CarterPain
Wendell Carter Jr writhes in pain after twisting his ankle in the Bulls loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Photo from NBCSports Chicago.

The Bulls are now 14 – 26 on the season after losing 3 out of their 4 games this week. They’ve also lost the services of Wendell Carter Jr for the next 4 to 6 weeks after he suffered a bad ankle sprain in Monday night’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Let’s get into it…

The Look Back:

Monday, in Dallas, the Bulls fell, 118 – 110, to the Mavericks. Mav’s budding superstar, Luka Doncic, had 38 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists for a triple-double. He scored 21 of his 38 points in the third quarter and kept Dallas in front of the Bulls, even as the rest of his teammates struggled to score. The Bulls got a nice effort out of Lauri Markkanen, 26 points and 9 rebounds, but the big story from this game was the ankle injury to Wendell Carter Jr. As the week progressed, Carters absence was keenly felt.

Wednesday, the Bulls lost to the New Orleans Pelicans, 123 – 108. Zach LaVine out dueled New Orleans top scorer Brandon Ingram, 32 points to 29, but his offensive effort wasn’t enough to overcome the loss of the Bulls defensive anchor. Without Wendell Carter Jr running the show on defense, the Bulls gave up way too many easy points and rebounds.

Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers proved just as fruitless defensively. The Pacers, led by Myles Turner and T.J. Warren, scored 70 points in the paint!!! Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Gafford, and Thaddeus Young we’re nothing more than revolving doors, incapable of stopping the Pacers interior attack. Even as the defense floundered, Zach LaVine and Coby White fought valiantly on offense. LaVine scored 43 points (including a stretch of 20 consecutive points for the Bulls between the 2nd and 3rd quarters), and White added 23 of his own, but the Bulls couldn’t overcome their lack of interior defense. Final score: 116 – 105, Pacers.

Two weeks ago the Bulls completed the season sweep against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday they swept the Pistons with their fourth and final win against Detroit this season. With Carter injured and Markkanen playing through his own ankle sprain, Jim Boylen turned to Luke Kornet to play some minutes at center, and the big man delivered. He got off to a hot start, scoring 12 points in the first quarter, and ended the game with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. It was a solid effort from a bench player that seemed to be permanently out of the Bulls rotation. Rookie Daniel Gafford had a decent game. He started at Center, scoring 14 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, dishing out 2 assists, with 2 steals and a block to boot. He also incited Pistons star, Andre Drummond, into a technical foul and ejection, after scoring a hotly contested lay up. Detroit never recovered from the Drummond ejection. Final Score: 108 – 99, Bulls!

MVP for Week 12: Zach LaVine (5)

Zach LaVine continues to push for a spot on the All-Star Team, and the case he is making for it is compelling. As of the writing of this post, LaVine is 6th in the league in scoring (975 points), behind only James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, Luka Doncic, and Damian Lillard. After his 43 point outburst against the Pacers, Zach raised his points per game to 24.4. It will be hard for him to make the All-Star team, public perception is stacked against LaVine, but he has worked very hard the last couple seasons to improve all facets of his game. No matter what anyone thinks, they can’t deny that LaVine is one of the best in the world at putting the ball through the hoop.

The Look Ahead:

The Bulls have four games this week, two of which seem winnable.

-Monday @ Boston. The Bulls will try to hold rising Celtics star Jayson Tatum in check for the 2nd time this season. They will also be looking for a little payback for the 111 – 104 defeat they suffered two weeks ago at home against Boston.

-Wednesday, the Bulls are home against the Wizards for the 2nd meeting between the two teams this season. The Bulls eked out a win in the first contest 110 – 109. Markkanen had a monster game with 31 points and 9 rebounds. Let’s hope he can repeat that performance.

-The Bulls travel to Philadelphia for a Friday match up against Joel Embiid and the ‘76ers. This will be the first game between the two squads this season, but Embiid is a beast in the paint, so it might get real ugly real quick without Wendell Carter Jr down low. We’ll see if LaVine and White can work some magic from beyond the arch that night.

-The week finishes Saturday night in Chicago with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bulls lost to Cleveland early in the season, but I’m hoping for a different outcome this week.

That’s it for this week, coming up Wednesday I’ll be handing out my mid-season grades (yep, we’ll be halfway through the season on Wednesday). It’s not looking too good for some folks. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!