Sunday Update Week 18: Into the Break

Picture by Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls split there two games before All-Star Weekend, losing to the very good Milwaukee Bucks, and beating the not-so-good Memphis Grizzlies. Monday’s defeat to the Bucks (112-99) featured a near triple-double from Milwaukee’s MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo (29 points, 17 rebounds, and 8 assists), and, on the Bulls side, strong performances from Zach LaVine (27 points), Lauri Markkanen (17 rebounds), and Otto Porter Jr. (18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists). Kris Dunn had a rough night, taking a hard fall and injuring his backside in the second half of the game. Dunn tried to play through the injury, but the pain was too much. His bruised posterior also forced him to miss the last game before the All-Star break, a 122-110 victory over the Grizzlies.

In the game against the Griz, Otto Porter scored a career high 37 points on 16-20 shooting in 34 minutes. He was on fire, but he wasn’t the only Bull making his shots. Robin Lopez poured in 25 points on 10-15 shooting. The night of unlikely heroes continued, Ryan Arcidiacono had a very nice performance filling in for the aching Dunn, he dished out 11 assists, running the Bulls “high powered” offense at peak efficiency.

Stat of the Week: Offensive Rating (points scored per 100 possessions)

I say “high powered” in a sort of tongue and cheek kind of way, but in reality the Bulls have been playing better on offense. Over there last 8 games they’ve posted an offensive rating of 115.4, which is the 7th best in the league. Jim Boylen has taken the training wheels off of the team and is allowing them to run in transition. This has helped boost the Bulls pace of play, giving them more possessions to score on offense. The Bulls have a fairly weak schedule to finish out the season, they should be able to continue building up confidence and chemistry on offense, and add some spirit lifting wins to boot.

MVP of the Week: Otto Porter Jr and Lauri Markkanen (4)

Otto Porter Jr. has been a revelation on the wing. He is another big factor in why the Bulls have seen an uptick in their offensive rating. His steady, confident scoring from the perimeter has unlocked so much of what makes “Boyball” dangerous. Now, when LaVine or Dunn are driving into the lane, defenders can’t sag off of Porter on the perimeter and help protect the rim. When the Bulls play through Robin Lopez in the post, defenders are again forced to cover the perimeter because the Bulls usually have 3 legitimate three point threats in Porter, Markannen, and LaVine, waiting for the kick out pass. Porter has also been more than just a catch-and-shoot threat, he has attacked the basket, driving down the lane or constantly moving to open spaces when he doesn’t have the ball, making his defender work to cover him. Porter has been doing more for the Bulls on offense than he ever needed to do for the Washington Wizard, and it’s working out well for Chicago. If he continues to play like this (and there is no reason why he wouldn’t), he could be one the best non-drafted player acquisitions that John Paxson has made in a very long time.

Lauri Markkanen continues to play well. Even in games where his shot isn’t falling, he is finding ways of effecting the game. His rebounding has skyrocketed in the last few weeks. While he is only averaging 8+ rebounds a game this season, over the last 10 games he is averaging 13+ rebounds a game and has turned into a double-double machine. He has been much more aggressive, asserting himself on the boards, pushing the ball up the court after a defensive rebound, and making some nice passes to his teammates as he runs the break. Markkanen is finally feeling healthy and has his legs under him. He looks like he’s ready to make the jump from promising rookie to potential All-Star.

Injury News:

Kris Dunn is day-to-day with a bruised butt. Chandler Hutchison is still a week or so away from being re-evaluated after it was discovered he had a fractured toe. Denzel Valentine is finally out of his walking boot after having season ending ankle surgery in November. Wendell Carter Jr. will probably sit out the rest of this season after surgery on his thumb.

Blog News:

There will be no new blog post this Wednesday, but I shall return on Sunday for the usual weekly update. Enjoy a week without my Bulls babble. Thanks for reading and GO BULLS!

Win Share Leaders: Chasing Dickey Simpkins (2.9)

1. Ryan Arcidiacono 2.4

2. Zach LaVine 2.2

3. Wendell Carter Jr. 2.0

The Worst Records in the NBA:

1. Phoenix Suns 11-48 .186

2. New York Knicks 11-47 .190

3. Cleveland Cavaliers 12-46 .207

4. Chicago Bulls 14-44 .241

5. Atlanta Hawks 19-39 .328