After starting the season 3-16, the Chicago Bulls have won four in a row, and their relative success in recent games has been a byproduct of an unlikely two-man group that has put out surprising results on the floor.
Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic — you know, THAT Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic — have been Chicago’s best two-man tandem this season. Since Mirotic returned from the concussion Portis dealt him with one punch, the Bulls are undefeated.
Chicago is scoring 126.2 points per 100 possessions with Portis and Mirotic on the floor, while allowing just 92.5 points per 100 possessions with them off, according to data from NBA.com. That net rating of 33.7 is better than any other lineup the Bulls have deployed this season, though you have to account for the small sample size of just 44 minutes played together over just four games this season.
Portis and Mirotic might be bonding
Sometimes it takes a little tough love. In the case of Chicago, that tough love came in the form of a Portis bunch that broke several bones in Mirotic’s face. But look at the product now on the floor.
Portis and Mirotic shared a moment in Chicago’s win over the Celtics when one found the other for an assist on the low block. Big man-to-big man love is one thing. Big man-to-big man love between two players that fought one another is another.
Bulls fans also point to David Nwaba, the athletic, defense-first wing who has given Chicago’s back court a jump start. Nwaba plays in three of the Bulls’ seven most efficient lineups, and the team is 6-9 in games he plays in.
I’ve been catching up on the Bulls and have decided this is my favorite play of the year
David Nwaba swatting the shit out of Dwight Howard off the glass pic.twitter.com/GflSLev3u5
— Ricky O’Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) December 13, 2017
But Mirotic and Portis have been the game changers
The Yugoslavian stretch four is averaging 19.5 points on 57 percent shooting from the field and 52 percent shooting from downtown. While it’s unlikely he keeps this hot shooting up all season, he’d be the only player in the league to average 19 points per game on better than 55 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from three if he did.
Portis is also having a career year at 12.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. And if their two big men can keep some semblance of this pace for the year, Chicago may have its 1-2 punch for the year.