It was a disappointing 1st week of the season for Bulls fans. Despite strong showings from Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, and rookie Coby White, the Bulls are 1-2 to start the season, seriously testing the faith of this zealous blogger. I feel like I’m Linus from “Charlie Brown” and the Bulls are the Great Pumpkin of Halloween, I keep putting my faith in the wrong entity.
The opening night 126-125 loss to the Charlotte Hornets was unacceptable. In a season that is supposed to culminate in the playoffs, the Bulls cannot drop games to a team that projects to be one of the worst in the league. Lauri Markkanen did his best to bring home the victory, scoring 35 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, but an utter lack of defense and a historic shooting night from 3 point land for the Hornets doomed the Bulls to an 0-1 start.
Game 2 against the Memphis Grizzlies was a better result. Zach LaVine poured in 37 points, with 6 rebounds and 4 assists, leading the Bulls to a 110-102 win. The Bulls did a better job on defense, holding the Grizzlies coveted rookie point guard, Ja Morant, to just 10 points while forcing him to commit 4 turn overs on the night.
Game 3, the Bulls home opener against the defending champion Toronto Raptors, did not go well. It was the second game of a back-to-back for both teams, and it showed. The game was sloppy and lack-luster. The Bulls players looked tired, missing a lot of shots short off the front of the rim, struggling to get back to defend fast breaks, and not fighting for rebounds. Their lack of energy resulted in a 108-84 beat down reminiscent of many losses from the last couple seasons.
The Bulls look like a different team than the one that was playing beautiful basketball in the preseason. The ball movement and cutting from players that was so effective for the Bulls hasn’t really been present in the first three games of the regular season. More disastrous than the lack of ball movement on offense has been the defense. Bad defensive rotations have allowed the Bulls opponents to get wide-open looks from all over the floor. Also, the interior defense and rim protection has been nearly non-existent, allowing Bigs like Cody Zeller of the Hornets, and Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka of the Raptors, to torch the Bulls in the paint.
It hasn’t all been bad news for the Bulls; Kris Dunn has played fairly well coming off the bench for the Bulls. He has been one of the few bright spots defensively for the team. He already has 8 steals this season, and has been very disruptive to opposing offenses, tipping passes, locking down opposing ball handlers in the half-court, stripping bigs of the ball in the post, and just being a general irritant all over the court. It looks like Dunn has finally found his role on this Bulls team.
Week 1 MVP: Coby White
The other bright spot for the Bulls has been the play of rookie Coby White. He had two strong performances to start his career. White dropped 17 points with 7 assists on Charlotte, and followed up his spectacular debut with 25 points and 6 rebounds against the Grizzlies, thoroughly out-playing his fellow rookie Ja Morant.
White’s scoring off the bench was the reason the Bulls beat Memphis. 21 of his 25 points came in the 2nd half of the game, sparking a come-from-behind victory for the Bulls. Coby was also one of the few players to show some effort in the loss to the Raptors. While he didn’t play well, and had a large number of shots blocked, he played at a speed and with an urgency that few of his teammates could match. He is already the #1 scoring option for the second unit, and if he continues to play well, he might quickly become the Bulls #1 scoring option period.
The Bulls face the New York Knicks on Monday. We’ll see if Coby White learned anything about how to keep his shot from getting blocked as he challenges rim-protecting big Mitchell Robinson. Former Bulls Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis are also members of the Knicks, it’s always fun to see former Bulls and beat them.
Wednesday, the Bulls travel to Cleveland and take on Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, Collin Sexton, and rookie point guard Darius Garland. This should be another interesting matchup for Coby White as he goes up against Garland, the other guard taken in front of him in this summers draft.
Friday, the Detroit Pistons come to Chicago. The Bulls get to see the reinvented Derrick Rose, and challenge the intimidating Andre Drummond in the paint.
Before I go, I’ll leave you with a couple of stats I’ll be following this entire season:
Bulls Win Share Leader:
Zach LaVine, Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono all with a 0.2 Win Share
Bulls +/- Leader:
Coby White +5.0
Until next time, thanks for reading and Go Bulls!