Summer League Game 3 Recap: Bulls Beat Spurs, 79-76

Jul 10, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Patrick Miller (7) dribbles during an NBA Summer League game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Thomas & Mack Center. Chicago won the game 83-70. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Patrick Miller (7) dribbles during an NBA Summer League game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Thomas & Mack Center. Chicago won the game 83-70. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bulls remain undefeated after their first three summer league games and positioned themselves for a bye in the first round of the Las Vegas Summer League playoffs after beating the San Antonio Spurs, 79-76, on Tuesday night.

Chicago has been rolling under Pete Myers in Las Vegas this summer. After a strong win against Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics on Saturday, the Bulls stormed back after a slow start to steal a victory from Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.

After a day off, the Bulls were back in action against the also 2-0 Spurs, coached by Becky Hammon, who led the Spurs to the LVSL Championship last summer.

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Chicago looked strong right off the start, probably thanks to a rest day. After an opening surge by the Bulls, San Antonio caught up and then pushed a lead. As the second quarter wore on, the Spurs hit jumpers and attacked the paint while the Bulls just kept missing. Denzel Valentine continued his poor shooting at Vegas during the first half while Bobby Portis had a steady but unremarkable start.

This game also marked the first playing time of the summer for Raymar Morgan. Unfortunately, Tre Demps and Aleksandar Marcius continued their dubious DNP-CD streak.

After a 10-0 run by the Bulls shortly before halftime, the Spurs once double-digit lead was cut back to two at halftime.

The second half was the kind of game you would want from two NBA playoff teams, constantly going back and forth and neither team able to extend a lead. If only this wasn’t a summer game. Instead, the two sides treated all in attendance and watching to a very close game that maybe had more to do with poor execution and airballs than anything else. In the end, the Bulls held on thanks to a couple of clutch free throws with 10 seconds left and a defensive stop on the final Spurs possession. In all, there were 14 lead changes and 14 ties.

The Bulls are now in line to receive a bye for the first round of the playoffs which start tomorrow and carry through the rest of the week.

Game Grades

A: Bobby Portis

Portis was the star again. He was a little slow to get going, but once he was in the rhythm, it was go time. Mostly, he made his mark in the second half. The intense power forward finished the game with 18 points, eight rebounds, one assist and two steals in just under 33 minutes of play. Portis might not be ready for the rigors of starting in the NBA, but he is definitely much further along than his Las Vegas peers.

B: Spencer Winwiddie

Dinwiddie is traded to the Bulls, waived for cap reasons, invited to Vegas, plays well – better than Jerian Grant – and rumors persist that he already has an invite to camp in the fall and there is a possibility that he could be kept on the Bulls roster for 2016-17. Then, right around tipoff for the game on Tuesday night, it is announced that the Bulls have signed Isaiah Canaan on a two-year deal. Despite this news, which is anything but good for Dinwiddie, he had a great game off the bench. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Despite the bench status, Dinwiddie ended up getting the lion’s share of minutes, spending nearly 28 minutes on the court.

Regarding the contract situation, which has nothing to do with his performance grade, there was a suggestion that the signing of Canaan was good because he could be paired with Dinwiddie and their skills sets offset the weaknesses of the other. That is fine, but the Bulls currently have Rajon Rondo, Jerian Grant, Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Canaan and Jimmy Butler filling minutes at the guard spot. In addition, each of those players are on some form of guaranteed contract for 2016-17. It isn’t impossible to say that Dinwiddie could still make the team, but having five guards who are guaranteed money usually doesn’t bode well for a camp invitee who is guaranteed nothing.

C: Denzel Valentine

Here we go! Valentine was an “F” in the Saturday game recap, but just two games later he has moved up two whole letter grades. He could be higher on this list with his impressive line of 15 points, six rebounds and three assists if not for how the first half played out for the former College Player of the Year. Valentine started 1-for-8, and was shooting less than 33 percent from the field for the Las Vegas games up to that point. While his overall numbers are still looking pretty terrible, as did his uncontested airball from 3-point range in the first half, he round into form during the second half, where he shot 4-for-8. He also showed good initiative in drawing contact and getting to the free throw line where he was 4-for-5.

Valentine is nearing his ceiling for potential grades in the summer league. Unless he goes off for 25 points and five assists on 10-for-14 shooting, no performance on offense will cover up his atrocious defense. It slipped by me because I was busy being impressed with the game-high 22-point performance of Jonathon Simmons, but Stephen Noh caught it for what it was – very bad Valentine defense.

D: Rasheed Sulaimon

Look, Sulaimon was a good college baller and he is working here to try and find himself a spot. He basically didn’t do much of anything in just about 13 minutes and had a turnover. But, when he committed the turnover, he did the greatest thing by running back on defense, didn’t commit a foul and forced a bad layup that missed and got possession back to Chicago. It isn’t much, but for fringe players who are clinging to whatever they can get, that was impressive. Sulaimon got back, avoided a whistle and prevented a mistake from turning into points for the other team. Bravo.

F: Jerian Grant

Grant took six shots and got 10 points, but he needed a 5-for-5 from the free throw line to get there. It isn’t that Grant is playing so terrible, because this is summer league and other players are just dying out there, but he isn’t showing much anywhere on the court. If anything, Grant is making it pretty clear that he isn’t ready to handle big minutes at guard, either point or shooting, and he won’t be enough when Rondo sits or when Rondo inevitably gets suspended for doing something abhorrent.

Next: The Dwyane Wade Decisions: A Text Message Tale

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Highlight plays:

Bobby Portis Putback Slam!

Ball Movement!

More Ball Movement!

The Chicago Bulls now wait to see where they will be drawn in the playoff structure of the LVSL. Tomorrow they should know when their next game will be, though they will not know the opponent. The winner of a first round game will face the Bulls later in the week.