Amid struggles with continuity and consistency, Zach LaVine relishing opportunity to grow this offseason


Amid struggles with continuity and consistency, Zach LaVine relishing opportunity to grow this offseason

It’s been a struggle for Zach LaVine, who found himself surrounded by blue jerseys whenever he ventured into the lane.

Sometimes he was stripped cleanly, one time he lost it on his own and the one time he found clear real estate LaVine was raked across the arm before going up for a dunk.

Fifteen seconds later, he and Fred Hoiberg were given technical fouls for letting the officials know about their displeasure. The official wound up going to both parties after seeing the replay but the damage was done.

The frustration was clear on LaVine’s face throughout the Bulls’ 112-106 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night at the United Center.  LaVine was 3 of 13 for 10 points in 26 minutes in a game where the Bulls were without Lauri Markkanen, a late scratch due to lower back spasms.

Clippers swingman Sindarius Thornwell was in his chest, similar to Boston’s Jaylen Brown when LaVine was harassed into a terrible night a week ago. Some of it can be attributed to the differing lineups the Bulls have employed since the All-Star break, and it’s easy to forget he’s just recovering from ACL surgery.

One thing that has become evident as a larger sample size has been revealed: He and Hoiberg need an offseason together to determine how he should be best utilized.

“I’m excited to get to the offseason,” LaVine said. “I didn’t get one last year, that’s where I build and develop my game and get better at things I didn’t do before. I came in halfway through so obviously I’ll get some continuity with coach and the players throughout the offseason.”

In the six March games, he’s had three below-average games, highlighted by the Bulls tinkering with lineups. He’s playing with Robin Lopez one minute, then other players the next. The continuity of where players should be, along with getting a grasp of the offense, has been missing.

“We got a lot of different lineups out there, everybody’s trying to get comfortable,” LaVine said. “I’ll find my way, I always do. I don’t try to blame anything on anybody else, I’m the one taking the shots. I gotta be better.”

Hoiberg has found a way to unlock Kris Dunn in the offense, giving him straight line drive attempts and putting him in pick-and-roll situations. Markkanen has also benefitted from Hoiberg’s system, even with his ups and downs through his rookie season.

But LaVine doesn’t seem to find anything easy in the construct of the offense and considering what he represents for the present and long-term, they can’t afford for him to have too many nights like this when the games actually matter.

“We’ve got to find a way to get better shots,” Hoiberg said. “Too many times the possession is ending in a tough, contested jump shot. We’ve got to find a way, when we get in the paint downhill, to make the right play out there.”

The Clippers utilized DeAndre Jordan to the max, especially with Lopez playing just one quarter before giving way to Cristiano Felicio and Bobby Portis. Jordan found gold underneath the basket, never having to venture outside the paint for his 11 field goals, scoring 29 points with 18 rebounds and five assists.

“We’re missing assignments, we’re having random switches out there,” Hoiberg said. “Defending without fouling was probably what lost the game for us. They shoot 41 free throws to our 15.”

Lou Williams scored 26 on a parade to the line, making 13 of 14 freebies against a routinely compromised defense. It would be interesting to see if LaVine could have such a luxury, but he took just three free throws.

“I’ve always been a pretty efficient player, I need to get back to it,” LaVine said. “Whether it’s 3-pointer or midrange, either one. Getting your legs under you, getting your speed back, I think that’s gonna help going into next year.”

Portis led the Bulls with 19 points and nine rebounds on 8 of 19 shooting, being a beneficiary of a trapping Clippers defense. Dunn scored 18 with six assists while David Nwaba scored 15 points.

An early lead turned into a double-digit deficit in the third quarter, as the Bulls couldn’t get quality looks for a five-minute stretch. What was a 70-64 lead turned to an 84-74 deficit, obscuring the Bulls taking care of the ball and playing a clean game with 28 assists to nine turnovers.

The Clippers ran away to start the fourth and the Bulls made a late run, only to fall short in the final minute.

In other words, same old story.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Would Jordan's Bulls have won 8 straight titles?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Would Jordan's Bulls have won 8 straight titles?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Vincent Goodwill look past the Bulls loss to the Knicks and debate if free agents Isaiah Thomas or Jabari Parker be a good fit on the Bulls. Plus why Fred Hoiberg is in the midst of his best coaching in his Bulls tenure. Kendall also explains why he’s not convinced that Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine can coexist on the court together. And is Collin Sexton the right or wrong player for the team come draft time? Plus the debate between KG and Vincent on IF the Bulls would have won 8 straight titles had Jordan not retired.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Bulls make history for 3-point futility in loss to Knicks


Bulls make history for 3-point futility in loss to Knicks

It was a bad night for the Bulls from beyond the arc. That's putting it lightly, seeing as it was perhaps their worst 3-point performance under Hoiberg and, for volume's sake, one of the worst in NBA history.

Let's try to break it down with the numbers, beginning with the raw ones: The Bulls shot 3 of 30 (10%) from 3-point range in their 110-92 loss to the Knicks. Those three makes all came from bench players (Bobby Portis, Noah Vonleh, Antonio Blakeney). Their starters were an incredible 0-for-19 from beyond the arc. The reserves looked like the Rockets in comparison, going a blistering 3-for-11.

The Bulls began the game missing their first eight 3-point attempts in the first quarter, then another to begin the second quarter. Vonleh broke the skid with a triple, making the Bulls 1-for-10. The Bulls missed their next two triples before Portis splashed home his only deep make of the night. The Bulls were then 2-for-13. They finished the second quarter 2-for-12, and the first half 2-for-20.

They somehow managed to attempt just two 3-pointers in the third quarter, both misses. Then they missed their first two attempts of the fourth quarter before Blakeney's triple with 8:00 left in the fourth quarter. It'd be the last triple the Bulls made - they missed their final five attempts.

OK, got that all? It wasn't pretty. Here's how not pretty it was, dating back to 1983-84 (major shoutout to Basketball Reference for having these stats available):

-- Prior to tonight, only three teams in NBA history had attempted 30 or more 3-pointers and made less than 10 percent of them. The Bulls are now the fourth.

1. 2016 Rockets: 3 of 35 (8.6%)
2. 2017 Nets: 3 of 33 (9.1%)
3. 2018 Suns: 3 of 32 (9.4%)
4. 2018 Bulls: 3 of 30 (10.0%)

-- The 10% shooting from 3 was the second worst performance from deep under Hoiberg.

1. 2016 vs. Warriors: 1 of 20 (5%)
2. 2018 at Knicks: 3 of 30 (10%)
3. 2016 vs. Heat: 1 of 8 (12.5%)
4. 2016 at Pistons: 2 of 15 (13.3%)

And to put it all in perspective, the Bulls' 3 of 30 shooting from deep was nearly twice as bad as Pistons center Andre Drummond's career 3-point field goal percentage: 5 of 26 (19.2%).

Not great, Bob. But for the tanking crowd, it was a helluva night.