CHICAGO – On many fronts, Thursday was a rough day for fans of the franchise that calls the United Center home.
Earlier in the day, they saw the Bulls stay silent at the trade deadline, then later watched as Zion Williamson and the Pelicans dominated their rebuilding team for the better part of 48 minutes. This could represent the entire season as a whole, really, but days like Thursday, where it appears the current era of the team is going nowhere, are especially painful.
But during a difficult 24 hours came a couple of minutes of daylight for fans, and it came from the most unlikely of players.
In the shot-clock era (since 1954-55), no player had ever scored 15+ points in as little playing time as Adam Mokoka tonight.
📊via Elias Stats Bureau pic.twitter.com/gugSf4OqZB
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) February 7, 2020
Adam Mokoka, a rookie who appeared in just five previous games for 17 combined minutes without scoring a point, exploded offensively in the final 3:01 in the game. In that short time, he scored 15 points and hit every shot he took from the floor, and incredibly helped the Bulls take what was a 25-point New Orleans lead down to four.
It wasn’t enough to save the team from another defeat, but it made for quite a bright spot in a dull year for the team.
“It was cool, especially since he hasn’t played in a lot of NBA games,” said Zach LaVine of Mokoka’s effort. “I always tell him you’ve got one of the prettiest shots in the world, man. If you see him shoot, his form and everything is perfect.”
Indeed it was from the moment he took his first shot on Thursday till the end of the game, as Mokoka hit all six he took from the floor, including a trio of three-pointers that paced the memorable stretch. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the fastest that a player has scored 15 or more points in NBA history in the shot clock era.
“I was just happy to be in there, playing hard, and to be able to get my first bucket,” said Mokoka of the performance. “So it was cool.”
The offensive outburst is the first most have heard of the undrafted rookie from France, who was signed to a two-way contract by the Bulls this summer. Since then, he’s split his time between Windy City and the NBA, with more of his minutes coming at the G League level.
But he caught the eye of fans at the United Center on this night, and they showed their appreciation for the rookie with chants of “MVP, MVP” in the closing minutes. Mokoka said that the response from the crowd was “cool,” and he was happy that his mother, Rosette, was in the stands to see the performance for herself.
Making the trip from France, the forward put his hand in the air as a gesture to her when hitting a few of his shots in the fourth quarter.
“To be able to score in front of her, to play against this team, to be able to make my first bucket in front of my mother, that’s really a blessing,” said Mokoka.
Bulls’ fans were saying the same, for it was the forward that brought some positivity to another dreary day for the team this season.