Bulls victorious over Jazz, 95-86

Bulls improve to 33-37 on the season

By Sam Smith

The Bulls aren’t going to quite paint the town yet. But they did get the best of all those Jazz Saturday in the United Center for a much needed 95-86 victory.

The Bulls had lost seven of eight, but move to 33-37. The Jazz is 43-27.

The Bulls got 23 points from Jimmy Butler and a big time defensive play as he stripped the ball away from Gordon Hayward while Hayward was driving for a score after a steal and fast break. The Bulls were hanging onto 92-86 lead at the time.

Bobby Portis scored 22 points off the bench on 10 of 13 shooting. Robin Lopez had 14 points and Denzel Valentine 11. Butler also had seven assists and Valentine had 12 rebounds for his first career double/double.

The latest surprise was that Nikola Mirotic was back in the starting lineup. Dwyane Wade was out along with Cameron Payne, and Mirotic climbed his way back from out of the rotation recently.  But once again the Bulls started slowly, trailing 12-4 in the first five minutes. The Jazz got an early boost from Gordon Hayward and then George Hill with a pair of threes to make it 15-4 before the Bulls began to go back inside to Lopez, who led the Bulls with six first quarter points. The Jazz also was strong on the boards with seven second chance points in the quarter and a 13-8 rebounding edge as the Bulls as Utah led 23-16 after one. But again the Bulls began to get into the game after the quarter with Portis looking more invigorated coming off the bench. He made a pair of tough jumpers early in the second quarter as the Bulls tightened the defense, forcing a 24-second violation and forced shot at the buzzer to get within 26-22 three minutes into the second quarter. Portis, who was unaggressive offensively his last few starts, continued to hit shots in his latest role, making his fifth straight late in the second quarter on a Butler pass as the Bulls got within 33-29 with 5:11 left in the half. But just as the Bulls pulled within a basket, the Jazz made a pair of threes with defensive breakdowns and a Paul Zipser turnover. Though the Jazz continued to dominate on the boards and getting loose balls, the Bulls stayed close with aggressive perimeter defense led by Butler and Michael Carter-Williams and trailed just 44-40 at halftime. Portis led the Bulls at half with 13 points; the last time he had that much in a game was March 2, 10 games ago. As a starter, Portis was averaging 8.8 points per game.

The Bulls edged ahead to open the third quarter with Butler attacking the basket and Mirotic finding the range on a three. The Bulls took a 55-50 lead six minutes into the half. The Jazz came back with six straight points and then marched to the free throw line for chances on four straight possessions, making half. The Jazz led 64-61 going into the fourth quarter despite shooting 35.5 percent, but with that big 42-29 rebounding advantage and 18 second chance points. The Bulls surged ahead 77-73 midway through the fourth on a Valentine three and then got another after Rudy Gobert blocked a Joffrey Lauverge shot and it went to Valentine in the corner for a three. Butler added a three-point play to make it 85-79 Bulls. But George Hill made a tough runner and Gobert converted rolling to the basket to reduce the Bulls lead to 85-83 with 2:51 left.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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