Analysis

Bulls: Five Takeaways from Last Night’s Loss to the Pacers

In true tank fashion, the Bulls managed to choke a 17-point lead against the Pacers last night. Coming out of the 98-96 loss, what are some trends and takeaways to notice? 

1. Bobby Portis making most of minutes

There were times in 2016 I questioned Portis’s worth as a basketball player. He had some really bad moments. However, as the 2016-17 campaign wore on, Portis began to show signs of improvement. Now, in the wake of an 8-game suspension for punching Niko Mirotic, Portis is playing the best basketball of his career. 

On the season, Portis leads the team in points per 36 minutes, and sports one of the higher field goal percentages, making 44% of his shots.

He played solid again in Indiana, going 5-11 from the field and collecting 7 rebounds in just 19 minutes of action. With much better numbers than any small forward on the team, maybe it’s time for Fred Hoiberg to make a lineup change, and go big with Portis instead of Valentine. Whatever the case, it’s clear that Portis deserves praise for his performance this season. 

2. The Bulls are not clutch 

Last night was at least the third time the Bulls have melted down in the fourth quarter this season, depending on your definition of meltdown. Though each time you can point to different reasons, it’s clear the Bulls don’t have the clutch gene. 

One constant has been a decrease in free throw ability. In fact, the Bulls are shooting 74.1% from the free throw line in the fourth quarter this season, a 3% drop from their overall percentage of 77.1%. Last night, that was even an even worse difference, as Chicago went just 8-16 from the charity stripe, including multiple key misses in the fourth quarter. 

3. Robin Lopez continues to impress

Seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen a more consistent scorer than Robin Lopez. The center has scored double figures in 19 of 23 games this season, and owns one of the best FG% on the team, hitting 51.9% of his shots this year. 

Against Indiana on Thursday, Lopez did it again, dropping 16 points on 7-11 shooting. He may not get a lot of rebounds, but he’s worth keeping around as a great example for the Bulls’ young big guys. 

4. Dunn getting better, but fault stands out

The co-master of inconsistency along with Jerian Grant, Kris Dunn is beginning to show some improvement. In four of his last five contests, Dunn has shot over 46% while scoring 15+ points. He did have a poor outing against Sacramento, but a 4:1 good-game-to-dud ratio is better than usual. 

Dunn tallied 18 points on 8-14 shooting last night. However, the sophomore point guard has not improved at all in a main flaw of his game: turnovers. That’s right, though he leads the Bulls by far with 1.9 steals per game, he detracts from it by also leading the Bulls with 3.2 turnovers per game.

Versus the Pacers last night, he turned the ball over four times, crucial mistakes which, if avoided, may have won the game for Chicago. As he works on his offense, this another part of the game the Bulls need Dunn to upgrade.

5. Justin Holiday still very bad

If there’s a shot to miss, in your b-ball game, who you gonna call? Ho-li-day! 

Justin Holiday may be no Ghostbuster, but he excels at helping the Bulls tank. Ninth in FG% and first in minutes played on the Bulls, Holiday can fool you with his decent-looking PPG mark. 

Last night, the 28 year-old went 2-7 from the field and didn’t record a single assist. Hopefully, Hoiberg plays him solely to help the tank. Otherwise, I don’t see why a guy with better numbers like David Nwaba isn’t starting instead.

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