Portis refuses to lose, leads Bulls past Dallas
There was no actual evidence of strategic tanking during Friday's game between the Bulls and Dallas Mavericks at the United Center.
But it was a little suspicious when in the third quarter, Dallas picked up a rarely-seen technical foul for having only four players on the court.
The Bulls didn't accept that advantage without a fight. Not only did they fail to score on their 5-on-4 possession, Denzel Valentine also missed the technical free throw.
After trailing for most of the game, the Bulls had their act together down the stretch. They finished with a 28-9 run and snapped a five-game losing streak with a 108-100 victory over the Mavs.
Whether that result qualifies as good or bad news is in the eyes of the beholder. The Bulls and Dallas are both among a tight group of eight teams with the NBA's worst records.
"It's hard to tell a competitive athlete to go out there and lose and be OK with losing," Bulls guard Zach LaVine said. "That doesn't make any sense, especially not for me. We're trying to win games and we have to get better, we have to be competitive and let the chips fall."
The Bulls fell behind 10-0 at the start of the game, then gave up an 11-2 run early in the third quarter. A change to the starting lineup is in store for the next five games. After some prodding postgame, coach Fred Hoiberg said Bobby Portis would join the starting lineup, presumably in place of Cristiano Felicio.
Portis led the Bulls with 22 points and a personal 6-0 run sent the home team ahead for good with 3:43 left.
"We will change our starting lineup in the next game, with these next five, and see what a new look feels and looks like out there," Hoiberg said. "Look for that. Maybe the change in the lineup will help us get off to better starts."
Portis has been valuable coming off the bench and his improvement has been one of the more positive developments for the rebuilding Bulls. He scored a career-high 38 points on Feb. 22 against Philadelphia.
In the second half on Friday, Portis scored 15 points and hit 7 of 9 shots from the field, mixing up outside jumpers with some nice post-up moves in the paint.
"It will be a little different," Portis said of starting, something he's done just once this season. "But I adjust pretty well to the circumstances. I'm going to be myself, do what I do well. Try and get the crowd involved like I always do."
Hoiberg has talked about wanting to see how Portis and rookie Lauri Markkanen play together. Lineups with two outside shooting big men, especially when Nikola Mirotic was still around, have been successful for the Bulls.
Markkanen finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds on Friday. Dallas' star rookie, Dennis Smith Jr., countered with 25 points.
"I think with Bobby it's all about confidence," Hoiberg said. "He's not shying away from anything. He's not shying away from his shot, certainly. Sometimes when he gets in that rhythm, gets in that zone, it's fun to watch. He plays with such a swagger and a confidence. He brings that energy every time he steps on the floor and we need it."