The Bulls went head to head with Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and the Phoenix Suns on Friday night in their first game back from the All-Star Break.
This was the Bulls first game since the trade of their longest tenured player, Taj Gibson, and 2014 first round draft pick Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for 22 year old point guard Cameron Payne, Big Man Joffrey Lauvergne and Swingman Anthony Morrow. The 3 mentioned players did not see any time on the floor tonight, (Payne out with the flu) however they may find their way into the rotation vs Cleveland on Saturday Night.
Bobby Portis got the nod to start in place of Taj Gibson. Portis played 16 minutes, shooting 4-of-9 from the floor including 1 three pointer. Portis nabbed 9 points in 7 rebounds in a strong effort in his new role.
Gar Forman and John Paxson mentioned moving McDermott and Gibson meant younger guys would get more of an opportunity to play, and it seems like Michael Carter-Willams may be the odd man out. Although MCW got the start, the 25 year old only saw 8 minutes of action while the majority of the minutes were split between Rajon Rondo, Jerian Grant and rookie Denzel Valentine.
Early on, the Bulls were cold, as the Suns young guns ran circles around their defense. Jimmy Butler struggled to hit shots for the most of this one. Butler, 22 points, had a tough night shooting the ball, going 8-of-21, however he did register 9 assists. Jimmy Buckets was his regular self late in the game coming up clutch hitting a 3 to tie the game at 106 with just over a minute to play. Butler time and time again has come through for the Bulls in late game scenarios.
Robin Lopez continued his consistent play with 19 points in 36 minutes.
In Denzel Valentine's first game in his new role, the rookie shined connecting on his first 5 three-point attempts. Hoiberg even went as far as playing the former Michigan State Spartan down the stretch and for a total of 34 minutes. Along side Valentine, Nikola Mirotic provided a huge scoring spark off of the bench with 20 points, his first 20 point game since December 26th. Mirotic knocked down 4 three pointers including a clutch late game shot to bring the Bulls within one.
The Bulls bench combined to out score the Suns subs 53-39. If the Bulls can continue to find scoring, as well the the 3 point shot from their second unit, they should be able to string games together to guarantee themselves a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
After scoring 0 points in the first half, Dwyane Wade put up 23 in the second half/overtime. After a late game bucket from Butler to put the Bulls up 2, Dwyane Wade was whistled on a very questionable foul on Devin Booker on a 3 point attempt. Booker made the first 2 free throws, but missed the 3rd giving the Bulls an extra 5 minutes to seal this one. Late in Overtime, Wade turned back the clock and put 7'0 Center Alex Len on a poster with a ferocious jam which got the United Center crowd out of their seats and going berserk. The Bulls were able to pull away 128-121 after losing to the Suns back on February 10th 115-97. The Bulls will face off against a familiar face in Kyle Korver and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night. The Bulls always seem to show up in these big games, and if the bench can continue to light it up from deep, the Bulls may be able to steal another regular season victory from LeBron James.