By Richard Kagan
Not long ago, the Chicago Bulls had three meager wins for the year. Forward Niko Mirotic returned to the starting lineup and now the Bulls are (7-20).
After its win over the Utah Jazz 103-100, the Bulls don’t have the worst record in the League. That distinction belongs to the Atlanta Hawks.
Mirotic had a season high 29 points on 11 of 18 shooting. He made some key treys. Wednesday night he had it going and his teammates found him and he connected. Niko also grabbed 9 rebounds. Bobby Portis, the teammate that punched him in the face during the pre-season, had zero points until the fourth quarter and then he scored 9 and that made a difference. The Bulls got it done and now have a legitimate four game win streak going. The kind that teams like the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, and San Antonio Spurs have all the time.
The Bulls are in rebuild mode and G Zach LaVine gets back to the lineup soon and then things might be interesting. If healthy, LaVine can score and will add tempo and depth to the Bulls. His scheduled return time is a matter of weeks.
Guard Kris Dunn scored 13 points and his jumper with 22 seconds remaining gave the Bulls a much needed hoop. He contributed with seven rebounds and eight assists. His game is developing. He is finally getting the playing time so he can develop. Sometimes he turns the ball over but he has cut down on his miscues. Rookie F Lauri Markkanen sat out this game due to back spasms and yet the Bulls found enough offense to score 100+ points. Center Robin Lopez scored 16 for Chicago and Denzel Valentine added 13. The Bulls shot 44% from the field which is a few points above their seasonal average. It helped in this game.
Donovan Mitchell scored 32 points for the Jazz who started slowly and almost caught the Bulls. Rudy Gobert had a quiet night with just six points. Guard Ricky Rubio added 14 for Utah. The Bulls had the lead for most of the game. It was a matter of holding onto the lead late that was the problem but they handled it. Lately, they have not looked like bottom-feeders. And, now, they are not. They are a work in progress.
Mirotic has been great since his return. He has brought offense to the team, which it desperately needed. The Bulls seem to be getting more stabilized and LaVine’s return to the lineup should help.
Now, the Bulls travel 90 miles north and face the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.