Last night was all about Bobby.
Bobby Portis returned to basketball, after serving his 8 game suspension, like a man possessed. He started on the bench but made a huge impact in the loss to the Toronto Raptors. He notched a double double scoring 21 points and wrangling 13 rebounds, leading the Bulls in both of those categories. Portis played with his characteristic enthusiasm and energy, giving the team a much needed boost when he was on the floor. It was good to see him out there playing with fervor and zest.
Portis said he couldn’t sleep last night because he was so giddy to play again. “I got my dream took away from me for three weeks. I don’t want to get my dream [taken] away from me anymore.”
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) November 8, 2017
With both Portis and Niko Mirotic out the first weeks of the season, the Bulls suffered from a lack of depth at the Forward position. Now that at least Portis is back, Coach Fred Hoiberg has a little more flexibility to experiment with the line up. To wit, Robin Lopez sat out the majority of the second half, his minutes spread between Cristiano Felicio, Lauri Markkanen and Portis. It was a mini preview of what life without RoLo might be like if the Bulls decide to trade him. Happily, it went better than you might have thought.
At halftime, the Bulls were down 65-45, a twenty point deficit. The line up of Portis, Kay Felder, Denzel Valentine, and Kris Dunn were instrumental in the Bulls clawing back into the game. Portis utilized every aspect of his offensive game; Put backs, three pointers, drives to the hoop, everything was working for Bobby. With 4 minutes left in the game the Bulls had closed the gap to within 6 points and the Raptors were forced to play their starting line up again.
Hoiberg used the big man tandem of Markkanen and Portis to finish the game against Toronto. There was a very nice moment, with around 4 minutes left in the game, when the two of them ran a pick-and-pop play leaving Markkanen with an opern jumper from the free throw line. I hope Portis and Markkanen play together more often, they could be Twin Towers Lite, terrorizing teams with their athleticism and shooting.
Kay Felder played meaningful minutes last night. As Hoiberg continues searching for someone to facilitate his offense, it was Felder’s turn to take a crack at the point guard rotation. He scored 9 points in 16 minutes of play, with a couple of assists and a couple of turnovers. He was also one of the few Bulls to post a positive plus/minus (+3 on the night). Felder should get more playing time. He is energetic and not afraid to push the pace. He is also capable of breaking down his defender and getting to the rim, a skill that Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine, and Justin Holiday do not seem to consistently have on the NBA level. Felder may not be a part of the Bulls long term plans, but we will never know for sure if he gets buried on the bench.
Lauri Markkanen had a pair of nice defensive plays at the end of the game guarding the elusive Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry. With 1:25 left in the game Markkanen found himself one on one with Lowry at the top of the arc. Lowry tried to use his speed to blow past Markkanen on the right, but the big man stayed with him. As Lowry muscled up a shot, Markkanen gave the Raptor just the subtlest of hip bumps. It was well timed, and just strong enough to disrupt Lowry’s shot while avoiding a foul. A possession or two later, Markkanen was once again one on one with a driving Lowry. This time he drove all the way into the lane before he threw up an ill-advised runner. Markkanen used his size advantage (with help from Valentine) to snuff the shot.
Nice defense by Markkanen to close this game on a key possession. pic.twitter.com/FH9xLdzpJQ
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) November 8, 2017
Mismatched twice during crunch time against one of the top guards in the Eastern Conference, if not the league, and two defensive stops. Impressive play from the Bulls rookie at critical moments in the game.
Even with a strong effort on both ends of the court, the Raptors proved too much for the Bulls. The Bulls lost with a fun finish 119-114. But, with Bobby back, I am looking forward to seeing Hoiberg use his roster in more interesting ways.
Injury update: David Nwaba has a twisted ankle and will be out 2-4 weeks.
Chicago Bulls Regular Season Record: 2-7
The Worst Records in the NBA
1. Dallas Mavericks: 2-10 .167
2. Atlanta Hawks: 2-9 .182
3. Sacramento Kings: 2-8 .200
4. Chicago Bulls: 2-7 .222