The Bulls shot a season-high 55.7%, including 68.4% (13/19) from 3-point range, as they defeated the Lakers 126-115 in Kobe Bryant’s final game at the United Center. (No apologies for the oversized Kobe picture, a man with his resume deserves it)
Derrick Rose and E’Twaun Moore (10/14 FG, 4/4 3’s) each had 24 points to lead six Bulls in double figures, while Pau Gasol added 21 to go with seven rebounds, five assists and five blocked shots. Bobby Portis (6/9 FG, 3/3 3’s) and Mike Dunleavy added 17 each, while Doug McDermott (6/9 FG, 3/4 3’s) added 16.
Aaron Brooks was the one Bull who couldn’t make a shot, going 1/6 from the field and 0/3 from behind the arc, but he did have a game-high 9 assists in just over 17 minutes on the court.
It’s hard to say whose offensive performance was more impressive – Rose backed up his scoring with seven rebounds and six assists, and he did it all in only 30:49 on the floor. Moore had 15 points (6/6 FG, 3/3 3’s) in the 3rd quarter alone, including 13 during a 31- 15 Bulls run over the final 9:30 that was the difference in the game.
Dunleavy finally looked like the MDJ of old, after scoring only 25 points total in his first five games after returning from back surgery. If he can continue to knock down open 3’s (he’s now shooting .538 from behind the arc) and play good team defense once Jimmy Butler returns from his knee injury, it will go a long way toward helping this team fill the gaping SF hole it has struggled to fill all season.
That, however, is also highly dependent on McDermott being an offensive weapon off the bench, and it was certainly encouraging to see him be just that for the second consecutive game. His 16 points came on the back of the impressive 30 he put up against the Raptors, and he did it on a variety of shots including a nice left-handed finish in traffic and a very Dirk-like extreme fall-away jumper with the shot clock about to expire.
Having Dunleavy and McDermott play all of the SF minutes should really spread the floor once Butler returns, as there is no way any team is leaving either of these guys if they are spotted up anywhere behind the arc. However, the biggest benefit comes from not having to ever play Tony Snell, as he just continues his refusal to use his skills in any way meaningful. And once Jimmy is back, hopefully having a healthy MDJ/McD means Moore can play the majority of the back-up PG minutes as well.
Finally, a Rose/Butler/Dunleavy/McDermott/Moore PG/SG/SF rotation can compete well with any in the league, outside of the Warriors’ Curry/Thompson/Barnes/Iguodala/Livingston.
Portis continues to excel whenever he recieves big minutes – he is now averaging 13.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in the seven games where he’s played more than 25 minutes. Now this is obviously a biased stat, as guys play more minutes when they are playing well, but it’s still nice to see the rookie having so many impressive games. He is certainly looking like yet another Bulls’ steal when drafting in the 20s, and he would more than likely be among consideration for All-Rookie 1st Team if he would have gone to a non-playoff contender and played more (and more consistent) minutes all season.
Not that the Bulls cruised home after taking a 16-point lead into the 4th quarter of this game – they continued their disturbing trend of blowing big leads in the final 12 minutes, allowing the Lakers to pull within 110-107 for the final time when Brandon Bass his two free throws with 4:46 left.
It was still a 5-point game with 2:51 to play before Rose hit a pair of jumpers and a pair of free throws – as well as assisting Gasol on a short jumper – to finally close out the Lakers.
The Bulls are now off until Wednesday, when they host the Wizards in another nationally televised game (ESPN). The rest of the week sees them traveling to Atlanta on Friday (ESPN) and hosting the Blazers on Saturday (CSN-Chicago, NBA League Pass).