A 1-3 week means a return to the norm for the Chicago Bulls. Currently19-48 on the season, our favorite team finds itself struggling to get to 20 wins. At least the games have been a bit more competitive of late. Last week I waxed poetic about the Bulls finally living up to the expectations of the fan base, I might have spoken too soon. The win of the week came against the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia ‘76ers. Jimmy Butler came up short for a second time against his former club, and once again it was Zach LaVine out dueling the All-Star, cementing the Bulls victory with some last second heroics.
LaVine has been the Bulls most consistent player this season, and his brilliance against Butler and the ‘76ers on national TV put his critics on notice. 39 points on an efficient 14-26 shooting, along with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal, all on the network that failed to put Zach on their list of Top 25 NBA Players Under 25? I’m guessing it wasn’t a coincidence. LaVine has shown a penchant for stepping up when the national spotlight is trained on him.
As for this weeks slate of losses, all three were fairly competitive with the Bulls allowing the games to slip away in the second half. Friday’s 112-104 loss to the Detroit Pistons was especially tough to swallow. The Bulls shot the lights out in the 1st half and went into the break with a 66-49 lead. They took advantage of fast-breaks and good ball movement, getting everyone involved on offense in the 1st half massacre. But the 2nd half was a different story altogether. Detroit started pressing the Bulls on defense, turnovers and forced shots resulted in the long, inevitable, change in fortunes. Blake Griffin, the Piston’s star power forward, took over the 4th quarter, pouring in 16 of his 27 points, icing the game and the Bulls.
One thing to note from this weeks games, Lauri Markkanen, who was hotter than a 3 alarm fire throughout the month of February, seems to have cooled off with the start of March. His shot has been off, and he hasn’t looked quite as aggressive as he did even just a week and a half ago. That 4 overtime win against Atlanta seems to have taken a lot out of the Finnisher. It sounds like he might have been a little under the weather at the beginning of last week too. Let’s hope he gets back to kicking butt on the court soon.
Stat of the Week: Team +/-
It’ll be no surprise to Bulls fans that the teams +/-, or point differential, for the season is an ugly -7.5. They’ve lost a lot of games, and some of those losses had ginormous margins of defeat. It might even be a surprise for some fans that the team +/- wasn’t worse. Up until the All-Star break, it was. The Bulls pre All-Star point differential was -8.4. Since the break it has risen quite substantially to -1.3. Changing the pace at which the Bulls play (i.e. running in transition), Lauri’s big month of February, and the arrival of Otto Porter Jr, have all improved the team’s chances of winning, and it shows in the Bulls overall point differential since the All-Star break. Just like their +/-, the Bulls are finally headed in the right direction.
MVP of the Week: Zach LaVine (6)
His performance in the win against the ‘76ers is the big reason why I named Zach LaVine this weeks MVP. He has also been posting a lot more games with positive net ratings, this means that either his offense has been so good that it more than cancels out his bad defense, or that he has improved on defense. Either way, it is an encouraging sign from a player that most people have written off as just another athletic scorer with no other discernible NBA skills.
Win Share Leaders: Dickey Simpkins Caught!!! (2.9)
1. Ryan Arcidiacono 3.0!!!
We have our Bulls highlight of the year: pic.twitter.com/ppJUmjvAr9
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 7, 2019
2. Zach LaVine 2.9
3. Lauri Markkanen 2.8
The Worst Records in the NBA:
1. New York Knicks 13-53 .197
2. Phoenix Suns 15-52 .224
3. Cleveland Cavaliers 16-50 .242
4. Chicago Bulls 19-48 .284
5. Atlanta Hawks 22-45 .328