MVP of the Week: Lauri Markkanen (5) and Zach LaVine (5)
A dramatic 110-109 victory against the Orlando Magic featuring late game Lauri Markkanen heroics. A 126-116 statement/revenge victory against the Boston Celtics in which Zach LaVine dropped 42 points. It has been a very nice, post All-Star break, two game stretch for the LaLa Brothers (it’s not a great nickname, but it’s the best I could come up with in a pinch). Lauri and LaVine have been great. They’ve launched the Bulls to two wins coming out of the All-Star break, and a streak of 3 in a row including the victory against Memphis before the break.
The winning reached a fevered pitch last night at home against the hated Boston Celtics. It was the Celtics, you’ll remember, that embarrassed the Bulls with a 56 point margin of victory in early December. That was the game that newly elevated head coach Jim Boylen inexplicably sat his starters after they got off to a slow start. The 133-77 drumming by the Celtics was the worst loss in Bulls history. Last night, Lauri and LaVine brought vengeance down upon House Celtic. Markannen set a new career high in points, scoring 35, and he corralled 15 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season. LaVine also set a new career high in points, scoring 42, and he dished out 4 assists while grabbing 6 rebounds.
In the past two games, the Bulls offense has erupted for a total of 236 points. Lauri and LaVine have combined to scored 124 of those points. As I’ve said before, the presence of Otto Porter Jr. has helped spur this resurgence in both Markkanen and LaVine. His spacing, slashing, and pick-and-roll play on offense has really opened things up for the two potential All-Stars.
Another reason this team has improved: The pace of the Bulls offense has picked up. Coach Boylen is no longer telling the Bulls to walk the ball up the court on every possession. He is letting the young legs run. This forces opponents to hustle back on defense, and it’s not just Zach and Lauri who have benefited from the change of pace. Ryan Arcidiacono has looked better than he has in months. Shaq Harrison and Wayne Selden are sprinting up and down the court, forcing turnovers, pushing the ball in transition. For the first time in several months the Bulls look like an NBA team.
The final piece to the Bulls recent success has been the aggressive play of Lauri Markkanen. He is healthy and he’s looking for greatness. With more muscle on his body than ever before, Markkanen is attacking the rim. He doesn’t shy away from contact, in fact the newest move in his offensive arsenal, the drag-step runner, invites contact from his defender and routinely gets the Finnisher to the free throw line after a foul has been called. On the perimeter and from mid-range, his shot continues to be as pure a shot as any player could hope for, and he has begun hitting difficult, well defended shots; The turnaround, fall away, hand in the face while the shot clock disappears kind of shots that make people sit up and take notice. The kind of shots only super stars make consistently.
Stat of the Week: 3 Wins in a Row
The three consecutive wins [Memphis Grizzlies (122-110), Orlando Magic (110-109), and Celtics (126-116)] is the longest winning streak the Bulls have had this season. The Bulls have only had one other “stretch” of consecutive wins, a two game winning streak in late December when they beat the Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers just before Christmas. I’m not sure if the current streak will last past this Monday when the Bulls face off against the best team in the league, the Milwaukee Bucks, but until they lose, let’s just enjoy the ride.
Otto Porter Jr. sat out the second half of last night’s game with a strained calf muscle. As of posting this blog, there is no word on how serious the injury is.
Win Share Leaders: Chasing Dickey Simpkins (2.9)
1. Ryan Arcidiacono 2.5
Ryan Arcidiacono pt. 2 pic.twitter.com/BHDZs2ciNv
— Tony Gill (@tonygill670) February 24, 2019
-. Zach LaVine 2.5
3. Lauri Markkanen 2.3
Before I end this post, I would just like to state that I am against a Robin Lopez buy out. I know the Warriors want him, but with Wendell Carter Jr out for the rest of the season (probably) I don’t think it would be a good idea to let Lopez walk. Robin fits the Bulls. He fits with BoyBall. He fits with Lauri and LaVine. He fits with Chicago. Not only should the Bulls keep him the rest of this season, they should think long and hard about signing him to a new deal this summer. He can come off the bench next season and backup Wendell Carter Jr. Besides, I don’t want to make life any easier for the Golden State Warriors, they already have a super team, there is no reason for the Bulls to help them get better.
The Worst Records in the NBA:
1. Phoenix Suns 11-50 .180
2. New York Knicks 11-48 .186
3. Cleveland Cavaliers 14-46 .233
4. Chicago Bulls 16-44 .267
5. Atlanta Hawks 20-40 .333
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