Tonight, the Summer Bulls closed out their Summer League regular season in undefeated fashion. Facing the reigning Summer League champion San Antonio Spurs coached by Becky Hammon, the Bulls managed to pull ahead late to seal the victory in what was a competitive but sloppy contest from start to finish.
The first quarter was an utter disaster. Both teams combined for eleven turnovers, with the Bulls in particular committing seven of them. Chicago hit only three field goals in the entire period as Denzel Valentine struggled to get it going. He hit his first attempt of the game from beyond the arc, then proceeded to miss his next six shots--the last of which was an airball from three. Bobby Portis and Jerian Grant failed to register a single field goal. Cristiano Felicio had a nice bank-in jumper, then promptly got nut-megged by Jonathan Simmons. Viewer discretion is advised:
Felicio gets nutmegged pic.twitter.com/jVVyDvpXRC— Stephen Noh (@hungarianjordan) July 13, 2016
The rest of the first half was an up and down affair. The Bulls added an additional five turnovers to their total prior to the four-minute mark, subsequently finding themselves down eleven points. Fortunately, Spencer Dinwiddie came off the bench and poured in eight of his own points to help stem the bleeding, and once Portis and Valentine re-entered the game, the Bulls went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to one. The Bulls went into the break down two points, and could have tied the game had Portis not missed a bunny in front of the rim on their last possession. Valentine ended the half 2-10 with no assists and several missed layups, while Felicio did not re-enter the game in the second quarter. Chris Hassel and Brad Daughtery also spent the first two minutes of the second quarter ranting about their concern over the popularity of Pokémon Go, continuing the 2016 Summer League trend of abysmal basketball complemented by miserable commentary.
Gar Forman gave an interview with the broadcast team in the third quarter. He began by citing the now-infamous WE WON MORE GAMES IN THE EAST THAN ANYONE ELSE IN THE LAST TEN YEARS statement, then followed it up by saying he thought the front office accomplished their two-front mission of getting younger and signing veterans. He directly cited 28-year old Robin Lopez as evidence of the former when questioned about the goals of the Derrick Rose trade. When asked how much input Fred Hoiberg had in the offseason acquisitions, Forman (paraphrasing) called it a collaborative process with input from all levels of the organization. Then they cut him off mid-sentence as he explained how the front office cleared cap room to sign Dwyane Wade to go to commercial. It was hilarious.
While Forman serenaded the television audience with basketball clichés, play itself continued on the court. Valentine, Grant, and Portis all picked up their play in the second half to keep the Bulls close as Dinwiddie continued his own great game. Valentine continued to struggle with his jumper, but was noticeably better passing the ball from the third quarter onwards. Portis completely turned around the less-than-stellar game he was having, scoring twelve points in the second half and adding five rebounds to his total of eight.
In the closing moments of the game, Valentine missed a jumper off of a Portis pick-n-roll play that nearly gave Jonathon Simmons the opportunity to tie the game. However, after getting fouled by Dinwiddie, Simmons missed his first freethrow, and then Dinwiddie responded with two makes of his own from the line to boost the Bulls' lead to three with one possession to go. Unfortunately for San Antonio, the Spurs couldn't get anything going out of their timeout and the Bulls' defense forced Simmons to chuck a fadeaway iso three in the final seconds that didn't even graze the rim. The final score concluded at 79-76 in favor of the Bulls.
Overall, it was an ugly, gritty game, but that's to be expected in Summer League. Both teams combined for an abhorrent total of thirty-three turnovers, and the Bulls failed to shoot above 40% from the field. Nearly all of Valentine's attempts from beyond the arc missed short, which would seem to indicate he's having difficulty adjusting to the professional three-point line. Felicio registered only twelve and a half minutes of play despite starting the game and did not play at all in the second or fourth quarters. Grant continued to look unimpressive overall despite a nice showing defensively, as Spencer Dinwiddie thoroughly outplayed him for the entirety of the game.
This win not only secures an undefeated Summer League performance for the Bulls, but also grants them a first-round bye heading into the Summer League Tournament that starts tomorrow. From there, it's a four-game march to the Summer League crown. It will certainly be entertaining to see how far this squad can go behind the stellar play of Bobby Portis and a spunky bench powered by Spencer Dinwiddie and Jack Cooley. If Denzel Valentine can put the ball in the basket with greater consistency going forward, you have to like the Summer Bulls' chances against almost anyone.