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Bulls vs. Warriors Takeaways: Portis & Zipser Shine, Payne Wanes as TNT Streak Lives On.

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the young guys that have seen role increases since deadline day are reaping the rewards.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

There are dark forces at play here, folks. Ted Turner is sprinkling some sort of basketball voodoo all over his network whenever TNT brings their show to Chicago, because that’s quite honestly the only thing that even exists within the realm of common sense anymore when it comes to explaining this anomaly. The Bulls have now won eighteen straight home games on Turner Network Television after putting the breaks on a Kevin Durant-less Golden State Warriors team last night. The loss for the Warriors also means yesterday was the first time Golden State has lost back-to-back games since 2015. You know what that means:

So what temporary conclusions can we pull away from last night?

The Good: Bobby Portis Looking More Like his Summer-Self, Paul Zipser Getting More Comfortable

His eyes are crazy and his defense is lazy (well, maybe not lazy just so much as constantly out-of-position), but you would be hard-pressed to argue against Bobby Portis being the most instrumental player to the Bulls’ team success last night. Portis had arguably his best game of the season and has been playing quite well of late since being thrust into the starting lineup following the Taj Gibson trade. He scored 17 points on 6-12 shooting (2-4 from 3-PT range) and also pulled down 13 rebounds. Not only did he provide valuable floor spacing when the Bulls ran half-court sets, but he also ran the floor quite well in transition, even cleaning up a rare Jimmy Butler miss at the rim:

Of course, there were still numerous lapses on defense in critical moments of the game from Bobby (one in particular during the final minute of the game out of a timeout that drew a deal of ire from Jimmy Butler), but Portis’ value on the other end almost (almost) makes up for it completely. Prior to the deadline day trade, the Bulls had a great deal of trouble spreading the floor whenever Gibson played at the four spot, as evidenced by his encouragement to take (and almost always miss) corner threes. Gibson’s mid-range jumper was respectable for the Bulls, but it wasn’t enough to draw opposing bigs completely away from the basket. With Portis now getting extended burn (31 minutes last night), teams have to respect his range—especially from the corners—and he doesn’t sacrifice any of the efficiency at the rim that Gibson brought:

NBAsavant

Going forward, this is going to make it a lot easier for Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade to operate, and should also hopefully lessen the frequency and effectiveness of double-teams that teams have constantly thrown at Butler as of late. Hopefully, management will lock Jim Boylen and Portis in the film room over the summer, and if Portis can emerge as even as a passable defender (certainly possible given his high energy persona), things will certainly start to look up for the 22 year-old NBA sophomore.

Last night’s unsung hero, however, had to be Paul Zipser. In his both his first game back from injury and first game since Doug McDermott being traded, Zipser made sure both teams felt his presence on the court. Zipser made an array of beautiful drives and finishes at the rim in the first half, showcasing a similar sneaky athleticism that McDermott occassionally put on display when he was in a Bulls uniform.

But Zipser’s greatest contributions came during the fourth quarter. Fred Hoiberg gave the 2nd round rookie quite a hefty assignment by having him operate as the primary defender whenever Stephen Curry brought the ball up the floor, and he became an instrumental part of what frustrated the hell out of a Warriors offense that shot a laughably-uncharacteristic 20% from distance last night (6-30!!!). Curry in particular was horrific, shooting 10-27 from the field and 2-11 from downtown. Part of what made Zipser such an attractive prospect was his swiss army knife-esque defensive ability, but many assumed this merely extended to guarding 3’s, 4’s, and oversized 2’s. Zipser has already shown this season that he’s capable of keeping in front of guards and forwards of all shapes, sizes, and abilities; which for a rookie is extremely impressive.

Zipser also hit arguably the most critical shot of the game from distance to give the Bulls a six point lead with under two minutes remaining as the shot clock expired:

If Zipser can become even a league-average 3-PT shooter as he continues to adjust to NBA play (definitely feasable given he didn’t make it a regular part of his game until his last season in Europe), he’s going to be an incredibly valuable basketball player for years to come. Catch the bug while you still can:

The Bad: Cameron Payne is a Pain in the Bulls’ Ass

The prognosis for which team won the Chicago-OKC trade at the 2017 deadline is not good for the Bulls. While Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott are already firmly entrenched in the Thunder’s rotation (and Gibson has apparently expanded his range to 60 feet), Joffrey Lauvergne received a DNP-Coach’s Decision last night and Anthony Morrow didn’t even dress for the game.

But the biggest letdown unquestionably has been Cameron Payne, who at this point doesn’t even look like he belongs in the NBA. Payne ate into the minutes of both Grant and Rondo last night (they all played 13 each), and in that time-frame he proved why he’s a terrible complimentary point-guard option for this Bulls team. He missed both of his three point attempts, he couldn’t keep up with Golden State defensively, and during his three and half minute stint in the fourth quarter (he played six total minutes in the period), the Warriors went on an 8-3 run to retake the lead. So far, almost every time Payne plays, he’s making the Bulls’ on-court product worse. This isn’t only bad because Payne himself is not good, but also because he’s eating into the role of the Bulls’ best complimentary-guard option, Jerian Grant. As beloved BaB regular pnoles mentioned in the comments of the recap, Grant has the highest true shooting percentage among all NBA guards through just over two months of 2017 (63.7%!!!), and last night he did this to a quietly-very-good-on-defense-this-season Stephen Curry:

There’s simply no justification for giving Payne meaningful minutes right now other than to try to help management save face in what everyone already knew was a hilariously-lopsided trade. Payne should definitely get a shot at the backup point guard spot next season after the Bulls cut Rondo and his eight-figure salary this summer, but for right now Hoiberg needs to recognize that Grant and Rondo are the best (and unfortunately only) options right now at point guard in the team’s rotation. Failure to do so will just open the door for the Bulls to find another way to beat themselves down the stretch during games.

Wild Card: Jerian Grant is a Horrible Transition Defender

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while now—and unfortunately I can’t find the plays from last night to justify this claim because the website writers usually use to justify these statless claims hasn’t updated for a week—but perhaps part of the reason why Grant hasn’t taken a firm grasp of the reigns at point guard is because he is ghastly at defending the break. Not only does he have trouble getting back on defense, but in the confusion of the other team pushing the ball he almost always picks up the incorrect player on the perimeter and ends up forefiting an easy basket at the rim.

It happened again last night early on in the game, giving Patrick McCaw an uncontested look underneath the basket that prompted Dwyane Wade to give Grant an earful when he finally arrived to inbound the ball. There have been numerous other instances throughout the year where this issue has surfaced, one in particular I can recall happened on back-to-back plays early on in the Bulls’ game against the Clippers. That one in particular prompted Fred Hoiberg to call a timeout about four minutes into the contest just so he could yell (or in Fred’s case talk loudly/softly scold) at Grant for failing to do what, in theory, is one of the simplest defensive assignments in basketball.

I’m not sure what the root cause of Grant’s inability to defend the opposing break is, but Jim Boylen needs to get in the film room with Grant and fix this problem as soon as possible. Grant is clearly the best option the Bulls have when it comes to a starting point guard, and any shortcoming in his game that surfaces when he plays is just going to invite the possibility of Hoiberg pulling him out in favor of Rondo or Payne. For the sake of himself and his teammates, Grant needs to rectify this problem immediately.