The Look Back:
The Chicago Bulls went 1-2 this week, beating the New York Knicks on Tuesday, 120-102, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks, 124-115, and closing the week with a Saturday loss to the Brooklyn Nets, 117-111. The Bulls are now 4-9 on the season and it’s rapidly becoming more difficult to stay optimistic about the teams chances of being respectable. I’m not talking playoffs, I mean 30+ wins.
The sad part of it is, it’s not as if they aren’t playing hard. In most of the games this season the Bulls have held a late lead only to give it up in the closing minutes. Both the loss to the Bucks and Nets were games in which the Bulls had the lead going into half-time but couldn’t close out the win.
I said last week that the Bulls have developed a reputation for not being able to close, so opponents have zero fear when they find themselves losing to them late in games. Opposing teams know that if they apply a little pressure, or string together some scoring, the Bulls will fold like a blanket. That confidence in the Bulls crumbling was enough for the Bucks to overcome 5 first half three pointers from Coby White, and it carried the Nets past a 36 point performance by Zach LaVine.
Nobody is scared of the Bulls.
Evidently, Lauri Markkanen has been playing through a strained oblique muscle. Coach Jim Boylen let that tidbit slip out in a media scrum earlier this week. I’m not sure why the team didn’t share Lauri’s injury with the public sooner. The Bulls do have a long and ugly history of not disclosing players injuries while letting the fan base blame said players for perceived weakness or poor play, why would it be different for Markkanen?
There has been no time table set for the return of Otto Porter Jr, who sat out all of this weeks games with what is being called a “left foot contusion.” Based on the poor track record the Bulls medical staff have had correctly diagnosing players injuries, this probably means that Porter suffered a fracture in his foot and is done for the season. That’s just me speculating, but would you be surprised if it turned out to be true?
P.S. Just in case you were wondering, no, the Brazilian Bomb will not be coming off the bench any time soon. Cristiano Felicio broke his wrist in practice sometime in the past two weeks and is out 4-8 weeks.
MVP of Week 4: Zach LaVine
I was so tempted to give this highly subjective and totally meaningless award to Wendell Carter Jr again just because he was solid, but Zach actually had a good week consistently scoring the basketball. LaVine put up 25 points and 5 assists in the win against the Knicks, and he followed that up with 25 points and 7 assists in the loss to the Bucks. He capped the week with a monstrous scoring night against the Nets, 36 points but with only 1 assist.
If the Bulls were going to make the playoffs this season, Zach LaVine was going to have to make the jump to superstar. I thought he could do it. It appears that I was wrong. But that doesn’t mean LaVine isn’t a great scorer, or that he isn’t capable of carrying the team for long stretches. He put up good numbers this week, and he looked a lot more confident shooting the ball. He is finding his spots and aggressively driving to the basket; LaVine looks like his old self, which is great, because the Bulls will need all of that and more if they are going to climb back to respectable sooner rather than later.
Coby White gets this weeks honorable mention for his spectacular 3 point shooting for a game and a half. White dropped 12 threes over the span of 3 quarters spread out between the 4th quarter of the Knicks game and the 1st half of the Bucks game. White seems to be the very definition of microwave scorer.
The Look Ahead:
-The Bulls get a second crack at the Milwaukee Bucks, at home, on Monday night. The Bucks star wing, Khris Middleton, should still be on the bench with a thigh injury. The Bulls will have to find an answer for Giannis and Eric Bledsoe, who both scored 30+ points in the game on Thursday. Rebounding is another area the Bulls will have to do better in; the Bucks out-rebounded the Bulls 58 to 45 this past week. Maybe we’ll get another miraculous shooting night from Coby, we can only hope.
-Wednesday, the Bulls host Derrick Rose, Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, and the 4 and 9 Detroit Pistons. That’s right Blake Griffin is back from his injury, making the likelihood that the Bulls beat the Pistons a second time this season considerably less. Griffin has only been back for 2 games so he’ll be a bit rusty, but he is still an All-Star and the Bulls are bad.
-The Miami Heat come to town on Friday. Jimmy Butler has led the Heat to a blistering 9 and 3 start. The surprise breakout performance of Kendrick Nunn has been the talk of the league, but the Heat really get wins as a team. Nobody, not even Jimmy, averages more than 20 points a game, but six of their players are averaging 13+ points per game. The one thing the Bulls have going for them, Zach LaVine always brings it in games against Butler; it’s almost as if he is trying to prove he’s a better player than Jimmy, and that the trade with the Timberwolves was justified.
-The Bulls head to Charlotte on Saturday, for their second match-up of the season with the Hornets. At 6-7, the Hornets are playing as well as we all hoped the Bulls might play this season. The Bulls will be looking for some measure of revenge for the 1 point loss they suffered on opening night of the season. Despite the unexpectedly strong-ish start from Charlotte, I think the Bulls might be able to beat the Hornets. It took a historic shooting night from beyond the arc for the Hornets to win by 1 point, the Bulls defense has gotten much better since then, and you have to hope Charlotte isn’t going to hit as many shots as they did opening night.
Same Old, Same Old:
One win and losing late leads seems to be the Bulls weekly formula now. It’s pretty annoying, death by a thousand paper cuts annoying. Let’s end the weekly recap, as we have been doing, by looking at some win share and plus/minus leaders.
Bulls Win Share Leaders:
1. Wendell Carter Jr 1.4
2. Tomas Satoransky 0.7
3. LaVine, Markkanen, Dunn 0.6
Bulls +/- Leaders:
1. Wendell Carter Jr +1.7
2. Otto Porter Jr +0.8
3. Coby White +0.2
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and GO BULLS!
P.P.S. How about my guy Nicolas Claxton on the Nets! 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in 18 minutes off the bench. Okay, those aren’t world beater numbers, but he did have a monster dunk, a sweet pivoting post move into a hook shot, and it looked like he had zero regard for Lauri Markkanens defense. I still think we should have found a way to draft the kid.
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) November 17, 2019