CHICAGO — Otto Porter Jr. was the first Bulls player back on the court after halftime, a ball tucked under his arm and a wide smile on his face as he bounced toward the free-throw line to start shooting.
It was his first game since Nov. 6, when he suffered what was initially thought to be a sprained left foot before the Bulls discovered it was fractured. The injury cost him 51 games before he returned Monday and provided a glimpse of the offensive spark the Bulls have been missing.
Porter scored 18 points in 17 minutes off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting (3 of 5 from 3-point range) in a productive return to help the Bulls to a 109-107 upset of the Mavericks on Monday night at the United Center.
His contributions — along with those of Denzel Valentine, who scored a season-high 17 points in his first start of the year, and rookie Coby White, who had a team-high 19 points — led the Bulls to an unlikely victory despite playing without leading scorer Zach LaVine.
It was the Bulls’ second victory this season over a team with a winning record.
The Bulls wanted to ease Porter back into action, so coach Jim Boylen decided to use him off the bench instead of inserting him directly back into the starting lineup. Quickly after Porter checked in for his first stint with 4:02 left in the first quarter, he began to ignite the Bulls offense.
Porter scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the first half. He knocked down midrange jump shots coming off screens, drained an open shot from beyond the arc and looked comfortable in the offense despite missing almost four months.
“I’m not worried too much about that,” Porter said before the game. “I’m just going to go play my minutes as hard as I can, whatever those are, and try to have fun playing.”
The Bulls entered with the fourth-worst offense in the NBA and have lacked an offensive identity all season, often relying on LaVine to bail them out of possessions headed nowhere. So Porter’s return to the rotation was a boost they desperately needed.
When Porter initially suffered the injury, neither he nor the Bulls could have anticipated he would miss so much time. Monday marked only his 10th game of the season and 25th with the Bulls since they acquired him at the trade deadline last season.
“Patience is the main thing,” Porter said. “Patience and I studied a lot while I was gone.”
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