The Bully Pulpit

Summer League Recap: Bulls Win Vegas Championship On Valentine Buzzer-Beater

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The Summer Bulls gave us something we haven’t had in a while in Chicago— something to be excited about!

The video above shows the final moments of the Bulls’ Las Vegas Summer League Championship win over former coach Tom Thibodeau and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sure, it’s only the Summer League, but that didn’t stop Twitter from blowing up in excitement over Denzel Valentine’s clutch buzzer-beater in the waning seconds of overtime:

But before we get to Denzel’s shot and the events leading up to it, let’s take a look at how the Summer Bulls got to the Vegas League Championship:

Game 1: Bulls 71, Celtics 62

Game summary: In the first summer league game of the year, the Bulls got out to a quick start, going on a 20-8 run to start the game. This was thanks in large part to a 10-point first quarter by Bobby Portis. Portis finished with 17 points on 7-11 shooting with 13 rebounds. Jerian Grant chipped in 14 as the Bulls held off the Celtics in the second half.

Biggest positive:¬†Bobby Portis¬†did what he was supposed to do. The second year player was absolutely dominant throughout the game, leading you to believe that this will probably be his last year playing summer league ball. Go on ya, Bobby. You’re officially not a bum.

Biggest negative:¬†The Bulls shot a dismal 3-26 from three. Not exactly what Hoiberg had in mind. Bulls’ first-round draft pick Denzel Valentine was a big part of the problem. He went 0-9 from three and 4-16 for the game, finishing with 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 turnovers.

Notable players: CHI: FelicioР6 pts, 5 reb, 6 fouls; PortisР17 pts, 13 reb, 1 blk; ValentineР8 pts, 6 reb, 1 ast; GrantР14 pts, 3 reb, 1 ast; DinwiddieР10 pts, 3 ast, 2 reb. BOS: Jalen BrownР9 pts, 1 reb.

Game 2: Bulls 83, 76ers 70

Game summary: A big second half led the Bulls to victory over first-overall pick Ben Simmons and the 76ers in game two. The Bulls out-rebounded the Sixers 41-30 and outscored them in the paint 52-34. Cristiano Felicio was a big reason for that discrepancy, as the second-year player finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, shooting a perfect 8-8 from the field. Ben Simmons led the Sixers with 18 points on 7-13 shooting.

Biggest positive:¬†Despite a down game from Bobby Portis, the Bulls were able to dominate the paint throughout. I’m still not sold on Felicio, but if he can play this well in the preseason, my opinion on him is liable to change.

Biggest negative:¬†The Bulls might have waived the wrong guy. Through two games, Spencer Dinwiddie has looked much more consistent than Jerian Grant, who struggled this game, shooting 2-8 from the floor and 0-3 from 3. Dinwiddie, on the other hand, dropped 14 points, adding 4 assists and 4 rebounds. It’ll be interesting to see how this backup point guard battle progresses throughout the offseason.

Notable players: CHI: FelicioР17 pts, 10 reb, 4 ast; PortisР8 pts, 9 reb; ValentineР13 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast; GrantР7 pts, 1 reb, 2 ast; DinwiddieР14 pts, 4 ast, 4 reb. PHI: Ben SimmonsР18 pts, 3 reb, 2 ast.

Game 3: Bulls 79, Spurs 76

Game summary:¬†After a turnover-filled first quarter, the Bulls found themselves down by eleven before half. That Spurs’ lead would be cut to two by half, as Spencer Dinwiddie went off for 8 straight points, leading to a 10-0 Bulls’ run. An awkward interview with Gar Forman wasn’t the only highlight of the second half, as Bobby Portis heated up, scoring 12 of his ## points after halftime. A pair of clutch free throws by Dinwiddie sealed the game for the Bulls, who narrowly escaped after Jonathon Simmons missed a fade-away three as time expired.

Biggest positive: The Bulls’ reserves showed some resiliency in this game, coming back from a big first-half deficit and weathering the storm through the game’s 14 lead changes. They again dominated on the boards, this despite Felicio playing just 12 minutes. The Bulls out-rebounded the Spurs 40-29.

Biggest negative:¬†Can anyone make a goddamn three!? This was the third straight woeful three-point shooting game¬†this summer. In the first three games combined, the Bulls shot 12-60 from deep. That’s 20%. Christ.

Notable players: CHI: FelicioР6 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast (12 mins); PortisР18 pts, 8 reb, 2 blk, 2 stl; ValentineР15 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast, 6 fouls; GrantР10 pts, 1 reb, 2 ast; DinwiddieР13 pts, 2 ast, 4 reb. SAS: Jonathon SimmonsР22 pts, 2 reb, 3 ast.

Game 4: Bulls 86, Mavericks 73

Game summary:¬†Bobby Portis came out en fuego yet again in Game 4, scoring 13 of the team’s first 19 points, including a stretch of 11 straight. The Bulls’ big man (who really doesn’t fucking belong on a summer league roster) finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds on 9-13 shooting. The Bulls led virtually the entire game, forcing the Mavericks into 16 turnovers (11 of which were steals) and a poor 37.5% shooting percentage from the floor.

Biggest positive:¬†The Bulls shot above 20% from three!!! Hooray! 6-18? I’ll take 6-18 at this point.

Biggest negative: There really wasn’t much to complain about in this game, aside from the continued shooting struggles of first-round pick Denzel Valentine. This was actually one of his more efficient¬†games, going 5-10 from the field and scoring 11 points— but he continues to struggle from three. That’ll be a major problem if that trend continues, since he’s not going to wow anyone with his athleticism.

Notable players: CHI: FelicioР15 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast; PortisР19 pts, 8 reb, 2 ast, 3 stl; ValentineР11 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast; GrantР13 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast; DinwiddieР8 pts, 4 ast, 5 reb. DAL: Justin AndersonР17 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl.

Game 5: Bulls 88, Wizards 85

Game summary: In the Vegas Tournament Quarterfinals, the Bulls nearly gave up their 7-point lead in the last minute, but held on after Denzel Valentine hit a pair of free throws to seal the game. Valentine was arguably the player of the game, going 4-6 from three on his way to a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double. Bobby Portis continued to shine, going 17 and 9 on 6-14 shooting. Finally, finally, finally the Bull started hitting some threes, going 11-29 from deep in the game.

Biggest positive:¬†Denzel Valentine¬†finally¬†got out of his three-point shooting slump, which is a great sign for the Bulls. He’s yet to have a breakout game, but the young guard really needed this one.

Biggest negative:¬†Despite an improved shooting night from beyond the arc, the Bulls struggled from the floor, shooting only 38.2%. Jerian Grant’s rough night had a lot to do with this, as the former Golden Domer went 3-14 from the field and 0-7 from three.

Notable players: CHI: FelicioР6 pts, 3 reb; PortisР17 pts, 9 reb, 1 ast; ValentineР14 pts, 10 reb, 3 ast; GrantР8 pts, 1 reb, 8 ast; DinwiddieР11 pts, 2 ast, 2 reb. DAL: Jarell EddieР22 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast.

Game 6: Bulls 85, Cavaliers 79

Game summary:¬†The Bulls’ winning-streak continued over the defending world champs thanks to a balanced effort that saw six different players score in the double-digits. The Summer Bulls were led by big men Felicio (18 points) and Bobby Portis (16 points), while guards Valentine and Grant (13 points each) rounded out the scoring. The game came down to the wire in the fourth quarter, as the Cavs had a 75-73 lead with around two minutes remaining. That’s when Denzel Valentine banked in clutch 3-pointer to take the lead, initiating a 12-4 Bulls’ run to close out the game.

Biggest positive:¬†Denzel Valentine showed his clutch side,¬†a foreshadowing of what was to come in the Championship game the following day. But more than anything, the Bulls showed they could play as a team in this one, something we didn’t always see from their regular roster last season.

Biggest negative: A very slow start for the Bulls in this one, as Chicago found themselves down by 10 points at half. Their backcourt defense left a lot to be desired as well, as guards Kay Felder (22 points) and Jordan McRae (16 points) had big nights for the Cavs.

Notable players: CHI: FelicioР18 pts, 6 reb; PortisР16 pts, 9 reb, 3 ast; ValentineР13 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast; GrantР13 pts, 1 reb, 3 ast; DinwiddieР10 pts, 2 reb. CLE: Kay FelderР22 pts, 4 reb, 5 ast.

Game 7: Bulls 84, Timberwolves 82 (OT)

Game summary:¬†As I mentioned in my last article, this was the first NBA Summer League game I’ve ever actually sat down to watch. Boy, did I pick a good one.

There was a lot to like about the way the Bulls played in this game. Bobby Portis was his usual dominant self, Felicio played efficient, Jerian Grant had his best statistical game of the summer by far, and the one big-name guy who had an off game, Denzel Valentine, ended up redeeming himself, not once, but twice at the end of the game.

In the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, the game looked all but over after Summer League MVP Tyus Jones (which, watch out for that dude) knocked down a clutch 3-pointer to give the Wolves a 77-74 lead with 3.6 seconds left. However, a brilliant out-of-bounds play drawn up by Bulls’ Summer League head coach Pete Myers left Denzel Valentine wide open for a three-pointer at the top of the key. Valentine delivered:

The two teams entered overtime (which is only two minutes long in Summer League play), and Jerian Grant immediately made his presence known, hitting a layup and a step-back three on back-to-back possessions to give the Bulls an 82-77 lead. However, Tyus Jones responded for the Wolves, first hitting a layup, and then assisting on a three-point shot that Xavier Silas banked in from the top of the key. With 11.7 seconds left, the Bulls had one last shot. Valentine, once again, delivered.

Biggest positive:¬†Hey, the Bulls won something! Meaningless trophies aside, it was nice to see the Bulls give us something to be exited about. In terms of the game itself, I was most-impressed by Jerian Grant, who finally seemed to play with a little bit of confidence out there. That three-pointer he made in overtime was one of those “No, no, no, no, YES!” type of situations. I still don’t think he’ll develop into a solid backup point guard until he can improve his three-point shooting, but this game was a step in the right direction.

And then there’s Denzel Valentine… Quiet all game, scoreless until the fourth quarter, yet he somehow found a way to make an impact. I think this is the type of player Valentine will end up being— sort of a Boris Diaw type with shades of Robert Horry. A guy who’s willing to step in and do the dirty work, but can be depended upon in the biggest of moments. Right now, his biggest focus needs to be getting into a rhythm earlier in games— but even if he doesn’t, if this Summer League has taught me anything, it’s that Denzel Valentine will find a way to help the team, even if his shot isn’t falling. He may not have a very high ceiling, but at the very least, we can rest assured knowing that he has a higher floor than just about any rookie drafted this year.

Biggest negative: Sadly, this might be the high point of their season.

Notable players: CHI: FelicioР12 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast; PortisР26 pts, 10 reb, 1 ast, 4 stl; ValentineР7 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast; GrantР24 pts, 10 reb, 5 ast; DinwiddieР8 pts, 2 ast, 7 reb, 2 blk. MIN: Tyus JonesР27 pts, 2 reb, 10 ast.

Since this article is getting a bit long, we’ll cover the biggest takeaways from the Bulls’ run through the Las Vegas Summer League in our next article! What were your biggest takeaways? Tell us in the comments and don’t forget to like us on Facebook to stay updated on everything Chicago Bulls!

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