Billy Donovan witnessed a poor start to the season for his young group. It’s now two wins in two games for the Bulls, and two wins over Western Conference teams with major playoff ambitions. Chicago is 4-4 on the season despite losing Lauri Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky to health and safety protocols following COVID-19 exposure.
The Bulls were outscored by 18 in the first quarter. Every Portland shot seemed to be falling. Missing key players, it would have been easy Donovan’s team to get blown out. They would have done in the same situation last season.
What followed was an awesome performance on both ends. They held Damian Lillard to one-for-eight from the field in the second half. Garrett Temple drained three treys, as did Zach LaVine (including the shot to effectively win the game). Coby White was tenacious on the defensive end.
This performance and victory is impressive in isolation. The significance of the win is greater still with the absences, with Wendell Carter‘s foul trouble, with the deficit they overturned. One win in early January does not make this a good season for the Bulls, but it does provide an indicator of why so many people are still high on this group.
Veterans in Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter gave them good minutes. White was aggressive as always and Patrick Williams hit a couple of threes. Perhaps most importantly, though, was how LaVine ran the offense late on.
LaVine has been a tunnel-vision player throughout his NBA career. His assist-to-turnover ratio has held him back from taking that next step despite his impressive scoring numbers. The nine assists he registered on Tuesday was his joint-highest as a Chicago Bull – he hasn’t got double figures in assists since his rookie year.
If anything, LaVine was too focused on being a playmaker in the fourth. That’s quite a position to be in given his approach over the last couple seasons.
This was a massive win for Chicago. It showed they can be better on the defensive end – they will improve from being 22nd in defensive rating if they can replicate performances like Tuesday’s. It showed LaVine the playmaker and the maturity of Williams already. Porter, Young and Temple can all help this team win games.
There’s been a lot of attention on the teams around them, but consecutive wins over the Mavericks and Blazers prove the Bulls can be in the mix for a play-in spot.