It was a battle of two bad teams at the United Center on Wednesday night in the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies. Both teams are near the bottom of the standings and hoping to have a top-five pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Despite pulling out a 119-110 victory, it was a very good night for the Bulls, who saw their “big three” play well together for the first time this season.
With that, we will get into five things from Wednesday night’s game starting with the building blocks of the rebuild.
1. Big Three
Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen for the first time this season, all scored 20 points or more in a single game. That is a little something I like to call progress. Slowly but surely the Bulls “big three” are blending together. People forget that it’s hard to play well with players you have no past experience with. These three are learning each other’s games and it showed against the Grizzlies.
By now, most fans should know that Dunn, LaVine, and Markkanen are the core players moving forward. Yes, that does mean the Bulls will sign LaVine to a deal in the not so distant future. He’s shown enough to convince me that he will play an important role in the future of the franchise. Hopefully, the big three will continue to grow as the season winds down.
2. Kris Dunn, the Closer
One problem the Bulls might run into with having three really solid players is who will be the “closer?” You know, the guy that gets to take the last shot or the guy who can put a team away down the stretch by himself. About a month ago, I suggested that the Bulls ride the hot hand. However, Dunn is proving to me that he should be the guy in crunch time.
Against the Grizzlies, Dunn scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
The NBA gave a warning to the Bulls about tanking, yet they still decided to sit center Robin Lopez against one of the worst teams in the league. Justin Holiday did start and played a big role in the team’s nine-point victory. Holiday went four for four from behind the arc. He did play just 17 minutes, but he scored 14 minutes in that time. If he had played around 30 minutes who knows how many points he would have scored. Either way, it was nice to see Fred Hoiberg allow the younger players to get the majority of the playing time.
4. What Could Have Been
The Bulls nearly blew a huge lead in this one. It would have been the perfect tank loss if they didn’t come through down the stretch. They have had a tendency to give up big leads as of late, which is a bit concerning, but not uncommon for a young team. At this point, an ideal scenario for the Bulls would be for the big three to all have solid performances and then finding a way to lose a close game in crunch time. High draft pick and development–what’s not to like?
5. Lauri Legend
It’s no secret that rookie Lauri Markkanen has gone through some tough times in the second half of the season. That is expected out of a rookie player. Against the Grizzlies, it was nice to see him have a strong outing. He had his 10th game of at least 20 points on the season. He’s going to be a very good player–he just needs to continue to grow on a game-by-game basis.