Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine take turns leading Bulls in win over Grizzlies

Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine take turns leading Bulls in win over Grizzlies

Kris Dunn stated he wanted to be more of a vocal leader, not just the type to lead by example.

Responding to his coach’s call for leadership, Dunn played a critical part in the Bulls washing the embarrassing taste from their mouths in a 119-110 win over the scrappy Memphis Grizzlies at the United Center, as the three cornerstones all showed why they’re well-equipped to be building blocks for the future.

Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen scored 20 or more for the first time this season, a sense of validation of sorts considering the crowd that wanted the Bulls to play for nothing but ping-pong balls.

There’s still plenty to be settled in the next 18 games, and Dunn wanted to be a catalyst for change—taking small steps in his own way that he hopes will lead to giant leaps in due time.

“I told you guys starting the rest of the season that’s what I’m gonna try to bring,” Dunn said. “Not just do it with actions but be vocal. On the defensive end they feel I can be one of the best defenders on the team. I gotta be the linebacker. I see things I gotta communicate.”

The game wasn’t perfect by any stretch as the Bulls nearly squandered a comfortable lead after jumping on the lottery-bound Grizzlies by 21, only to have Dillon Brooks score 20 of his 29 in the fourth to cut the lead to one with 2:13 remaining.

Dunn had six turnovers to go with his nine assists, while LaVine had a few missteps on drives to the lane after previously finding easy room, scoring most of his 21 from the paint.

And when the offense wasn’t crisp, Dunn spoke up for the first time.

“I’m trying to do my job,” Dunn said. “We’re all men in here. If I gotta be the bad guy, I have no problem doing it. They know I have no bad intentions. I don’t think they take it as me trying to yell and get everybody in the right position as criticism. I think they like it.”

When things got tight, Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen all took turns stepping forward, hitting shots or being active enough as a decoy to free up teammates for shots to seal the win.

Dunn kept getting in the lane, while LaVine hit a deep triple with four minutes left to give the Bulls some breathing room during the Dillon onslaught. When Dunn had trouble against the Grizzlies pressure, LaVine initiated the offense on a few possessions.

“Me and Coach talked about that,” LaVine said. “Some days Kris is gonna have it going, I'm gonna have it going or Lauri and we'll have to be okay with it sometimes. The ball doesn't have to stick in one primary dude's hands unless it's his night or he has it going or somebody's demanding.”

Markkanen wasn’t as involved in the primary offense but that perhaps proved to be a good thing for the future, as he repeatedly got out in the open floor or against smaller players for six dunks, the most he’s had in a game this season.

While he took six 3-point attempts, the fact the Bulls were looking for him in a place aside from 25-feet out shows another element to the offense and their own maturity.

“I thought those three were really good, especially Lauri,” Hoiberg said. “They were showing on him and I thought out guys did a good job of finding him on some pick-and-pops, and Zach set a great screen for him to dunk in the lane.”

Justin Holiday returned to the starting lineup for the second time since the All-Star break and showed how much he missed the action, hitting all five of his shots—four from 3-point range—to score 14 points in 17 minutes.

Holiday was also a key figure as a screener in helping Markkanen get open earlier in the season, an aspect LaVine will have to master as he picks up the nuances of Hoiberg’s read-and-react offense moving forward.

As of now, he’s best creating offense with the ball in his hands and while he was eight of 14 from the field, he added five assists and noted the Bulls have the makings for a dangerous late-executing team.

“Each (team) have two dudes they go to,” LaVine said. “A primary guy and secondary dude they can go to at any time. But it's big. I think we have three dudes who can be on at any time during the game.”

There was plenty of space in the set offense as the Bulls shot 53 percent and had 25 assists on 41 field goals, but even more space when they created turnovers to get out in the open floor. LaVine had one steal while Dunn had three, keying fast breaks.

“Kris is just a ballhawk. He just does that off instincts, I use my athleticism,” LaVine said. “He played free safety. I swear he did. A lot of his instincts come from football. I'm gonna call him (former Baltimore Ravens safety) Ed Reed.”

Dunn and LaVine haven’t played together much this season, despite being teammates last year in Minnesota. LaVine’s injury and Dunn being buried on the bench prevented them from developing on-floor chemistry, and this is their first true chance to do it—albeit late in the season.

Dunn termed his chemistry with LaVine as “fair.”

“We got good chemistry off the floor, we got good personalities,” Dunn said. “On the court it takes time. It definitely takes time. We both like to create plays for others and for ourselves. It’s not just on us, but the coaching staff and teammates. We have to figure it out together. Eventually we’ll get it down.”

LaVine is looking at the bigger picture, when the games in March matter as opposed to playing out the string.

“It's big, especially going forward because we're gonna be in situations like this, it's not gonna be where we're out of the playoffs,” he said. “We'll be in the playoff hunt. We'll be contenders so we need to get that experience for those times.”

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.