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Zach LaVine takes off, and so do the Bulls with their first win streak of the season. Photo from chicagobulls.com

The Look Back:

The Bulls put together their first win streak of the season, beating the Sacramento Kings on the road Monday night (113-106) and downing the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday (106-99). Unfortunately, the week ended with a frustrating loss to the Golden State Warriors (100-98). Still, it’s the first week the Bulls have finished above .500 so I won’t complain too much. The way the Bulls have been playing to start this season, I’m just glad they stacked a couple W’s.

The two wins followed a similar formula. The Bulls jumped out to hefty half-time leads against both the Kings and the Grizzlies, only to see those leads evaporate in the second half. Both games featured solid play from the starters down the stretch. Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen both made some big shots late in the games, which resulted in the victories. In fact, both games also featured a surprisingly balanced stat line from the starting five. It’s almost as if, when the Bulls are all working together, they have enough talent to win in the NBA.

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Bulls beat the Sacramento Kings Monday night with a balanced attack.
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More balance = another victory. The Bulls box score against Memphis on Wednesday.

I don’t know what it is about the Golden State Warriors (I’m guessing a combination of Draymond Green’s tenacity and Steve Kerr’s coaching), but they had the Bulls number this season. Injury riddled and less(?) talented, yet still capable enough to hand the Bulls a big fat L, two of the Warriors five total victories this season have come courtesy of Chicago. A lot of Bulls losses seem to come down to the intangibles (i.e. effort, scheme, adjustments, player I.Q.). Steve Jones Jr, an excellent NBA Twitter follow, did a great job of showing the difference in execution between the Bulls and Warriors down the stretch.

 

 

The Warriors were ready for the Bulls. They knew what Chicago would do on defense and they exploited it. If it wasn’t for the solid, heads up play of Wendell Carter Jr, the Warriors would have had 3 easy dunks to finish the game. The Bulls on the other hand, with a chance to win the game in the final seconds, had no clue how to beat the Warriors defense.

 

If there was a play called, then it wasn’t executed. If the Bulls knew how to exploit the Warriors defense, then the players ignored that piece of knowledge. I know Zach LaVine wants to be the hero, and great, and an All-Star, but that final sequence was garbage. I know Jim Boylen wants to be taken seriously as an NBA coach, but not having a play ready for the final 12 seconds of a winnable game against an opponent you’ve already seen this season is pretty amateur.

When you see how the end of this Warriors game played out, it’s not surprising that the Bulls are 8-15 on the season, and now 3.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.

MVP of Week 7: Lauri Markkanen

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Sweet threads, Lauri! Even sweeter three ball! Photo from chicagobulls.com

I was getting worried that we would never see Markkanen win this arbitrary, subjective, and totally pointless award ever again. Those fears were unfounded. Lauri is back! Kind of. I hope. Maybe. I think. I mean, he looked a lot better this week. He might not be totally out of his slump, but at least he’s smiling again.

20 points against the Kings, 15 points against the Grizzlies, 20 against the Warriors, this is much more typical of what we’ve come to expect from Lauri. He was very aggressive in the first half of games this week, but seemed to disappear in the second half. Not all of that is his fault, his teammates need to get him more involved in the offense during the second half of games. The Bulls, as a team, have this annoying habit of abandoning things in the middle of a game that are working, in this case, Lauri Markkanen’s scoring ability.

HOT TAKE ALERT!!!

Lauri Markkanen’s 20+ points a game are more valuable than Zach LaVine’s 25+ points a game. Why? Because if Markkanen is scoring that means the ball is moving, other players are involved in the game and making plays, basically, the whole team and offensive strategy are working. Zach LaVine can roll out of bed after an unfortunate night of vodka and Taco Bell and still put up 25+ points in a game without the help of his teammates. When Lauri plays well it usually means that the team is clicking. You’ll see a more balanced stat sheet when Markkanen is doing his thing.

Injury News:

Otto Porter Jr will be sidelined for several more weeks. He has a “bone edema”, or fluid build up, in the bone marrow of his left foot, which means he needs to rest his foot for a couple more weeks at least. This shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us Bulls fans. Like most of you, I’ve come to distrust the medical diagnosis of the franchise physicians. After all the misdiagnosis we’ve witnessed, even the most mundane bruise, or sprain, or illness, when pronounced by the Bulls medical staff, is tantamount to “season ending”, if not a death sentence.

Meanwhile, speaking of season ending, the only other legitimate wing player on the roster, Chandler Hutchison, continues to nurse his sprained shoulder. Looks like we’ve got a few more weeks of three guard line ups ahead of us, better gird the old loins.

The Look Ahead:

It will be a very busy week for the Bulls; 5 games are on the docket.

– Sunday, December 8th (today), the Bulls are in Miami to face Jimmy Butler and the Heat. Miami is 16-6 on the season, and currently in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. If you remember back a couple weeks ago, the Heat beat the Bulls, 116-108, in a game that wasn’t really all that close. Five Heat players finished with double figure points, and Kendrick Nunn looked unstoppable. Bam Adebayo, who had 14 rebounds, 6 assists(!!!), 3 steals, and a block to complement his 16 points in the last meeting with the Bulls, is day-to-day with a groin injury. Still, I think the Bulls are in trouble.

– Monday, December 9th (tomorrow), the Bulls are back home against the 4th place Toronto Raptors (15-6). The Raptors handed out the Bulls first blow out loss of the season way back on October 26th. It was a 108 – 84 beat down that featured Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka running rough shod over the Bulls interior defense. I don’t expect there to be different results in this upcoming game.

– The possibilities of getting a win increase dramatically on Wednesday, December 11th, when the Bulls face the Atlanta Hawks here in Chicago. Atlanta is currently 5 – 17, and they were the Bulls third win of the season. That was the game Tomas Satoransky scored 27 points and Lauri Markkanen showed up with 17. It was also a game in which Hawks young big, John Collins, did not play due to injury. Well, he’s healthy now, and between him, a frustrated Trae Young, and a vengeful Jabari Parker, this game may not be the same cake walk the Bulls had in early November. One positive to keep in mind for this game, the Bulls have done an exceptional job defensively against Trae Young. Even in Summer League the Bulls found ways to irritate and contain Atlanta’s star. Let’s hope that continues.

– The Charlotte Hornets come to town on Friday, the 13th of December, looking to take the lead in this contentious season series. The two previous meetings between the two teams were both decided by one point. The Hornets won the season opener 126 – 125, a game that featured several franchise shooting records being broken by the Hornets. The Bulls won the late November follow up, 116 – 115, on the last second heroics of Zach LaVine. This game is up for grabs. The Bulls will have to do a better job defending Hornets rookie Devonte’ Graham, who has torched them from behind the 3 point line in both games they’ve played this season. This is a winnable game for the Bulls. They have to be aggressive and bring the effort in on defense.

– The week ends with a home game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are 16 – 7, one of the best teams in the entire NBA, and relatively healthy. There is very little chance the Bulls beat the Clippers. The only way I see the Bulls winning is if Doc Rivers decides to sit Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Patrick Beverly. Even then, I still wouldn’t look past Ivica Zubic, Maurice Harkless, and JaMychal Green, they’d probably be able to out hustle the Bulls to a victory.

It’s time to catch up on the Bulls leader boards…

Bulls Win Share Leaders:

1. Wendell Carter Jr 2.2

2. Zach LaVine, Tomas Satoransky 1.4

3. Kris Dunn 0.9

Bulls Per Game +/- Leaders (15 or more games played):

1. Wendell Carter Jr + 0.5

2. Ryan Arcidiacono – 0.3

3. Tomas Satoransky – 0.8

That’s it for this week. Until the next Bulls win streak, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!