The Chicago Bulls closed out their 2017 NBA Summer League appearance this year with a commanding 99-82 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite playing without three of their original five starters or their leading scorer for the tournament, the Bulls played easily their best offensive game of the last week on and got terrific performances from Denzel Valentine, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Brady Heslip.
The Bulls started this game off by building a five point lead over the initial two and a half minutes before allowing the Sixers to go on a 13-2 run prior to the midpoint of the first quarter. The absence of the newly-signed Antonio Blakeney created a bit of a problem for the Chicago offense early on, and the Bulls’ defense also had a lot of trouble rotating correctly out on the perimeter to avoid giving up easy long-distance jumpers. Fortunately, Philadelphia cooled off a bit as the quarter entered its final five minutes, and Denzel Valentine caught fire shooting off the dribble. Valentine nailed four shots in a row after missing his first attempt of the game to score nine points in the first period, and his hot streak allowed the Bulls to tie the game at 20-20 after the first ten minutes of play.
The second quarter started off slowly for both teams, but the Bulls briefly caught fire from distance thanks to some slick facilitation from Valentine, and the result was a 15-6 run for Chicago to give the Bulls a nine point lead. Meanwhile, the Sixers couldn’t hit any of their three pointers despite getting a healthy amount of good looks from distance, and they had to rely primarily on offense from Furkan Korkmaz to keep the game within single-digits. The Sixers actually managed to cut the contest to a two possession game after a brief offensive explosion in the final minute of play, but Brady Heslip nailed his third straight make from three at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 46-38 lead heading into the half.
Coming out of the break, Heslip and Valentine canned a pair of threes to give the Bulls their first double-digit lead of the game three minutes into the third quarter. Heslip would go on to score ten points in the third quarter and—alongside Ryan Arcidiacono—did a good job of moving the ball around to generate open looks and keep the Bulls’ offense from stalling. Other notables from the third quarter included Denzel Valentine dunking in transition (!!!) and then getting his pocket picked at midcourt on the next possession for a thunderous slam dunk by Brandon Austin. Sadly, I couldn’t find video of Valentine’s dunk—mainly because it was a thoroughly unspectacular rimgrazer—but I did find a clip of Austin’s jam, and it’s worth watching if only to hear Dennis Scott scream “COOKIES!!!” when Valentine gets stripped:
However, that was about Philly’s only highlight from the third quarter, as Chicago entered the final ten minutes of play with a 69-56 lead.
The Sixers finally broke out of their 3-PT shooting slump in the fourth quarter, but it appeared as if the Bulls had an answer from deep for them every time they started coming after Chicago’s lead. Arcidiacono hit all three of his attempts from downtown for the quarter, and Heslip continued his unconscious shooting night by adding three more makes from distance of his own. The hot shooting from all over the arc combined with the crisp passing from everyone in the Bulls’ backcourt proved to be too much for the Sixers to overcome, and as a result Chicago easily waltzed down the stretch into a dominant victory via a final score of 99-82.
This was easily the best offensive game the Bulls have played as a team in all five of their summer league contests, primarily because each member of the starting five all saved their best performances for the final game. Denzel Valentine finished with 21 points on 9-17 shooting to go along with six assists and five rebounds. Ryan Arcidiacono played easily his most active game of the summer with a line of 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists after not doing much further than handling the ball in his previous contests. Brady Heslip exploded from deep to lead the Bulls in scoring with 28 points on 10-18 shooting, which included him hitting eight of his twelve three point attempts after missing his first three shots of the game from distance. Chris Walker narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds, and Duje Dukan scored 12 of his own points while dishing four assists.
The Bulls shot 44.7% from deep on a whalloping 38 attempts and managed to assist on an impressive 56.4 of their baskets. It’s unfortunate that their most Hoiball-in-theory-esque game came in a consolation contest that ultimately had no meaning, but it was at the very least encouraging to see some entertaining signs of life from a team hit hard by a variety of inconveniences that didn’t have much to play for. The Bulls conclude their 2017 summer league with a 2-3 record, and BlogaBull will have more soon on what we learned from this stretch of basketball in July.