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Robin Lopez dominates Sixers small front line (and other Bulls/Sixers takeaways)

With the 76ers front court stretched thin with injuries, Robin Lopez had himself a game

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Games in January usually don’t (and shouldn’t) be categorized as a “must win” but the Chicago Bulls really needed this victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Especially considering the social media debacle that took place this week along with a two game losing streak that included an uninspired double digit loss to the Miami Heat.

Jimmy Butler led the Bulls in scoring with 28 points and bounced back from a woeful performance against Miami. But he wasn’t the one whose play raised the most eyebrows in the game. That honor went to Robin Lopez, who scored 21 points on 9 of 13 shooting and grabbed 10 boards. It was his best performance so far in a Bulls uniform. His good shooting performance also helped the Bulls shoot 50.6% from the field (45-89). It was also part of a balanced scoring act which saw six Bulls score double digits, including three off the bench.

Lopez took advantage of his matchups against the 76ers, who were without both Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. Head coach Brett Brown put out a smaller lineup on the floor, putting Nerlens Noel at the center spot and matched up against Lopez. But Noel quickly went into foul trouble and it was up to the bench to defend Lopez, they didn’t do that well. Without Noel’s shot blocking and rim protection, the 76ers were exposed on the interior and Lopez made them pay.

In the video above, it shows where Lopez made the 76ers pay off the pick and roll (0:50). It also showed a play where Butler drove into the lane and passed it off to a wide open Lopez. Both plays were similar in that Lopez was able to pop out for the jumper off a Butler drive. We saw this PNR type of defense commonly used against either of Chicago’s guards. When they get a pick, they are usually doubled team when they start to drive. That usually leaves the roll man open for a wide open dunk or in Lopez’s case, a jump shot. But even when he is not setting a pick, many defenses will pack the paint and anticipate a Wade or Butler drive to the rim. Like in (0:30) when Butler drive attracted Lopez’s man in the paint and he was able to hit the jumper. Without Noel’s defense on Lopez and threat of shot blocking, the Bulls guards were more confident driving into the lane and it was easy pickings for the big man.

Chicago is not always going to get this type of production from a player like Robin Lopez. His role is clearly attached to protecting the rim and rebounding, which he does quite well. So getting these types of games are more of a bonus for the Bulls and it never hurts to get more scoring from your front court.

The Paul Zipser Hive is Alive

After two good outings last week, Paul Zipser continued his solid stretch of games with another solid performance off the bench. Zipser scored 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting with 3 triples. The three-point shooting was a plus for Zipser, who could be a even more useful player if he becomes more consistent with it. He played the second most minutes of any bench player and it is clear that Fred Hoiberg is beginning to trust the second round draft pick in terms of getting more minutes. He’s not a perfect player by any means and has ways to go, but it’s good that he is showing Chicago something.

Bobby Portis has fallen off a cliff

Due to Taj Gibson being injured, Bobby Portis stepped into the starting lineup after getting DNP-CD’s for the past couple of games. It was a strange move but not surprising considering that Hoiberg has been very inconsistent when it comes to minutes for guys coming off the bench.

Portis did not have a good game at all, scoring just 4 points and getting 5 rebounds in 14 minutes of action, the lowest out of any Bulls player tonight. Although the jury is still out on how good Portis can be, this game against the 76ers showed just how much Portis has fell off in terms of development.