I'm Still Trying to Process What Donovan Mitchell Did to the Bulls Last Night (and Other Bulls Bullets)

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I’m Still Trying to Process What Donovan Mitchell Did to the Bulls Last Night (and Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

Let me quickly rant about the refs, please.

  • If a Tim Donaghy-type report surfaces over the next few years and the ref involved happened to be working the Bulls-Cavs game on January 2, 2023 … my jaw will not hit the floor. I know complaining about officiating is normally one of the most meathead things you can do, but I seriously challenge anyone to re-watch that game in full and tell me that an inconsistent whistle didn’t have a significant impact on the outcome. The Cavaliers shot a bonker 45 free throw attempts, 25 of which were handed to Donovan Mitchell (18 came in the second half).
  • The Bulls were called for nearly every ticky-tack foul imaginable, including back-to-back lane violations as Mitchell stood at the free throw. Now, is it fair to say the Bulls still fouled too much? Absolutely. I’m sure they could have done a better job of staying vertical and keeping their hands under control. But I fail to see how the Bulls’ approach in the second half was all that different than the first half – where they held the Cavs to just 47 points and forced 8 TOVs. The main thing that changed was how the officials were calling the game.
  • This probably would have been a Flagrant 2 if it happened to Mitchell.

  • The refs also only call lane violations against Alex Caruso …

  • Ok. With those grievances aired, I’ll take my meathead hat off and think about this a bit more critically. The fact of the matter is that a player doesn’t just score 71 points. Only eight plays have now done it in NBA history, and the Bulls now join a short list of opponents who let it happen. Whether it be Alex Caruso repeatedly getting beat by Mitchell’s first step in the second half or the Bulls’ lack of rim protection giving Mitchell far-too-easy floaters and layups, the Bulls still played a big part in letting Mitchell go full-blown NBA Jam mode.
  • Additionally, where the heck was the double team? As Mitchell reached the 50-point threshold and kept pounding his way to the free-throw line, I kept waiting for the Bulls to blitz him in the PnR or simply show far more help. When a guy is that freakin’ hot, you have to do whatever you can to get the basketball out of his hands. And their decision not to do so felt especially confusing when both Darius Garland and Evan Mobley were off the floor! Those are two fewer weapons to worry about!
  • Hindsight is 20/20, I guess. The Bulls did play some solid team defense throughout last night, particularly in the first half. In fact, I thought those first two quarters were some of the most cohesive and easy two-way basketball we’ve seen the Bulls play so far this season. But sometimes a guy also just goes nuclear, and we simply have to factor that into this equation. Putting the fouls and the Bulls’ defensive blunders aside, what Mitchell was able to accomplish last night was truly special. We witnessed one of the single-best individual performances a player has ever had, and I have to respect it even if the box score makes me want to vomit.
  • I mean, seriously, this stat from OptaSTATS is absolutely mind-boggling. Let that sink in (and then join me in vomiting).

  • What a weird coincidence:

  • I’m at least happy that Robin Lopez got to be a part of this historic two-man performance:

  • Of course, the same day I write about the Bulls’ improved crunch time play, they basically let a guy beat them one-on-five. Someone get Cold Takes Exposed on the phone!

  • Can the Chicago Bulls get a fresh shipment of knees? According to the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, Javonte Green will be re-evaluated today after experiencing lingering soreness in his right knee. It’s unclear yet whether or not this is anything to worry about long-term, so let’s hope we hear something positive in the next 24-48 hours.


  • Wait, it does!?

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.