Five-game winning streaks shouldn’t feel so self-defeating.
In any other season, winning consecutive games would be a boon. In year one of a rebuild, though, where losing games and increasing lottery odds is winning, stringing together five straight wins isn’t ideal.
Long-term ramifications aside, the Bulls continued their impressive recent play, ousting divisional rivals Milwaukee Bucks 115-109.
Fuelled to victory by best friends Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis, the Bulls continued their winning ways with yet another competitive four quarter performance.
Here are some take-aways:
Portis and Mirotic are thriving together and it’s bizarre
Given their altercation during the preseason, there’s no rational way to explain how 5-man units containing Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are outscoring their opponents by 34.3 points per 100 possessions.
Seriously, it makes no sense.
Another unexplainable phenomenon: For the second time this week, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis each had 20 or more points in a Bulls win.
I don’t get it.
Well, I do. For each guy individually, at least. But together, playing this well as a pair? Nope, this is dumb.
Forget about the on-court production momentarily, and remember that one of the guys broke the others face only two months earlier. It would’ve been completely natural and justified for the pair to want nothing to do with each other. Yet here they are, dominating games with unsustainable shooting and giving the Bulls 48 minutes of quality power forward play, all whilst Lauri Markkanen sits on the sidelines watching.
Like this sudden win streak, it truly is bizarre.
Dunn’s maturation at point guard
When you’re turnover prone and fearful of making mistakes, you play at one speed and are overly conservative. That was Dunn in his first 10 games as a Bull, averaging almost as many turnovers (3.1) as assists (4.0).
That’s changing, though.
The gap between assists and turnovers has started to widen. In his last 10 games, Dunn is averaging 7.1 assists per game and only 2.3 turnovers in 30.6 minutes, which has allowed the sophomore point guard to grow in confidence and create scoring opportunities in new ways.
Dunn replicated those numbers against the Bucks, dishing out seven assists and only turning over the ball twice. Of the two turnovers, one was a suspect offensive foul call.
Overall, Dunn’s decision-making has improved greatly. The careless turnovers aren’t as prevalent, the loose dribble has slowly begun to tighten. He’s also making moves that we previously haven’t seen.
Deep in fourth and the game in the balance, Dunn had one of his best plays of the season, using a sweet hesitation dribble to setup a Mirotic 3-pointer.
By changing his speed, Dunn committed the attention of the defense to him. Two Bucks were caught watching the ball, leaving the Bulls with an advantage out top. Mirotic was the benefactor, but Dunn was the catalyst. A slight movement of body and speed was all that was needed to create an efficient shot attempt.
Changing speeds on dribble-drives is a subtle nuance. But for Dunn, who earlier in the season was often caught with his mind working faster than his body, this is a big development.
David Nwaba continues to impress
Another game, another Nwaba baseline flush.
These dunks are becoming routine, as is Nwaba’s obvious effect on a game. 13 points, eight rebound and three steals is 35 minutes are sound numbers for the sophomore wing, but more impressive was his defensive performance.
Guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo is daunting ask. Being 6-foot-4 and severely undersized makes it all the more difficult.
Milwaukee predominantly used Antetokounmpo at power forward, causing the Bulls match up problems in the first quarter. Hoiberg adjusted thereafter, opting to using Nwaba on Giannis and moving Mirotic to a wing defensive assignment.
Though Giannis still had an efficient 29-point performance, Nwaba started the second half at forward and held the Bucks superstar to four points in the fourth quarter. Interestingly, he also showed that the Bulls do have a viable option should they wish to downsize their defensive rotation in future.
Other notable points
- As Nwaba continues to see his playing time grow, it’s coming at the expense of Denzel Valentine. If he’s not shooting the ball well, coach Fred Hoiberg has no issues giving Valentine the Bogans treatment — playing the start of the first and third quarter, and few minutes thereafter. It’s the right move to make, and was so in this game. Valentine was a negative, with no suitable matchup. Watch this space once Zach LaVine returns from injury. Valentine’s minutes may fall even further.
- Justin Holiday had one of the quietest near triple-doubles I think I’ve ever seen: Eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 38 minutes. Combining those numbers with his 2-of-10 shooting, and suddenly that stat line looks very Lonzo Ball-esque.
- Robin Lopez: 18 points, eights rebounds (six offensive), 9-of-14 shooting and quality rim protection. This man deserves to be on a playoff team.
- Next game: The Bulls are back home on Monday and will look to make it six in a row against the Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the Philadelphia 76ers.