Bulls

After Bobby Portis burned Celtics in opener, will they adjust or dare him to do it again?

After Bobby Portis burned Celtics in opener, will they adjust or dare him to do it again?

Bobby Portis probably had a higher standing on the Celtics’ draft board two years ago than he did on their scouting report coming into this first-round playoff series, but like a new song that’s caught fire in the spring, he’s moving up the charts.

Portis wowed in his playoff debut, unfazed by the atmosphere and sensing a void at the power forward spot with Nikola Mirotic struggling, scored 19 points with nine rebounds in the Bulls’ surprising series-opening win at TD Garden Sunday.

Now the question is, can Portis have a repeat performance? 

In what could be a desperate atmosphere in Game 2 Tuesday night, the Celtics can’t afford to go down 0-2 headed to Chicago for two games and the pressure will squarely be on the home team to restore order.

"I’ve always been confident; it helps at the same time I knew the circumstances of what my team needed from me," Portis said Sunday night. "I went out there and played my basketball game, I took the shots that came to me."

Not only did he make shots but he played with an energy and exuberance on the glass, running the floor and helped contribute to the Bulls’ massive edge on the glass, along with a grown man block on Jae Crowder with less than three minutes remaining and the Bulls clamping down on the Celtics offense.

Then hitting jumpers late along with some emotion and swagger.

Although the last handful of Portis’ shots were contested and he was already in a late rhythm, most of his opportunities came from the Celtics’ pick-and-roll defense, bringing two players to the ballhandler and choosing to leave Portis or Mirotic open to take their chances.

"I’m a very confident basketball player, but I credit the guys who passed me the ball and had confidence in me to shoot the ball," Portis said. "They were telling me to shoot the ball; that helps, too; at the same time I prepared the whole season even though through the ups and downs that made me where I am today."

Portis burned them and it appears the Bulls expected that coming into the series.

"They did a good job, they didn't plan for Bobby Portis to go 8-10 from the field," Dwyane Wade said before the Bulls practiced at Emerson College Monday afternoon.

"But I thought their gameplan was true to Boston. Bobby Portis just had a big game and that was the difference maker."

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Wade seemed to be more decoy than aggressor in Game 1, a strategy he appears okay with as long as it works, as he only took 12 shots in 34 minutes. And considering Sunday was the first playoff experience for many Bulls like Portis, nobody seemed too shocked he was the one who wasn’t affected and didn’t shrink from the moment.

"He didn't show anything (new). I knew what Bobby's capable of," Jimmy Butler said. "I've seen it in practice, I've seen it all year long. He's confident. But your confidence comes from your work. He's out there shooting jump shots every day. It doesn't matter if it's playoffs, game 52, game 82, or if it's overtime. I have confidence that he's going to step up and make those shots."

Al Horford contested a few shots and with Portis hitting them anyways, one wonders if the Celtics will truly adjust to Portis or dare him to make those same shots again.

After all, hitting 18-to-20 footers is probably something Portis will have to prove he can make consistently through his entire career, and overreacting to an unknown commodity while opening up driving lanes for Wade, Butler and Rajon Rondo doesn’t seem like the smartest move.

"You can try to prepare for adjustments they may make but you don't know," Wade said. "Whatever adjustments they make, you gotta make adjustments to their adjustment."

With revamped roster, Bulls begin quest for playoffs on road vs. Hornets

With revamped roster, Bulls begin quest for playoffs on road vs. Hornets

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- On April 28, 2017, the Celtics ended the Bulls’ lone season of what Rajon Rondo brilliantly called “The Three Alphas,” closing out the first-round playoff series in six games.

As the Bulls begin their 54th season in franchise history Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., only Denzel Valentine and Cristiano Felicio remain from that roster.

When John Paxson first succeeded Jerry Krause in April 2003, he took two years to similarly flip the roster, keeping only Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry.

This makeover was Paxson’s doing, beginning with the June 2017 trade of Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves. His last complete overhaul produced 10 playoff appearances in 11 seasons, albeit with only five series victories in that span.

Wednesday night begins the quest for sustained success.

“We have revamped this roster in a big way and a way in that we can look at this team and we see real talent,” Paxson said back on the team’s media day in late September. “We see a versatile roster. We see depth on this roster. We see some leadership on this roster which we haven’t had.

“And because of that our goals this year are really simple. First and foremost, we want to compete at a high, high level. And when you compete at a high level, you have an ability to be a playoff-caliber team. And we set that as a goal. (Coach) Jim (Boylen) talks about it. He’s not afraid of it. And our guys through their work have shown us that they want to make that commitment. So we feel good about that.”

There’s plenty to feel good about during a preseason. That’s when each team’s regular-season record is unblemished. The tests start for real against the Hornets, followed by Friday’s visit to Memphis.

Four of the Bulls’ first five games are on the road but all are against teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs last season. Saturday’s home opener is against the defending NBA champion Raptors, who defeated the Pelicans in overtime Tuesday night in their first game since Kawhi Leonard left for the Clippers.

Plenty has to go right for the Bulls to make the jump from 22 victories to the playoffs. Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen need to step towards stardom. Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young need to continue being the low-maintenance complementary pieces they've shown to be during their careers. Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. need to stay healthy. Coby White and Kris Dunn need to contribute off the bench.

Still, the bottom portion of the Eastern Conference playoff picture is wide open. The Bulls know this. It’s why Boylen indeed gave voice to the goal on that same September media day.

“Our goals for the season are to make the playoffs,” Boylen said then. “And every day to prepare like we’re a playoff team. Every day to work like we’re a playoff-bound team. I’m excited for that. I think that’s the only way to do it. There’s no way that we were going to stand up here and say, ‘Hey, I hope we can win 10 more games or we hope we can be better.’ We want to get to the mountain top.’’

The games count for real starting Wednesday. It’s time to start climbing.

Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

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USA Today

Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

With player heights long a topic of question and debate, the NBA informed teams that all players must be measured by a team physician this training camp.

It’s all part of the league’s push towards transparency, which includes detailed reports on officiating and other initiatives.

So who grew and who shrank among the Bulls?

Wendell Carter Jr. dropped from 6 feet, 10 inches to 6-foot-9, which will do nothing to change the narrative that he's an undersized big man. Kris Dunn moved from 6-4 to 6-3. Daniel Gafford isn’t 6-11, as first advertised when drafted, but 6-10. And Denzel Valentine is no longer 6-6 but 6-4.

The Bulls even pushed down Coby White’s flamboyant hairstyle and discovered he’s 6-4, not 6-5.

As for those who grew, well, Zach LaVine’s All-Star candidacy now features him as a 6-6 guard, not 6-5. New big man Luke Kornet is really big; he’s 7-2, not 7-1. And Shaq Harrison somehow grew from 6-4 to 6-7.

That’s the official Bulls’ roster. 

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