Well that’s more like it.
The Bulls welcomed the 16-24 New Orleans Pelicans to the United Center for a midday match-up on Saturday. The Bulls, currently riding a 3 game losing streak, needed a comeback win to get back into the groove. That’s exactly what they did. With Jimmy Butler picking up where he left off before his three game absence with the flu, the Bulls came out strong early. Riding Jimmy Butler’s hot hand, who scored 13 of his 28 points in the first quarter, the Bulls gained an early lead and never looked back. Dwyane Wade had a relatively quiet first three quarters of the game, but awoke in the fourth scoring 17 of his 22 points in the period, solidifying the win for the team. The offense was smooth, the defensive rotations were tight, and the team finally put up a fight for a full 48 minute game.
Coach Hoiberg did a great job in this one with his different line-up combinations. The starting five started off hot, and the bench squad did not let up. One of my favorite combinations that Hoiberg featured in this game, were the five of Valentine, Butler, McDermott, Portis, and Gibson. This combination of young guys and veterans displayed tough defense, rebounding, shooting, and most importantly–energy. This line-up was hustling up and down the court, crashing the glass, and making life difficult for the Pelicans. I’d like to see Hoiberg continue testing out these different combinations. There’s a lot of talent on the Bulls bench and I think it’s time to see what guys like Portis and Valentine can do with extended minutes.
Remember Bobby Portis? The Bulls 2015 first-round draft pick out of Arkansas who was the “steal” of that draft? He’s finally starting to get some time off of the bench due to the recent injuries of Mirotić and Butler, and I believe with more playing time he can become an enormous asset off of the Bulls bench. Last season, Bobby (or as I like to call him “crazy eyes”) averaged 17.8 minutes and scored 7.0 points and grabbed 5.4 rebounds per game. He was an active player who could not only defend and rebound, but offered good range from the power forward position shooting .308 percent from the three point line. Bobby also had the fifth most double doubles in the 2015 rookie class, a group that featured talented bigs like Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis. Not only was he productive, but he also brought a lot of intangible assets to the team. He brought energy, hustle, toughness, and a certain swagger that only Bobby Portis could bring. He would run up and down the floor mean-mugging the opponent or yell at the top of his lungs after a big rebound, block, or dunk. Last season, you knew when Bobby Portis was in the game, he would give the team 110% effort regardless of the opponent. I miss seeing Bobby Portis play every night, and I think the Bulls do too. I believe Bobby can be just as productive as last season, if not more, with increased playing time. This team needs a spark plug off the bench to keep winning games, and I think they have one sitting on the sidelines already. Give Bobby more minutes, and this team will be more successful. Simple as that.
For the New Orlean Pelicans, Chicago-native Anthony Davis was really their only source of offense throughout the game. The 23 year-old Davis is averaging 29.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game this season. He finished with a game high 36 points along with 14 boards. In my opinion, he is the next premier player in the NBA. With his offensive abilities and strong defensive presence at the rim, he is an unstoppable force on the basketball court. It’s unfortunate he is stuck on such an underwhelming team. Hopefully the Pelicans can start adding competitive pieces to surround Davis to complement his immense talent. If not, I could see a trade coming in the near future–and as a fan, I wouldn’t mind seeing Davis reunite with his hometown team in Chicago.
The Bulls, now 20-21, currently sit a half game out of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bulls have 16 games left before the All Star break, and hopefully the team can ride the wave after this good win and put a string of quality games together. The Bulls have a quick turnaround and play again on Sunday in Memphis against the Grizzlies. Stay tuned for more Bulls coverage.