Coming off of a fantastic victory last night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Chicago Bulls looked to pick up another win tonight against the Washington Wizards.
Unfortunately, the Bulls were playing with a major handicap as Zach LaVine was held out of the second leg of the back-to-back as a preventative measure after his dominant performance yesterday. Kris Dunn also remains out. The Wizards were without their main man as well in John Wall, who is recovering from a procedure on his knee.
Coach Fred Hoiberg touched briefly on his plan for playing without LaVine.
“We do have Antonio Blakeney and Nwaba will get more minutes. Denzel will start tonight.”
I would’ve expected the final part of the so-called “trio”, Lauri Markkanen, to step up tonight. Instead, there really was no one main contributor. The Bulls came out and produced a valiant team effort, as seven of the nine Bulls players that logged minutes were in double figures.
The first half was promising for Chicago. For a team without two of their best players, they competed hard and were fun to watch. They pushed the ball in transition and got some easy buckets on the fast-break.
That being said, the Bulls were really missing Dunn and LaVine. The offense was a little too wild at times and would sputter to a halt at other times. Markkanen was surprisingly unreliable in the first half, going 1-8 from the field.
Washington’s Tomas Satoransky was lighting it up in the first half, knocking down 15 points in 15 minutes. In order to get the win tonight, the Bulls had some ground to make up as they were trailing by 10 after the first two quarters.
Lauri continued to shoot the ball with confidence as the third quarter rolled around. His shots may not have been falling earlier in the game, but he began to turn it around in the second half. He is Chicago’s future, and the offense is being run through him more and more.
The Bulls couldn’t make a dent in Washington’s lead in the third as they were still down 82-70. Jerian Grant holding the reins of Chicago’s offense tonight did not bode well, as he just kept dribbling around, instead of actually making a play.
Eventually, the Bulls got it going in the fourth, hitting three consecutive three-pointers, and cutting the deficit down to seven. At one point, it looked like they might be able to squeeze out a victory. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and the Bulls fell 101-90.
In the final minutes of the game, Satoransky, who finished with 25 points, took a hard fall after a collision with Bobby Portis and was escorted back to the locker room. Portis was called for a Flagrant 2 foul, and thus, was ejected from the game, ending with 13 points.
The main issue in tonight’s game was Chicago’s utter inability to get a stop on defense. Every time, the Bulls would string together a few baskets, they gave up an and-one or a three-pointer, and suddenly they were in the same position as before.
As a team that is rebuilding, this loss isn’t anything to be angry about. The Bulls showed that they do have the ability to compete without Dunn and LaVine, and they can do it well.
Had Lauri Markkanen played better, this would’ve been a very winnable match. He shot 5-19 from the field, adding 12 points. He was 1-8 from beyond-the-arc. Markkanen is having an incredible season, so a few slip-ups here and it’s understandable. But as mentioned before, the key is confidence, and Markkanen appears to have a lot of it.
The rebuild seems to be working, and we are seeing players finally fitting into their roles on this Bulls roster. This is an exciting time for Chicago basketball, but there is still a long way to go.
Hopefully, sometime in the near future, we’ll finally get a good glimpse of what a Dunn, LaVine, and Markkanen combination really looks like. Hoiberg reflects that desire.
“Kris Dunn has done a great job of attacking or making the on-time pass. Zach is getting more comfortable playing with Lauri. When everyone is back on the floor we’re going to have a lot of options…looking forward to having those three out there together.”
After tonight’s loss, the Bulls worsened to 19-36. Zach LaVine will definitely be back in Chicago’s next contest against the Orlando Magic on Monday, the 12th, and we might even see Kris Dunn return. Catch the action on WGN-TV or WSCR-AM 670.