MarkkanenFreeThrows
Lauri Markkanen prepares to shoot two, after getting fouled in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Injury Update:

Lauri Markkanen will miss the next 4-6 weeks resting a stressed pelvis. The Finnisher took a tumble a couple games ago and hurt his hip. The Bulls had him take an MRI and it showed he was dealing with a “stress reaction of his right pelvis” (whatever that is) and were worried it could turn into a fracture without giving it time to rest. So Lauri sits for now.

The news of Markkanen’s injury broke just hours before the Bulls took on the Sacramento Kings Friday night, throwing Bulls fandom into a tizzy. Calls for the Tank echoed across the interwebs, and given how poorly the team performed in their game against the Kings it looked like that might be the direction the Bulls were going. But then Zach LaVine magic happened on Saturday night. It’s time for the Look Back, so let’s get into it…

The Look Back:

Another four game week for the Bulls. They went 2 – 2 this past week and are now 18 – 30 on the season. They also leapfrogged past the Detroit Pistons and are in sole possession of the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference, just 3 games behind the scuffling Brooklyn Nets for the 8th and final playoff spot. With several months left in the season, the Bulls certainly have the time to overcome a 3 game deficit, but with Otto Porter Jr, Wendell Carter Jr, Daniel Gafford, and now Markkanen, sidelined for several more weeks it seems unlikely they have the fire power.

The Bulls have only beaten one team with an above .500 record this season, and that fact remained unchanged after facing the red hot Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday night. Giannis Antetokounmpo led both the Bucks and Bulls in points, rebounds and assists with 28, 14, and 10 respectively. That’s a triple-double for everyone stat tracking at home. Zach LaVine put up 24 points of his own, but on the strength of Giannis’ triple-double, the Bucks cruised to an 111 – 98 victory.

Wednesday, the Bulls played host to the Minnesota Timberwolves and gave them a little what for. Ignoring the 40 point performance by T-Wolves phenom Karl-Anthony Towns, Chicago pulled out an 117 – 110 win. 25 points from LaVine, 21 points from Markkanen, and 12 points from Cristiano Felicio (???!!!); it was a solid win for the bum slaying Bulls.

The week ended with another Friday/Saturday back-to-back for the Beloved.

The Sacramento Kings were in town for Friday’s game, a horror show of bad basketball. It was the Bulls first game without Markkanen this season, and the Kings took full advantage of his absence. They double and triple teamed Zach LaVine when he had the ball, forcing him to pass to his teammates and making it impossible for him to get going. Zach still managed to score 21 points even with the extra defenders draped all over him. As valiantly as he fought, he got zero help from his teammates on offense. The second leading scorer for the Bulls was Chandler Hutchison with 11 points. Needless to say, the Kings were able to beat the Bulls and their lack-luster offense, 98 – 81.

 

Saturday night, LaVine and the Bulls flipped the script on the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers for the second week in a row. As well as Sacramento’s ploy of double and triple teaming LaVine worked, I expected the Cavs to employ a similar strategy, shutting down the Bulls’ offense by shutting down their most lethal threat. Fortunately for the Bulls, they did not, and Zach made them pay. 44 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists later, Cleveland was undoubtedly second guessing their defensive strategy. LaVine was just 2 assists shy of that elusive, first ever, triple-double of his career. By half time I thought LaVine was going to put up a double nickle (55 points) and notch that triple-double, but a spectacular 40 point 3rd quarter by the Bulls meant that LaVine would play very little of the 4th quarter. He rode the bench for much of the 4th, and in the end he just ran out of time. Still, 44/10/8 is nothing to sneeze at. Final score: 118 – 106, Bulls!

MVP for Week 14: Zach LaVine (7)

He was not voted onto the All-Star team, but there is still a chance Zach is named an All-Star, either as a reserve or as an injury replacement. Until then, enjoy some highlights from his 44 point near triple-double…

An MVP honorable mention goes to Chandler Hutchison this week. He was a consistent contributor, averaging about 9 points and 4 rebounds a game. Hutch has been emphatically driving the ball to the hoop and finishing at the rim ever since his return from injury. He has also drawn some fouls and gotten to the free-throw line. His improved handles and body control in flight are a solid foundations to build off of, the next aspect of his game he needs to work on is a consistent outside shot. If he can ever improve his perimeter shooting and post play, look out NBA, it’s Jimmy Butler 2.0.

The Look Ahead:

The Bulls will have 3 games next week. A Monday night match up at home against the San Antonio Spurs, a Wednesday game in Indianapolis against the Pacers, and the week concludes with the Brooklyn Nets in Brooklyn.

This could be another two win week for the Bulls if they catch the Spurs (20-24) and Nets (19-25) sleeping. I doubt they’ll beat the Pacers (30-16), especially with Victor Oladipo scheduled to return from injury for Wednesday’s game.

Also, considering Markkanen’s injury, I think the next few weeks will prove very difficult for the Bulls to find victories. With the trade deadline looming, there is also the real possibility that some of the better players on this team might be shipped out for draft picks. This is a critical point in the season, how the Bulls respond to the pressure, as both a team and Front Office, will be incredibly telling.

I plan on writing about the Bulls and analytics for Wednesday’s post, but if trades happen I’ll share my reactions instead. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!