The Bulls lost their fifth straight game on Tuesday night, falling in another laugher to the Hornets. It was a tall task going up against a hot Hornets team while playing on the second half of a back-to-back, and the tired legs showed as the Bulls committed 21 turnovers and allowed Charlotte to shoot nearly 54 percent from the field. Here are five observations from the game and what the Bulls can do moving forward to improve.
1. 21 turnovers isn't good, tanking or not
Yes, the Bulls lost. That's good for the tank, and they're inching closer toward the discussion for a top-5 pick. But not all losses are created equal, and there's really no reason to turn the ball over 21 times when Kris Dunn is healthy. Instead, Dunn had seven of those turnovers, and the Hornets had 11 steals that didn't help an already-struggling Bulls defense. Most of the turnovers were sloppy, trying-to-do-too-much passes, and when eight of nine players who saw time have a turnover it's a systematic problem. Only the Golden Child, David Nwaba, was turnover-less. Even on a back-to-back, taking care of the ball is paramount. The Bulls didn't do that in the least, and it showed.
2. David Nwaba continues to shine, and now he's making 3-pointers
While Cris Felicio and Cameron Payne have struggled since they entered the rotation, David Nwaba has done just the opposite. In Tuesday's loss he finished with 11 points, six rebounds and three steals. He went 4-for-5, made his only 3-point attempt and added a block. In four starts he's averaging 13.0 points on 65 percent shooting, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and had made 5 of 6 triples. He's only improving his stock and showing that the Bulls are going to need to show the money this offseason if they plan on keeping the restricted free agent. Some team is going to covet him in July. The five 3-pointers he's made in the last four games are as many as he had all year up until that point.
3. As far as the tank goes, this next week gets really important
We can probably chalk up a loss to the Celtics on Monday. But the Bulls have two games in the next seven days against teams ahead of them in the Lottery standings. And both are at home. On Friday the Mavericks come to town, and they're a measly 7-23 on the road and haven't won away from Dallas in almost a month. Then the Grizzlies come to town next Wednesday, and they have lost a league-high 10 straight games and have an NBA-worst five road wins. Their last road win? New Year's Eve...
4. Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn still not meshing
It's really not a coincidence Kris Dunn played really well last night with Zach LaVine out of the lineup, and really poorly tonight with LaVine in it. The reality is both are best with the ball in their hands, and they're having trouble playing off each other. That will come in time, but it's part of the reason these final games are so important. Yes, the losses are nice...but Dunn and LaVine will need to show a little more rapport if Bulls fans are going to feel comfortable about the future. That may seem aggressive, but if these two are core pieces they'll need to co-exist. It hasn't really happened to this point.
5. Some good, some bad from Cristiano Felicio
We were hard on Felicio last night after his abysmal performance, but he was better on the second half of a back-to-back. Sort of. He had 12 points in the first half, which matched his season-high, but didn't score in the second half. He also let Dwight Howard do just about anything he wanted (Howard finished with 24 points on 10 of 12 shooting) and Felicio again looked lost on the perimeter and in pick-and-roll sets. But it will be repeated throughout March and April: Felicio is going to get as much run as possible, because it helps the tank and the Bulls need to see something out of their $32 million man.