lead and draw nearly even, before the Bulls distanced themselves to keep it a two possession game. However, the Lakers took one more shot at the Bulls’ lead, leaving Chicago with no time to go back up as the half ended with the score being 47-47.
  • Unclear what the 2nd half held in store, the Bulls got back into form and outscored the Lakers 26-23, to give themselves a small lead, but a lead nonetheless going into the 4th quarter. Taj Gibson quickly snagged four boards, before Hoiberg let Mirotic have the remaining minutes in the quarter.
  • The 4th quarter felt like 12 minutes of Déjà vu. After the Bulls once again had the lead, the Lakers quickly began to chip away, tying or leading the game multiple times. Three times, the Bulls managed to reclaim the lead after surrendering it, but the fourth time was where the buck would stop. After tying the game up at 90 points apiece, the Lakers finished on a 6-0 run to win 96-90.
  • With 10 points, 9 rebounds, and a very impressive 8 blocks, Robin Lopez contributed some much needed support to help the Bulls hold on for most of the game. 
  • In a good illustration of how the game went for Chicago, Taj Gibson had a double-double with 10 rebounds and 11 points. However, he would foul out after some sloppy defensive fouls while matched up with Julius Randle. 
  • Only two bench players played over 20 minutes for the Bulls, Isaiah Canaan and Nikola Mirotic, going a combined 5-18 from the field. Denzel Valentine and Jerian Grant each saw over five minutes of playing time.
  • In another demonstration of just how this game went down, Butler was a brutal 4-18 from the field. On par with the sloppy defense from both sides though, he managed to get 15 shots from the foul line, and would make 13 of those to give him 22 points on the night. 
  • Not surprisingly, each of the Bulls’ starters had at least three fouls for the night, while five Lakers also had at least three fouls as well.  A total of 70 free throws were attempted between the two sides.
  • The bad: The Bulls shot a poor 35% from the field, but an abysmal 19% from beyond the arc on 21 attempts. A large part of this was due to the bench alone going just 1-11 from three-point range.
  • Like the Bulls, the Lakers’ stat sheet was nothing exciting from either side. They went just under 41% from the field, and did themselves few favors by only making 68% of their 41 free throw attempts. The difference maker though, was 36 points from Clarkson and Williams off the bench, each scoring 18, while Nance Jr. added on 12 as well.
  • Despite (ex-Bull?) Jose Calderon starting at point guard, Jordan Clarkson flashed his potential in 34 minutes off the bench. All of his points were scored from the field, with a very impressive 9-18 performance, which the Lakers desperately needed. 
  • Up Next: the Bulls host the reigning champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Friday.
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Note-A-Bulls: Butler drops 40 to carry Bulls to back and forth win over Lakers

The Bulls improved to an impressive 9-5 on the year with a 118-110 victory over the Lakers (7-7) on Sunday night to split their Los Angeles double header this weekend. It was a back and forth affair that featured a lot of up and down play and a lot of long balls. There were a total of 53 shots from behind the arc for the two teams combined with 21 of them finding the bottom of the net. The Bulls led by a singular point at the half before pulling away in the second half and surviving a Laker comeback attempt to pick up the W. Let’s get more into what happened in this game and what it means going forward.

  • I don’t know how I got through that intro without mentioning Jimmy Butler, but somehow I did. This whole post could be about the man growing into an MVP candidate before our eyes. Remember when rumors were swirling around draft time for Butler to be traded to the Timberwolves. Seems like a distant dream now as Butler has developed into maybe the second best player in the East.
  • One play in particular stood out to me. It was towards the end of the 4th with the Lakers starting to mount a comeback. Butler got a rebound on an ill-advised shot by D’angelo Russell. He came down and was subsequently fouled by Julius Randle. Only no foul was called and instead there was a jump ball called. On the tip, Jimmy out-hopped the three inch his superior, Randle, by climbing the ladder to swat the ball back to his team. That kind of determination is why the Bulls will win plenty of games this year.
  • Finally time to get to Butler’s numbers. Jimmy went for 40 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. How’s that for a stat line? Over his last eight games, the Marquette product is averaging 28 points, seven boards, and over five dimes per game. Given his numbers and his top-10 PER rating thus far (27.1) it is time to be taking Jimmy seriously as a superstar in this league. Enjoy this kid while you can, he’s a joy to watch and never takes a play off.
  • I suppose there were other players in this game so let’s hit some of the highlights from the rest of the squad. Isaiah Canaan continued to stretch the floor while coming off the bench. The diminutive guard scored 17 points on 6/10 shooting, including 3/6 from deep. Rajon Rondo scored only four points, but added nine rebounds and 12 assists to his tally on the night. Rondo was also has a +/- rating of +15, quieting some of the noise from Bulls fans saying the team is better with him on the bench.
  • Another Bull who had a quality game was Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic dropped 15 points and also showed some hustle grabbing 15 boards. But what impressed me most, and gave me hope going forward, was his ability to make the extra pass in transition. Sure, he took some bad shots down the stretch, but overall, Mirotic showed a great propensity to look for the open shooter. Let’s home this continues as the Bulls desperately need to keep his shooting ability on the floor.
  • Another trend that continued is the Bulls ability to absolutely dominate teams on the glass. The Bulls are tied for second in the league in rebounding and just out-rebounded a solid Laker team by 19 on the road! The bulls were also able to snatch 18 offensive rebounds creating countless second and third chances that just demoralizes your opponent in a close game such as this one.
  • For the Lakers, it is obvious that this team is a more prepared and focused one under Luke Walton than Byron Scott. They are only .500 on the year but their young talent has begun to show some of that potential we keep hearing about. Lou Williams continues to impress off the bench as he scored 25 points on 8/14 shooting, including a red-hot 5/6 from three-point land.

Up Next: The Bulls continue their circus trip deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains as they take on the Nuggets on Tuesday night.

2016 Mock Draft

The Philadelphia 76ers finally won the NBA lottery, yielding them the number one pick in an exciting draft. As such, our resident lottery/draft expert Jeff Berest is back with his series of mock drafts. Enjoy!

1. Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons, PF, LSU

Yes! ‘The Process’ worked – hooray! It took three long painstaking seasons but the Sixers finally won the lottery, more importantly winning the opportunity to draft [potential superstar] Ben Simmons.

Now, many people may believe there should be a true debate as to if the Sixers should go Simmons or Brandon Ingram, but there should be absolutely no discussion of the sort. The name the Sixers submit to the commissioner on June 23rd will read “Simmons, Ben”, and I am certain of this. Forget the Sixers drafting for need and selecting a shooter like Brandon Ingram, that is literally the only thing he does better than Simmons. Bryan Colangelo (aka not Sam Hinkie) will take Simmons and have his glut of frontcourt players and figure the rest out later. We haven’t seen a type of skillset like Simmons’ to come out of the draft since LeBron James. LEBRON JAMES! That right there should settle any internal debate you may have about the pick. A player who is 6’10″ and who can handle the ball and facilitate the offense like Simmons, on top of being able to create for himself and finish beautifully at the rim is just too good to pass up.

Before the season Simmons was the de facto #1 pick, but because of an ugly campaign with LSU, this debate with Ingram was created. I don’t care about his perceived immaturity or lack of competitive spirit. The kid made a terrible decision to go to LSU and was surrounded by truly amateur talent, yet he still dominated and averaged almost 20 and 10. Simmons is the building block the Sixers have been searching for over the past three years, and if Joel Embiid can get back on the court that’ll make two building blocks and this Sixers rebuild will be officially over. I’m also sure Brandon Ingram will be a very good player in this league, but in my mind, Simmons undoubtedly has not only a higher ceiling, but a better chance of becoming the next elite NBA player.

2. Los Angeles Lakers – Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke

Lucky for the Lakers they didn’t embarrassingly have to cede their 1st round pick to the Sixers on national television after a season in which they won only 17 games. The Lakers were also fortunate that they weren’t jumped by the Celtics or any other team, because that would’ve taken them out of the Brandon Ingram sweepstakes. The 2016 NBA Draft is the most top heavy class I can remember in recent years. After Simmons and Ingram there is a very VERY steep drop off in talent, so landing in the top 2 was a major coup for the Lakers – Thanks, Byron Scott!

Ingram is an elite scorer, who stands at a lean 6’10″ and has deep range. He is a matchup nightmare on the wing and possesses the length to be a bothersome defender. He typically gets a comparison to Durant because of that thin frame and ability to shoot from deep, but he has a long way to go before he becomes KD. That isn’t to say he doesn’t have the potential to become “KD-lite”. Ideally, you’d like to see Ingram handle the ball better, and it will be interesting to see in the NBA if he chooses to just be mostly a jump shooter or if he rounds out his game and relies on his ability to get to basket as well.

The Lakers would now have a formidable group of young talent to build from in Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.

3. Boston Celtics – Dragan Bender, PF, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Danny Ainge will probably be looking to deal this pick but if he cannot do so, I think he will be forced to take Bender. Outside of Bender his options are all guards, like Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, and Buddy Hield. But where will the minutes be for say, Murray, who would have to play in a rotation with Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Evan Turner. Bender is somewhat of an unknown but I believe there’s a consensus that he may have the highest ceiling and potential of any player outside of Simmons and Ingram. It might take a few years to unlock that potential but that may be worth it for the Celts. Jamal Murray isn’t pushing Boston over the precipice and launching them into the Conference Finals anytime soon. The Celtics have the time to nurture Bender and maybe get lucky with him. It also helps that that down the line they also have more unprotected Brooklyn picks to play with.

Bender isn’t going to be a replicant of Kristaps Porzingis and have immediate success (most likely). But he is awfully talented on the offensive side of the ball and the Celtics need to add to their frontcourt that is dependent on guys like Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger. Ainge would definitely like to move this pick and add NBA talent that can help now (maybe a Jahlil Okafor swap??), but Bender is an interesting gamble worth taking.

4. Phoenix Suns – Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky

The Suns could really use another wing player or big to pair with Alex Len, but they’re in this 2nd tier which is very guard heavy. If the Suns still want to configure their roster around three combo guards well they are truly in luck, because Jamal Murray is there for the picking. To me, Murray is the best available at this point – and one thing this could do for Phoenix is make Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight expendable. Which would be good if they could shed one of those big contracts and then work with a backcourt that included Murray.

If you take and Murray and combine that with assets from a Knight/Bledsoe trade that’s probably not a bad haul for the 4th pick. The Suns also have some flexibility because they have the 13th pick, so drafting for need isn’t the way to go here. I wouldn’t be shocked if a guy like Denzel Valentine vaulted up the board here and the Suns nabbed him, but it’d be hard to pass on a shooter like Murray who can also handle the ball like a PG. If the Suns can maneuver their current roster a bit, Murray makes more sense. But even if they don’t they’re adding a quality talent regardless.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves – Kris Dunn, PG, Providence

I think Ricky Rubio is a fine player, regardless of his shortcomings offensively. But as a really big fan of Kris Dunn, he could be the one to vault this Minnesota team. Rubio is a great facilitator and a good perimeter defender, but that’s about it. He isn’t very athletic and outside of his passing ability nothing really wows you. Kris Dunn is relentless at attacking the rim and watching him it’s easy to see glimpses of a player like John Wall or Derrick Rose. His jumpshot isn’t great either and he isn’t the passer Rubio is, but his wow factor at times is off the charts. If I’m Minnesota, I would really have to measure what my allegiance to Rubio is going forward. He’s got a decently high cap number and a history of injuries, and there are many who believe that he has simply peaked and this is the best version of him we’re going to see.

Now I’m not saying Dunn is going to be the caliber of player John Wall is, but he has a slight chance to be that. So if I’m Minnesota I take him here, instead of going with maybe a safer pick in Buddy Hield. They have Wiggins, LaVine, and Muhammad who can fill it up, I’m not sure Hield makes them that much better. I’d take a flyer on Dunn, and see if you can move Rubio. I can’t see Dunn’s floor being worse than what Rubio already brings you, but his upside is way higher.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma

I personally have a hard time saying that Buddy Hield actually has the potential to be a great player in the NBA. Outside of his incredible range, which should translate, I have doubts about his ability to beat NBA defenders off the dribble and create for himself like he did at Oklahoma. He can definitely be a solid piece, but don’t expect what he did at Oklahoma to carry over to the NBA. There’s probably not much that separates him from Murray except for that Buddy is already 22 years old.

The Pelicans #1 priority is to get back into the playoffs and put as much talent around Anthony Davis as possible. So I doubt the Pellies would get frisky and take a Jaylen Brown or Skal Labissiere here and see if they can develop. Buddy is probably the player most likely at this point in the draft to help them right away. Eric Gordon has moved on and a backcourt of a (healthy-ish) Jrue Holiday and Buddy Hield is not a bad duo, and gives NOLA another good scoring option. Buddy probably won’t be a good defender at the NBA level, but neither is anyone else on this Pelicans team, so he should fit right in. I wouldn’t be surprised if Valentine were to go here either.

7. Denver Nuggets – Denzel Valentine, SF, Michigan State

If you look at the Nuggets roster it really has a lot more overall talent than some of the other teams that finished in the bottom 10 this year. They have some pieces to build around like Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic, not to mention guys who’ve been there like Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried. The Nuggets haven’t been relevant in the Western Conference in quite some time and they really don’t have any immediate needs to fill; they simply should take the best player available who will be able to help them right, and that’s Denzel Valentine.

Valentine may not have the elite athleticism a player like Jaylen Brown may have, but his instincts and basketball IQ are off the charts. At 6’8″ he has the ability to handle the ball and create for himself and his teammates. He’s never going to be a guy who averages 20 PPG or does anything extremely well, but he is a necessary glue guy who can do a lot of everything and his leadership skills have been praised by all scouts and coaches. Normally you don’t take this type of player in the top 10, but because of the weak depth in this year’s class there’s no way you could fault the Nuggets for taking Denzel.

8. Sacramento Kings – Jaylen Brown, SG, California

The Kings are…well…the Kings. Last year they completely mishandled the draft and reached for Willie Cauley-Stein, who isn’t awful but doesn’t really fit with DeMarcus Cousins. I’m having a hard time seeing them take a guy like Labissiere or Jakob Poetl here as well. Henry Ellenson is a better fit with DeMarcus Cousins – and this is just a gut feeling, but I can’t see the Kings taking Ellenson. Jaylen Brown could potentially be much higher on some teams draft boards because of his elite athleticism and his potential to maybe turn into a star if he develops a jumpshot and starts to round out his game.

Outside of Rudy Gay, the Kings are generally weak on the wings and if they feel like Dave Joerger can work with Brown and turn him into a player it’s very much worth the risk at #8. Ellenson is more ready to contribute next year, but his ceiling isn’t necessarily as high as Jaylen Brown’s. And considering the future picks owed to Chicago and Philadelphia, the Kings might be better off swinging for the fences.

9. Toronto Raptors – Skal Labissiere, PF, Kentucky

Toronto is still reaping the benefits of the Andrea Bargnani trade and are picking in the top 10 even though they are currently in the Eastern Conference Finals. Before the season started a lot of experts had Skal Labissiere as the #2 prospect overall next to Ben Simmons. He proved at Kentucky that he is much further away from being a finished product than initially thought. Although, recently at the combine and individual workouts he has been lauded for his shooting touch and two-way game. Skal can be an asset on defense as a rim-protector but has the athleticism and range to also play PF and in the NBA.

This tends to happen in many professional sports drafts where guys like Labissiere who are originally thought of as top prospects might slide during the year because of average performances. Then, in the evaluation process, the stock begins to rise again after his talent level reemerges when you’re comparing to others. Of course he won’t be going #2, but during his struggles at Kentucky some even though he could go late 1st round. But now that scouts and NBA teams can see his potential he will surely begin to push back up draft boards.

Toronto could really use a forward to pair with Jonas Valanciunas in the frontcourt and although Ellenson is a more polished product, Toronto is the type of team to usually take the pick with more potential. It will undoubtedly take at least a year for Skal to develop and figure out the NBA game, but his upside as a two-way player is undeniable.

10. Milwaukee Bucks – Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette

The Bucks may not have an immediate need for a PF like Henry Ellenson, but it just works out too perfectly that the boy from Wisconsin who also went to Marquette gets taken by the Bucks. The Bucks could really use a PG after the MCW experiment failed, but maybe Giannis really is their PG of the future, who knows? I think Jakob Poetl is probably the pick the Bucks should make because they are dying for a true center and rim protector. But Ellenson would be very hard to pass up.

The Bucks defense is an Achilles heel and Ellenson certainly won’t fix that. But he’s just another versatile player that the Bucks can integrate into their rotation. He has ability to shoot from range and has a polished post game. The Bucks may have a hard time finding minutes for Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker, John Henson and others, so some corresponding moves could possibly be made, and that’s where the Bucks could add another PG or center.

11. Orlando Magic – Jakob Poetl, C, Utah

The Orlando Magic have done an admirable job gathering some quality talent and assets over the past few years, but one thing that it hasn’t translated into is playoff appearances. And plainly, that is because they get their teeth kicked-in every night on the defensive side of the ball. Nikola Vucevic, although a terrific scorer, is a sieve on defense. Aaron Gordon is their only real quality defender.

Jakob Poetl may not be a position of need because you’ll have to find a way to work him and Vucevic together, but they’ve gone as far as they can with Nik as a rim protector and anchor of the defense. Poetl is a great defender and is actually a nice post player with good touch. The Magic could possibly take a wing player or maybe a PG to push Elfrid Payton, but by nabbing Poetl Orlando can finally stop being an embarrassment on defense night after night.

12. Utah Jazz – Wade Baldwin IV, PG, Vanderbilt

The Jazz are another lottery team that has a lot of talent and can definitely make a push to the playoffs next season, although many expected them to contend this season. Dante Exum was out for the season so there are still question marks on whether he is a productive NBA player. Rodney Hood turned out to be a gem in the late 1st round, and combines with Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert to form a great core. Whether Exum is the PG of the future or not, Wade Baldwin is an interesting fit here. Last year the Jazz took Trey Lyles, so I don’t think they take another big man here and crowd the frontcourt more. Baldwin is a great shooter and is built in the mold of a George Hill type, as maybe not a conventional PG but a combo guard who can still facilitate the offense when needed.

Between Baldwin and Exum (either way) you have your starting PG, as well as a combo guard off the bench who you can play small with as well. It’ll be up to the Jazz to develop Baldwin, but he’s not a bad pick here at the 12 spot. Baldwin is also extremely long for his size and should be able to defend not only the PG position well, but SGs also.

13. Phoenix Suns – Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington

After taking Jamal Murray at 4, the Suns now go a little bold and take a shot on Marquese Chriss, a late bloomer who really caught everybody’s eye at Washington this season. He has the makings of a prototypical NBA stretch-4 and that is something the Suns should be interested in. He has the ability to shoot out to the three point line, has a solid post game, and is a very good athlete with bounce who can defend the paint as well. Chriss is still very raw, but with good coaching and some patience could develop into a very solid contributor for Phoenix.

14. Chicago Bulls – Timothy Luwawu, SF, France

The Bulls are dying for another wing player to pair with Jimmy Butler and Luwawu might be that guy. Luwawu has a perfect skillset for an NBA wing and can play both the 2 and 3 at 6’7″. One of his knocks was his three point shooting, but in France this year he raised his % to almost 40. He has the basketball instincts and IQ that should allow him to play in the NBA right away. He is also an above average passer for his position and his defense is one of his best attributes which should translate. He needs to improve his handle and make sure his shooting this season was not an anomaly, but at 14 this is the range where the risk is worth it for the Bulls.

15. Denver Nuggets – Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State

16. Boston Celtics – Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor

17. Memphis Grizzlies – Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey

18. Detroit Pistons – Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga

19. Denver Nuggets – Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame

20. Indiana Pacers – Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky

21. Atlanta Hawks – Malachi Richardson, SG, Syracuse

22. Charlotte Hornets – Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State

23. Boston Celtics – Cheick Diallo, PF, Kansas

24. Philadelphia 76ers – Dejounte Murray, PG, Washington

25. Los Angeles Clippers – DeAndre Bembry, SF, St. Josephs

26. Philadelphia 76ers – Patrick McCaw, SG, UNLV

27. Toronto Raptors – Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Virginia

28. Phoenix Suns – Ante Zizic, C, Croatia

29. San Antonio Spurs – Isala Cordinier, SG, France

30. Golden State Warriors – Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt

BULLet Points: Bulls hold off Lakers in Kobe’s final trip to United Center

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.

BULLet Points: Bulls easily take care of Kobe, Lakers

The Bulls came out strong on Thursday night and never looked back, outscoring the Lakers in every quarter, and holding a 15-20 point lead nearly the whole game. In Kobe Bryant‘s second-to-last game against the Bulls, Chicago was out to make a statement after a terrible late-game loss against the Heat whose result meant they’d won won just three in their last ten games. Let’s get into it:

  • Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, and Jimmy Butler led the charge with aggression, ball movement, and efficient scoring. They combined for for 63 points on 27/46 FGs with 24 rebounds and 22 assists in the 114-91 win. They looked like they were comfortable with each other out there, finding cutting lanes, and making nifty passes in creative ways, beyond just the standard pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop, unimaginative offense that we’ve been accustomed to seeing of late. The Bulls showed flashes of this against the Heat, but the Bulls kept the pedal to the metal in LA.
  • With Kirk Hinrich (bruised thigh) and Nikola Mirotic (appendicitis) out, Fred Hoiberg decided to give E’Twaun Moore the start over Aaron Brooks and Tony Snell (who played just four minutes). It’s a group that hasn’t seen much action together, but they got the game started on the right foot. E’Twaun demonstrated his athleticism and the dynamic off ball movement he can bring when he’s out there with the backcourt of Rose and Butler.
  • Pau Gasol was nearing in on a triple double for the second straight game, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. He’s shown much more flexibility and consistency in the last three games, averaging 22/13/5, and has shown more mental fortitude and focus on the defensive end, along with physicality on contested boards.
  • More on Jimmy Butler because he’s impressive literally every night now. The All-Star reserve (snubbed of the starting spot by Dwyane Wade): in just 31 minutes (phew), he posted 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and no turnovers with +31 on the night. He was flying high, playing D, running fast breaks, and had back to back steals for lay-ins on the other end. He’s playing at such a high level – Bulls fans: appreciate what this man is doing right now. Don’t take it for granted.
  • Derrick had a very efficient game. He was attacking with vigor, and although he settled for a couple of threes, was a scorer (16 points on 7/12 shooting), passer (5 assists), stole it once, and only turned it over once, which is impressive considering he was making passes like this:

  • The Bulls really shared the ball well tonight. Part of this is the atrocious, swiss cheese defense of the Lakers, who allow a third-worst 106 points per game, and look lost out there, but a lot of it had to do with the Bulls being proactive in their movement and court vision, and it was a breath of fresh air. This was not a boring game to watch – not by a long shot. Rose was lightning fast, his passes were darts; Pau managed to give Butler a few alley-oops; there were plenty of steals and fast breaks, and only the very rare occasion of an iso fade away (and really only when the shot clock was getting low, or when the game was out of reach)
  • Bobby Portis had his role expanded with all the injuries, playing nearly 22 minutes, but only putting up a +1. He’s providing energy off the bench, but struggles in double teams and court awareness. But a big guy that can rebound, shoot, play in the post, and run the floor is so essential going forward. He had a nice hustle put-back, and pulled down seven rebounds.
  • Kobe didn’t have it tonight – not that he has it most nights anymore – 10 points on 4/13, and he was torched by Butler. He’s more than on his last legs. Side note: it’s still strange to see Roy Hibbert in a Lakers uniform – man, has he dropped off a cliff. Don’t take too much away from this game, since the Lakers are just flat out awful, but it certainly was nice finally seeing the Bulls maintain a large lead against a team they’re supposed to annihilate.
  • Coming up: the Bulls will enjoy a weekend in Los Angeles before taking on the Clippers on Sunday afternoon.