It wasn't easy, but the Chicago Bulls escaped with an 88-85 win over the Washington Wizards to advance to the semi-finals of the Summer League playoffs. Chicago nearly gave up their seven-point lead with a minute left, but thanks to the play of Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine they are now 5-0 in Summer League play.
The first quarter was a high scoring affair as the quarter finished 25-23 in favor of Chicago. The Bulls came out of the gate shooting very well, especially from three. Bobby Portis hit his first two attempts from beyond the arc, showing that outside shooting could be a part of his game this season. He was the main man in the first quarter for the Bulls, scoring eight points and grabbing three rebounds.
In the second quarter, however, the offensive efficiency of both teams seemed to have vanished. But the Bulls bench helped keep the lead and even stretched it to seven at one point in the half. The main performer off the bench was Spencer Dinwiddie, who's continued to impress this Summer League. Dinwiddie scored six points in the half and is certainly on his way to a camp invite, where he will challenge Jerian Grant for the top point guard spot.
The Wizards matched Chicago's 12-2 run with one of their own and it helped Washington take a 36-35 lead with a few minutes left to go in the half. Neither team scored more than 20 points in that quarter but despite that, Chicago walked into the half up 43-38. It wasn't a good shooting half for either team. But another bright spot to pick out was the play of Denzel Valentine, who showed he can do other things than shoot in the first half. Valentine scored six points, both from three-pointers and had six rebounds to go along with it. He showed an ability to be a good ball handler and push the ball in transition. If Valentine can keep hitting his three's at a consistent rate, he could be a good spark off the bench.
This is the Bulls' hope for Valentine. He gets the rebound, goes length of floor, drives + kicks for 3 pic.twitter.com/eJboIdomTf— Stephen Noh (@hungarianjordan) July 17, 2016
Chicago started the second half on a good note and it looked like they were going to pull away. Then Jarrell Eddie hit a three and was fouled by Valentine, resulting in a four-point play. Combine that with a dunk off a backdoor cut by Kelly Oubre Jr. and a transition three by Nate Wolters, the Wizards have suddenly held a 52-51 lead. The teams continued to battle for the rest of the quarter with a lot of fouls being called in the process. Portis continued to impress, scoring seven points in the quarter. He wasn't the only big man who scored in the third quarter. Jack Cooley and Cristiano Felicio also got in on the act. Off the pick and roll, the Wizards weren't able to stop Chicago's bigs. Most of the time it was that the Wizards doubled the ball handler, leaving the roll man with an open lane to the hoop. Both Felicio and Cooley took advantage of that. Thanks to three's by Valentine and Portis near the end of the quarter, Chicago held a good lead of 71-62 at the end of the third.
In the 4th quarter, Chicago did their best to hold the Wizards off. Eddie hit a three to try and get Washington back in the game with around six minutes left. But a three by Dinwiddie plus a transition three-point play by Rasheed Sulaimon grabbed the momentum right back for Chicago. Washington then responded with a 6-0 run and cut the lead in half. It looked like we had another close Summer League game on our hands.
Pete Myers then brought back Felicio and Valentine, rolling with a starters + Dinwiddie lineup the rest of the way. It looked all over with the Bulls up seven with a minute left. But then a Wolters three started the chaos. Chicago had a terrible possession the next time down as Dinwiddie just forced up a prayer after being doubled team along the baseline. Off an elevator screen, Eddie got a clean look and it was nothing by nylon from the top of the arc. His three cut the lead down to one and Chicago found themselves in a game. Valentine was immediately fouled and the rookie stepped up, knocking down both free throws. Eddie got a semi-open three at the end, but it hit the front rim and Chicago escaped with an 88-85 win.
The obvious stars of the game for the Bulls was Portis and Valentine. Both played well offensively with the duo showing off their ability to knock down three-point shots. If they can keep that up, it would add so much to the Chicago offense. We still have to see if they can shoot consistently, however. Let's focus on the positive for now : the Bulls are in the semi-finals of the NBA Summer League and that's pretty cool. They play the SummerCavs on Sunday.