Well that was a fun game of Chicago Bulls basketball! And the type of performance we haven’t seen much from them this year: the offense was clicking, they looked like they were enjoying themselves, and in the end they notched a big win on the road. All five starters scored in double figures, and team had 30 or more points in 3 of the 4 quarters in the 125-109 win over the Brooklyn Nets. This was their highest point total of the season, and it was accumulated efficiently on a TS% of 65.4%.
Everyone looked locked in, but two performances were stood out the most: Lauri Markkanen and new guy Otto Porter Jr.. Both kept the Nets defense on their toes with their ability to be threats from the three-point line and being able to shoot off the dribble.
Markkanen has been fire in this most recent stretch and it continued against Brooklyn. 31 points and 18 rebounds, knocking down 4 of his 7 three-point attempts in the process. Averaging 20.8 points and 10.7 rebounds on 44.2% shooting in his last 10 games, Markkanen continued to be aggressive in finding his shot and took what the Brooklyn defense gave him.
Like many plays for the Bulls, this one sees Robin Lopez at the top of the key after receiving a pass from OPJ. After the catch he immediately spins around and heads for the far corner where Markkanen is. Kris Dunn is also near that side and as soon as Lopez turns he runs towards Rodions Kurucs, who is guarding Markkanen, and sets a screen on him. A few seconds after, Lopez appears and hands the ball off to Markkanen and gets in Kurucs way just enough to force him to react. Maintaining a steady left hand dribble, Markkanen is able to get into the body of Kurucs and cause a bit of separation with his arm as he gets into the lane. As soon as he gets near the dotted line, he takes a step back and pulls up for a shot. Even with his defender in his face, Markkanen’s quick release is able to aid him in getting the shot up quick enough before Kurucs arms can get to it.
We have seen flashes of plays like this from Markkanen before in the ability to score off the dribble. Not many guys at his age and size can do that and it’s a good weapon to have in his offensive arsenal.
Now to Porter, who had all eyes on him in his debut with the team. It was a pretty nice first impression as he knocked down his first five shots in an 18-point and 4 rebound performance. Porter displayed a lot of positives when he had the ball on offense, including his much talked-about shooting ability.
Like Markkanen, shooting off the dribble is what Porter Jr. is going to show here. The play starts with him near the bottom corner and Zach LaVine running towards him. LaVine flips him the ball and Porter Jr. catches but not before losing the ball for a quick second. After steading himself, Porter Jr. is now facing up against Joe Harris as Lopez comes up to set a screen on OPJ’s left. Jarrett Allen, who is defending RoLo, is situated really deep in the paint instead of stepping up or switching. With an ample amount of space in front of him, Porter Jr. has numerous options to choose from. He decides to pull up the instant he gets around the Lopez screen and despite Harris’s best efforts, he splashes his first bucket as a Bull.
Porter Jr. also showed he’s a threat to knock down shots even in semi-transition when the defense isn’t set.
Here, Kris Dunn grabs the ball and pushes the ball up the court despite the Bulls not having the numbers advantage. Or that’s how it seems initially. Three Nets don’t get past half court as Dunn fires the ball over to Porter Jr. near the scorers table. With LaVine all the way on the other side and half of his team still running up the court, he doesn’t have many options. So OPJ takes one dribble and decides that Treveon Graham is far enough to where he has enough space to shoot. Graham’s contest doesn’t seem to bother Porter Jr. as he rises up and splashes a three to add on to the lead for Chicago.
This was one of the better games we have seen from the Bulls all year. They were great as a team, and all the young guys - now including Otto Porter Jr. - showed encouraging signs. Even in these “tanking” seasons, playing well and developing the talent matters too.