The Bulls got Otto Porter Jr. back against the Mavericks on Monday night for his first action since Nov. 6, but the absence of Zach LaVine seemed like it was going to doom the home team early on. Instead, Porter helped spark the Bulls to a 109-107 win with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting in only 17 minutes off the bench, giving them just their second win this season against teams over .500.
Of course, the game couldn’t end without its share of stupid shenanigans, as the Bulls nearly blew an eight-point lead in the final 23 seconds of the game. Jim Boylen called a timeout after a Mavs turnover with just under 23 seconds to play, but then the Bulls turned it over twice and all of a sudden it was a three-point game. Dorian Finney-Smith buried a 3-point in between Thaddeus Young and Wendell Carter Jr. splitting free throws, giving Luka Doncic a final shot from half court to win the game ... it just missed:
Bulls eke out the win. Doncic almost played the hero. pic.twitter.com/ZIWtxq80KJ— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 3, 2020
The terrible ending sullied a spirited team effort by the Bulls, who scored 60 bench points, 60 points in the paint and 22 second-chance points against a Mavs team that looked listless for much of the second half while playing shorthanded on the second night of a back-to-back. Coby White led the Bulls with 19 points on 8-of-20 shooting off the bench, adding six rebounds and five assists in the process as he continues his stellar play. Denzel Valentine added 17 points in place of LaVine in the starting lineup, with 15 points coming in the first half. Six Bulls scored in double figures in a balanced effort.
Porter missed badly on his first two attempts (an off-the-dribble 3 and a mid-range in PnR), but then he caught fire the rest of the game, ultimately hitting 3-of-5 3-pointers and knocking down several shots from mid-range. He also added three assists and was a plus-11 on the night, but he didn’t play in crunch time due to a minutes restriction.
The Bulls got off to an ugly start with LaVine out, managing just 19 points in the first quarter and falling behind by as many as 12. Doncic looked like he was going to have his way with Chicago all night long, as outside of a few sloppy turnovers he was getting to his spots and creating open looks all over the floor. The non-Doncic minutes helped the Bulls get back in the game in the second quarter (J.J. Barea is truly washed), but the Slovenian sensation restored order when he returned and had the Mavs up 58-48 at the break. The Mavs were a plus-22 in Doncic’s first-half minutes.
But instead of the game turning into a blowout, the Bulls came out and punched Dallas in the mouth in the third quarter. The Mavs’ normally powerful offense malfunctioned to the tune of 6-of-18 shooting and seven turnovers in the frame, while the Bulls scored at will and racked up 33 points on 13-of-18 shooting. By the time it was over, the Bulls held an 81-75 advantage going into the fourth quarter, and they didn’t trail the rest of the game despite their efforts to blow it late.
Doncic really struggled in the second half, managing just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting, two assists and zero rebounds. This after it looked like he was going to cruise to a triple-double with 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the first half. Luka did appear to be grabbing at his injured thumb at points in the game (he missed Sunday’s game), and he also had to deal with the hounding defense of Adam Mokoka, who played 19 important minutes off the bench as a Doncic stopper.
With Doncic struggling, the Mavs really missed the red-hot Kristaps Porzingis (injury management) and Seth Curry (back). The Bulls certainly aren’t going to feel sorry about a team missing key players, but it was clear how much the Mavs missed those two as they finished off their four-game road trip in disappointing fashion.
The Bulls took advantage of the Mavs’ schedule disadvantage and overcame their own adversity to win without LaVine. I’m not making any grand proclamations here about what this win means, because it’s March and weird stuff often happens at this point in the season. The Bulls were also due to finally win a game against a quality opponent, and even though they did, they still made it as tough as possible.
Furthermore, Boylen’s late timeout wasn’t his only goofy timeout on the night. A timeout earlier in the game wiped out a basket, and it both upset Bulls players and got a laugh out of Doncic:
Jim Boylen finding new ways to attract criticism for his timeouts. He called one to break up an easy layup.— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 3, 2020
Neil: "Sato's not happy about that timeout."
Stacey: "That was a layup!" pic.twitter.com/AEZPM2S9ui
It’s always something with this guy.
The Bulls are now 21-40 and have a great chance to make it two wins in a row when they face the lowly Timberwolves in Minnesota in Wednesday night.