Nov 17, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) reacts to hitting a three-point shot at the first-half buzzer against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
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The Chicago Bulls traveled to Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz for their second of six straight games on the road for their annual Circus Trip. Two games down, two victories. Here’s three takeaways from the win for the Bulls.
I mean, we’re only 12 games into an 82-game season.
The thing is, the Bulls have won eight of those 12 games and have beaten some highly thought of teams along the way.
Thursday night was no different against the Utah Jazz.
Despite the Jazz missing George Hill and Derrick Favors due to injury, the home team was still their usual aggressive on the defensive end. (The Bulls only scored 16 points in the second quarter and missed 23 of their final 25 shots of the first half.)
With two games in the books on their annual Circus Trip, it’s clear that the Bulls were more prepared for this lengthy venture out on the road than many expected (including myself).
Having said that, here’s three takeaways from Thursday night’s victory for the Bulls, starting with the play of Robin Lopez.
Nov 17, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (8) reacts during the first half against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
1. Robin Lopez played one of his best games of the season
The performance of Robin Lopez runs much deeper than him shooting 5-for-16 from the field on Thursday night.
Lopez grabbed 12 rebounds to go along with his 10 points and a couple of blocks in the win for the Bulls. The impact of Lopez’ performance against the Jazz can’t really be seen in a simple box score other than his seven (!) offensive rebounds. He protected the rim as well as he has in any game all season.
In a matchup with Rudy Gobert — who is easily one of the NBA’s best centers — Lopez held his own against the “Stifle Tower”, specifically on the glass on both ends of the floor.
Nothing about Lopez’ game is going to be flashy or worthy of countless Vine loops. But, he’s such a versatile big guy in the fact that he protects the basket, he can provide offense (within the flow of said offense), and he’s the best screener on the Bulls roster.
Early in the game when the Bulls were struggling to put the ball in the basket, it was Lopez setting a majority of the screens for the Bulls’ ball-handlers to create.
Nov 17, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
2. The second quarter was the worst thing ever
Butler 3 ends a 1/22 (4%) shooting slump for the Bulls over the final 7:40 of the quarter.
Nov 17, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) battle for a loose ball during the first half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
3. The second unit wasn’t a problem on Thursday night
A gigantic problem in recent times for the Bulls is the play of their second unit.
Usually to start the second quarter, Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg will send out Dwyane Wade with four guys off the bench.
But on Thursday night, this unit was a plus for the Bulls in an ugly game.
The second quarter started with the Jazz leading, 26-25. By the time Hoiberg subbed in the resst of the starters with 7:33 left before halftime, the game was knotted at 36, which obviously means the second unit was a +1 in that stretch.
Compared to what they’ve been doing during games, that’s a huge nugget for the Bulls and one they needed in the midst of such a bad game (with a good result for the Bulls).
With this second unit back in to start the fourth quarter, it took less than 90 seconds for Jazz head coach Quin Snyder to call a full timeout because the Bulls had pushed a 66-58 lead out to 13 points to start the fourth quarter.