With Porter back, Chicago Bulls pull off upset win over Mavs
Otto Porter has been out of sight, out of mind and largely forgotten for most of the season.
But there's no denying he can help the Bulls. Playing for the first time Monday since Nov. 6 because of a broken left foot, Porter scored 18 points in 17 minutes and the Bulls pulled off one of their best wins of the season, beating Dallas 109-107 at the United Center.
This was the Bulls' second win against a team with a winning record. The other one came Dec. 14 against a short-handed Los Angeles Clippers team. Dallas (37-25) played without Kristaps Porzingis, Seth Curry and Jalen Brunson, but the Bulls were without top scorer Zach LaVine (quad strain) for the first time this season.
The Bulls had an 8-point lead and the ball with 22.9 seconds left, then turned it over twice, missed a couple of late free throws and had to sweat out Luka Doncic's half-court heave at the buzzer that could have won the game.
"I had a nice little view of it," Coby White said. "He put enough arc on it to go in, he just left it short. With Luka, you think anything's going in and he be making those shots easy in warmups."
Porter brought a welcome return, but he didn't play down the stretch because of a minutes limit. That left it up to White and other young players to bring home a victory.
White, who led the Bulls with 19 points, had a couple of clutch driving lay-ins. Rookie center Daniel Gafford finished an alley-oop dunk in traffic and turned it into a 3-point play to put the Bulls up 103-94 with 4:07 left.
"I had all my teammates with me," White said. "They were encouraging me. As long as you've got people behind you believing in you, that's all that matters.
Down the stretch, coach Jim Boylen used two-way player Adam Mokoka to guard Doncic, and it paid off. Mokoka is a little taller than Shaq Harrison. Doncic finished with 23 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds but had just 2 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Another forgotten player made the most of his opportunity Monday. Getting his first start of the season in place of LaVine, Denzel Valentine added a season-high 17 points. "Anytime I get an opportunity, I'm going to compete," he said. "I love basketball. I live for this."
The Bulls have literally been waiting all season for a game like this from Porter. He hit 7 of 11 shots from the field, along with 3 of 5 attempts from 3-point range.
"He's got that skill level we've missed," Boylen said. "Ability to make shots, ability to play in pick and roll. He has a feel, a calmness, so I'm happy for him."
The Bulls seemed hopelessly out of sorts at the start of the game and trailed 29-19 after the first quarter. But when Doncic took a seat on the bench, Porter led a comeback and the Bulls took the lead briefly before falling behind again 58-48 at halftime.
But then with Doncic on the floor and Porter on the bench, the Bulls opened the third quarter with a surprising 20-6 run and never trailed the rest of the way.
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