The Chicago Bulls have been winning basketball games. They are winning games at an alarming rate for those of us invested in the annual NBA Tankathon. It was a 2-1 week, with a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and 2 hard fought wins; a 109-107 battle against Joakim Noah, Mike Conley, and the Memphis Grizzlies, and a quadruple overtime, 168-161 thriller against the Atlanta Hawks.

The loss to the Bucks tells us fans what we’ve known for several seasons now: The Bulls cannot yet compete against elite teams. This isn’t a news flash, this isn’t a revelation, it’s just the plan facts.

The recent victories against Memphis, Atlanta, Orlando, and Boston, seem to signal that the Bulls have turned a corner. Their talented core players are healthy and are building a sort of chemistry together. They have at least one player, in Otto Porter Jr, that can propel the Bulls past an opponent on shear strength of will.

PorterTieGame

The Bulls would not have won that quadruple overtime game against the Atlanta Hawks if Porter doesn’t save their bacon in the final ticks of regulation. He scored the Bulls last 8 points of the 4th quarter, all in the final minute of regulation.

At the one minute mark left in the 4th, Atlanta’s rookie sensation, Trae Young, made a lay up that pushed their lead to 121-116. The game wasn’t over but it was certainly trending toward “out of reach.” Otto Porter Jr wasn’t having any of that…

121-119, Atlanta, 53 seconds left on the clock. After an empty possession from the Hawks, Otto Porter struck again…

121-121, tie ball game, 24 seconds left.

Trae Young answered Porter’s lay up with a devastating dagger 3.

124-121, Atlanta on top, 3 seconds left.

That three pointer gave Trae Young 34 points on the night to go along with 11 assists, and should have won the game for the Hawks, but the rookie made one fatal error: He left too much time on the clock…

 

 

124-124, overtime.

The first couple overtime periods consisted of Zach LaVine dueling Trae Young for the win, it wasn’t until the other Bulls got involved in overtime periods 3 and 4 that the game was finally decided. And it never would have gotten to that point if Otto Porter had rolled over and died like the rest of the Bulls did in the final stretch of regulation.

Porter has been the catalyst for the majority of the Bulls success over the past couple weeks. It’s not that he has played like an all-star, it’s not that he has shaken up the team and changed the foundation of their offensive principles. Otto Porter Jr has only been exactly what he has always been, and exactly what the Bulls have needed to complete their team concept: A wing player that can consistently hit 3 pointers and defend multiple positions at a higher than average defensive rating. He is that complete player.

Otto Porter Jr is exactly the player the Bulls hoped for when they made the mid-season trade to acquire him; Exactly that 3-and-D player Porter has always been… and a little bit more.

What no one knew the Bulls were getting in Otto Porter Jr, was his ability to will his team to victory; His “refuse to lose” attitude. We’ll see if it is just a one game thing, or if this is the kind of attitude we can expect on a nightly basis. I hope it’s the latter, because if it is, then the Bulls have found themselves the leader of the team, the foundation of the coveted “culture of winning” the front office is so desperately trying to build.

When this season started, the expectation of many fans was that the Bulls would win 30+ games and be a couple seeds short of a playoff berth. We expected to see team wide improvement, not just by individuals, but in how the individuals played with, and off of, each other. It wasn’t until the addition of Otto Porter Jr that we have seen the expected jump in team competitiveness. The individual talents are melding into a team. They are beginning to play for, and with, each other. This is the Chicago Bulls we thought we were going to see this season. In the infamous words of former Arizona Cardinal coach Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were,” thanks to…

MVP of the Week: Otto Porter Jr (2)

More wins this week means a better chance that one of these Bulls will finally catch Dickey Simpkins (2.9)

Win Share Leaders:

1. Ryan Arcidiacono 2.8

– Zach LaVine 2.8

3. Lauri Markkanen 2.7

For you Tankathon junkies…

The Worst Records in the NBA:

1. Phoenix Suns 13-51 .203

2. New York Knicks 13-49 .210

3. Cleveland Cavaliers 15-48 .238

4. Chicago Bulls 18-45 .286

5. Atlanta Hawks 21-42 .333