After good start with Bulls, Porter finally gets his first practice
Three games into his Bulls career, Otto Porter Jr. finally practiced with his new team.
Could this be a turning point? The break that finally ends the Bulls' franchise-record 11-game home losing streak?
Maybe, but while Porter has added some stability to the starting five, the Bulls could use Bobby Portis to come in and breathe some life into the second unit.
The starters matched up reasonably well with Milwaukee on Monday night, but the reserves were overwhelmed, especially when the Bucks left MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor with the subs early in the fourth quarter.
"It's a broken record every game, but we're going to get there," Zach LaVine said. "We made good strides I feel like each game in parts of the game. But we have to figure out how to win. I think that's the hardest thing for a young team is figuring out how to win and make the correct plays at crucial moments. We're working on it."
Porter has been as advertised, a good shooter and decent wing defender. His shooting stroke is smooth, almost effortless when he's in a rhythm. Through three games, he's knocked down 8 of 14 attempts from 3-point range, so that bodes well for the offense.
"I'm starting to understand the offense here," Porter said Tuesday at the Advocate Center. "Going inside out, we have a lot of versatile guys that can play multiple positions, and just to learn a majority of the plays at two different positions."
Porter is playing both forward spots. He plays small forward at the start of games with Robin Lopez at center. Coach Jim Boylen has been experimenting with smaller lineups as well, where Lauri Markkanen is the five and Porter the four, with an extra guard on the floor, usually Wayne Selden Jr.
"My game is very versatile. I can fit in any offense," Porter said. "I feel like I'm capable of creating or scoring in any type of way."
Porter has been consistent, scoring 18, 17 and 18 points in his three games with the Bulls. His assist total has grown in every game.
Having another scoring threat on the floor seems to have helped. LaVine has had three good games with Porter, averaging 26.3 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds, despite battling through a few injuries. LaVine was grunting and moving slowly in the locker room Monday, feeling both a sore ankle and bruised thigh.
"Yeah, I'm beat up, but I don't like missing many games," LaVine said. "I don't care what the record is or what part of the season. I feel like I missed too many games already with that ACL injury. I've got some dunk opportunities I'm passing up, but I can still be productive."
Markkanen is having the best stretch of his NBA career. He started playing well before Porter arrived and has collected double-doubles in seven of the last eight games. During those eight games, he's averaged 23.0 points, 14 rebounds and shot 45 percent from the field.
With the five starters on the floor, the Bulls went on an 11-0 run late in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee to close within 100-97 with 2:55 left. The Bulls had some bad possessions after that and the Bucks used a pair of 3-pointers by Eric Bledsoe and 4 free throws to quickly put the game out of reach.
"We're not stopping anybody, we're not making any shots (late in games) and we have to figure out how to get better at that," LaVine said. "We're trying, but we have to figure out a solution."
Bulls game dayBulls vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 7 p.m. at the United Center
TV: WGN; Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: This is the Bulls' last game before the all-star break and last chance until Feb. 23 to snap their 11-game home losing streak. ... After a good start, the Grizzlies slumped their way out of the playoff race, but won three of four games heading into Tuesday's home date with San Antonio. ... PG Mike Conley is playing well, averaging 20.1 points and 6.4 assists. Rookie PF Jaren Jackson Jr. is at 13.9 points and 4.7 rebounds. ... In the first game after Marc Gasol was traded to Toronto, former Bulls C Joakim Noah had his best game of the year with 19 points and 14 rebounds against New Orleans. ... This is the first meeting this season. The Bulls went 2-0 vs. Memphis last year.
Next: Orlando Magic, 6 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Amway Center
-- Mike McGraw