The Chicago Bulls were without two of their better players for the start of the season due to a preseason altercation, but Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are both back in the fold–and playing well for the suddenly surging Bulls.
Common thinking had the Bulls dealing one of the two after Mirotic suffered a broken jaw during a practice fight, but the team is trying to make the best of the situation–and both players are making significant contributions.
In a win over the Eastern Conference leading Boston Celtics, the duo combined for 47 points–with both raining three-pointers and mid-range jumpers from all areas of the court. Even though the Celtics were playing without Kyrie Irving, the team had no answers for the Bulls’ power forwards.
Portis and Mirotic both possess the ability to stretch the floor, which opens up driving lanes for guards like Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine. Zach LaVine, when he returns from knee rehabilitation, will also be a primary beneficiary.
With the two forwards producing at a high level, the Bulls have won three straight games following a 3-20 start to the 2017-18 season. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the performance against the Celtics marked the first time that Mirotic and Portis led the Bulls in scoring.
The pair’s professionalism has also drawn the respect of coaches and teammates. “Niko's been awesome," Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters following the Celtics win. "That's obviously an understatement with getting him back and winning the three games that he's been in our lineup ... He and Bobby were terrific again playing together.”
Hoiberg added that he wasn’t surprised that both players were thriving, given the previous altercation. "They're both pros,” he added. “They're both guys that are going to go out and play with great passion and emotion. You can see it with the way they're playing out there.”
The Bulls will try to run their winning streak to four games when they host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. Keep it here on AXS.com for more NBA news and tickets to select games.