When we last left our beloved Chicago Bulls they were in the midst of a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” road trip to the west coast. Unfortunately, their west coast woes followed them home, as they dropped a winnable game to the Phoenix Suns last night in Chicago. Let’s talk a little bit about what happened in the 104-99 loss…

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Lauri fights past Devin Booker. Picture from chicagobulls.com

Lauri Markkanen has been struggling with his shot for about a week, week and a half now, and last night was no exception. He shot 26% (4-15) from the field, finishing the game with 12 points. He struggled mightily in the first half. It appeared as though he had lost confidence in his shot, and there were multiple times when it looked like he was trying to guide the ball into the hoop, instead of just using his natural shooting stroke. Fortunately, Lauri went back to his normal shooting motion in the second half and made a couple of important shots in the stretch moments of the 4th quarter. The Bulls need him hitting a high percentage of his shots in order to win. But keep the faith fellow Bulls fans; Lauri will be alright, he just needs to shoot his way out of the funk.

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Kris Dunn sizes up his opponent. Picture from chicagobulls.com

Kris Dunn played a very aggressive game. He was taking smart shots; Finding the spots on the court where he hits a high percentage and drilling the jumpers. Dunn shot 62% overall, and 80% (4-5) from three point land. He dished out 8 assists, but also served up 4 turnovers. Even with 4 turnovers in a game, there is room for optimism regarding Kris Dunn. The turnovers are changing. He has cut down on the number of turnovers due to bad ball handling. He is now making poor passes. Why is this better you may ask? A bad pass from a young point guard is a normal part their development. It means that Dunn is seeing where the ball has to go, he is just a split second too slow, or a hair too strong with his passes, or maybe his teammate doesn’t recognize the play unfolding and fails to react the way Dunn anticipates. These turnovers are corrected through experience. As Dunn continues to play big minutes, I expect these turnovers to dwindle over the course of the season. He is developing his court vision, timing, and chemistry with his teammates. By the time the season ends, we should look for Dunn to have made great strides as a passer.

Speaking of passing, the Bulls were making “the extra pass” throughout the entire game. The ball movement was much better than it has been in recent weeks, it reminded me of the preseason when the Bulls were finding open shooters on the majority of their possessions. Player movement without the ball also improved. Over the last couple months, Bulls players have regularly dribbled themselves into trouble, turning the ball over while their teammates have watched helplessly from the three point arc. Not tonight!!! When a Bulls player was trapped, one of his teammates moved to an open spot, creating an angle for a pass, and an escape. Paul Zipser was especially good at moving without the ball early in the game (Though he was quickly benched for not being able to make a basket. Still… baby steps. Baby steps.).

Justin Holiday woke up from his slump. He led the Bulls in scoring with 25 points by taking (and making) good shots, in the rhythm of the offense. He kept the wild, contested jumpers to a minimum and went back to running off screens, which is where he has the most success shooting the ball. So, a sad loss overall against an opponent the Bulls could have beaten, but not the end of the world. The difference between the rebuilding Bulls and the rebuilding Phoenix Suns is a player like Devin Booker. Booker led all scorers with 33 points, hitting key shots down the stretch to keep Phoenix ahead even as the Bulls valiantly tried to chip away at the Suns lead. He had a spectacular block against Kris Dunn to help end a late Bulls rally, and effectively the game. Booker is the potential super star that every rebuilding team pins their hopes on. The Bulls potential super star is Zach Lavine, and we’re still a week or two away from seeing him in action.

 

Injury Notes:

Niko Mirotic is participating in full team practices now, even though he still isn’t talking to Bobby Portis. Niko was at the game, in a suit, at the end of the Bulls bench with his new buddy Zach Lavine, and fan favorite Cameron Payne. Lavine and Mirotic were also seen having fun and looking good before the game…

“Did we just become best friends?” “Yup!” “Wanna go do dunks on the court?” “Yup!”

The Worst Records in the NBA:

1. Chicago Bulls: 3-16 .158

2. Atlanta Hawks: 4-16 .200

3. Dallas Mavericks: 5-16 .238

4. Sacramento Kings: 6-14 .300

5. Brooklyn Nets: 7-13 .350