Did you almost forget what winning looks like?
To the tank-faithful that relished in the Chicago Bulls’ ten game losing streak coming into this evening, I am sorry to tell you that the slide is over... at least for one night. After 48 minutes of play wasn’t enough to determine a winner, the Bulls played a fantastic overtime period to topple the Charlotte Hornets for the second time this season via a final score of 119-111. Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn both played great games, but it was a Bulls reserve player that likely turned the most heads this evening.
This game started off with the Hornets racing out to a four point lead, and it took the Bulls well over the first two minutes before they finally managed to register a basket of their own. However, they did manage to retake the lead fairly quickly after doing so, and part of that 6-0 mini-run included Kris Dunn freezing Dwight Howard in place with a deadly in-and-out move:
(In a somewhat related story, Dwight Howard turned 32 years old today. In a totally unrelated story, Bulls legend Bob “Butterbean” Love turned 75 years old today!)
In classic Hoibergian fashion, the Bulls promptly followed up taking the lead by allowing the Hornets to rip off a 6-0 mini-run of their own. That run included Dwight Howard rejecting Robin Lopez and then taking the ball 90 feet for a dunk in a play that perfectly illustrates the Bulls’ steadfast commitment to defense this season:
Howard blocks Lopez, then goes coast to coast and dunks pic.twitter.com/kFMWJ7DqiX— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) December 9, 2017
Later on in the quarter—after Marvin Williams looked like he was about to blow the game open by himself—Nikola Mirotic made his first appearance of the season. He checked in before Bobby Portis, but the two wound up playing right alongside each other before the quarter’s end. Mirotic looked pretty decent early on, first getting involved by converting this And-1 on his first field goal attempt of the season:
But I would be remiss were I not to mention how hilariously awful former Bull Michael Carter-Williams played during the final 90 seconds of the opening period. MCW first fouled Justin Holiday to create a four-point-play on what was already a wide-open three point attempt for the Chicago’s resident shot chucker. Determined to outdo his previous act of ineptitude with such little time remaining, MCW closed out the opening quarter by attempting to finish through three Bulls defenders and promptly getting swatted by Mirotic:
MCW getting his shot blocked.....This looks familiar pic.twitter.com/LDOgpHp2Tx— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) December 9, 2017
When Forman and Paxson won’t even throw you a qualifying offer, you are not very good at basketball. The Bulls finished the first quarter with a 31-25 lead.
Did you think I was done ripping on MCW? Not a chance:
MCW out here still doing things!! pic.twitter.com/eumKOsiUxx— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) December 9, 2017
Do you think MCW and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ever fight over which of them is the worst offensive player on the Hornets named Michael? Would one of them settle for being the worst offensive player on the Hornets with a hyphonated last name? These are the kind of questions that keep me up at night.
Are the Bulls still playing basketball?
As only they know how!
After a stirring pep talk from Fred Hoiberg during the break, the Bulls immediately allowed the Hornets to rip off an 8-0 run in just over the first two minutes of the second quarter. From there, Chicago essentially traded baskets all period with Charlotte, but three things stuck out to me during this stretch:
David Nwaba is a consistent bolt of energy on an otherwise incredibly lethargic bench
- Kris Dunn played Kemba Walker extremely well
- Lauri Markkanen might be the second coming of Derrick Rose:
Both teams went to the locker room knotted at 52 for the half.
Wouldn’t you know it, Fred Hoiberg’s in-practice superstars came back onto the court and punctually gave up a 7-2 run amid the opening two minutes of the third period. The Bulls countered with a solid Markkanen-fueled 11-2 run of their own, but then swiftly gave up a 7-0 run in the following 45 seconds to put the game back within a possession midway through the quarter. Perhaps perceptive of the fact that the routine of runs had become somewhat ridiculous, both teams kept the score within a possession as they alternated leads for the remaining six minutes. Unfortunately, Dwight Howard scored four unanswered points in the final minute—including a forthcoming flabbergasting contested fadeaway jumper at the buzzer—to give the Hornets a 79-75 lead at the end of three:
The Bulls came out flying to begin the final period of play, as David Nwaba set the tone with two quick buckets and an assist to catalyze a 10-2 run over the quarter’s initial two and a half minutes. However, Treveon Graham countered with nine straight points of his own for Charlotte to keep the game within one possession. In the eerily familiar fashion of the previous quarter, both teams would fail to build leads of more than a single basket against each other all the way down to the last minute. Lauri Markkanen did his best to put the game away with five points in the final sixty seconds, but some fortuitous officiating and clutch freethrows from Kemba Walker forced this game to overtime with the score tied at 106-106.
Entering OT, the contest had seen seventeen lead changes and nineteen ties over the first 48 minutes. Both teams struggled to get productive offense before the Bulls got a layup from Dunn and a three from Markannen for a five point lead with just about two minutes remaining. That ended up being the difference, as the Hornets managed to put up only five points themselves for the entire overtime period. The Bulls salted the game away with six freethrows in the final minute, and after closing the game on a 13-5 run that spanned the entirety of overtime, Chicago emerged victorious to a final score of 119-111.
The Bulls sorely missed the initially excellent play of Lauri Markkanen over the course of their 10 game losing streak, and he had a welcome return to form tonight with a line of 24 points on 8-15 shooting (3-5 from 3-PT range) and 12 rebounds. Kris Dunn had a horrific shooting game (8-24 from the field for 20 points), but otherwise played brilliantly with 12 assists, three steals, and stellar defense on Kemba Walker. Robin Lopez fouled out in overtime but actually managed to have some success against birthday boy Dwight Howard; putting up a line of 19 points and 10 rebounds versus Howard’s 25 points, 20 rebounds, and 6 blocks (!!!).
But the game ball had to go to David Nwaba, a guy Hoiberg wisely chose to start in overtime that injected some much-needed burst into his team whenever he was on the court. Nwaba finished the game with 11 points (5-7 shooting), six rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Numbers still can’t do justice to how appreciated Nwaba’s effort was all night, which was so great that it prompted Stacey King to at one point exclaim, “there’s like five Nwabas out there!”
"There's like 5 Nwaba's out there" pic.twitter.com/KBHTSz0fEQ— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) December 9, 2017
In a season full of unsightly losses, this game was not only fiercly competitive, but also “stomachly” watchable. If you can forgive the fact that Bulls fans now have to reduce their entertainment standards to “just bearable,” tonight was a pretty good outcome for the 2017-18 Chicago Bulls. However, the Bulls won’t get to hang their hats on this win for long, as they’ll return home to the United Center to battle the New York Knicks on Saturday night.