Bulls

Bulls get contributions top-to-bottom, outlast Timberwolves at home

Bulls get contributions top-to-bottom, outlast Timberwolves at home

The Zach LaVine Show can be tremendous fun. But, every once in a while, even he needs a little help from his friends. 

Against the Timberwolves, he got just enough. Including he and Lauri Markkanen — who eclipsed 20 points for the tenth time this season — the Bulls got double-digit scoring contributions from six players; Luke Kornet (15), Kris Dunn (14), Coby White (12) and Cristiano Felicio (12). Chandler Hutchison chipped in nine points and three steals, to boot.

"It helped us out a lot, especially when you can go deep into your bench like that," LaVine said. "I feel like that's how you can beat teams."

That's especially true on a night when LaVine wasn't his most prolific. He ended the game with 25 points, but with two-and-a-half minutes remaining and the Bulls trailing 105-104, he had just 18 on 6-for-15 shooting. As LaVine is wont to do, he did close the game out with seven of the Bulls' last 13 points, but credit the ancillary guys for keeping the team afloat during the meat of the game. A Bulls bench that had largely lost its umph since Dunn's insertion into the starting lineup outscored the Timberwolves' reserves 40-17.

"I think our second unit picked up our starters, and we obviously finished it out," LaVine said.

"It's really important to have everyone be able to step up, and you never kinda know night to night who it's gonna be," Kornet said. "Tonight was one of the more well-rounded games in that aspect and I feel like that's when you're the most difficult to play."

Kornet has now scored in double-figures in four of his last five games. Felicio's 12 points and 10 rebounds were both more than the nine points and seven rebounds he had this season entering play. Neither offered much resistance against Karl-Anthony Towns (40 points, 16-for-24 shooting), but neither were thought to be contributing pieces as recently as a month ago. Their 27 combined points offset the Wolves' star as much as one could hope.

"I'm grateful for it," Jim Boylen said of the two's play. "The center position for us in our system is very important."

Boylen also continued to tinker with his rotations, relying heavily on an ultra-small lineup of Tomas Satoransky, LaVine, Dunn, White and Markkanen down the stretch. He turned to it with the Bulls leading 104-103. Then, over three game minutes, they extended the lead to 113-108, essentially icing the game.

"I just thought we needed to score, we weren't gonna change our coverages unless we went to the switch and that group," Boylen said. "We just could not go through a drought in those last four minutes."

It's a win that befit what's been a tumultuous month of January. Even in victory, there was much to lament. A 19-point first half lead melted, giving way for a much-too-tense second half. Head-scratching mistakes continued to abound. In the eyes of many — especially the Bulls — this should have been a rout. 

But it's hard to gripe too much. The win moves the Bulls to 4-8 in January. 

"It's not progress that we let them back into the game," Markkanen said. "But it's nice to be able to pull the win down the stretch."

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NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

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USA TODAY

NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

One thing we know for sure about the 2020 NBA Draft: no team executives will be losing sleep on the eve of the lottery hoping to land the first or second pick like a year ago when the top prizes where generational power forward Zion Williamson and point guard extraordinaire Ja Morant.

Matter of fact, teams might prefer not to land one of the top three picks so they can pay less guaranteed money to a player who may not have a huge impact,

As we get closer to the start of conference tournaments around the country, no player has really distinguished himself as the clear cut No. 1 choice. Georgia’s Anthony Edwards gets credit for being available to play all season, but his poor shooting percentages from the field and the 3-point line for a bad college team hardly scream top overall pick.

Injuries and eligibility questions have kept a few of the top prospects off the court, so NBA executives will put more emphasis than ever on the information they gather during the draft combine and individual workouts.

Here’s a snapshot at where things stand in late February with our fourth mock draft.

Bulls rule out Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison and more vs. Hornets

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USA Today

Bulls rule out Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison and more vs. Hornets

The Bulls' injury housekeeping continues.

After Wednesday afternoon practice, Jim Boylen ruled out Otto Porter Jr. (foot), Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle), Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) and Denzel Valentine (hamstring) for Thursday night's matchup with the Charlotte Hornets.

Porter (full) and Carter (limited) both participated in practice. Carter had repeatedly expressed a desire to return in the Bulls' first game out of the break, but it appears he's not quite there yet.

While Boylen said he hasn't decided on starters for the Hornets game yet, he made a point to add that Daniel Gafford has "got his legs back" and that his rim protection will be much-needed to remedy the team's precipitous defensive slide — in five games since Kris Dunn went down with an MCL sprain, they're dead last in the NBA in defensive rating (123.2).

Hutchison had filled in nicely for Dunn over the five games leading up to the All-Star break, but something evidently re-flared up in the shoulder that caused him to miss 17 games between November and January of this season. With 19 appearances in a row dating back to Jan. 6, Hutchison was one game away from matching his career high for consecutive games played. Alas.

"We have struggled with new guys playing and some of our experienced guys not out there. So, we will just keep hammering away at it," Boylen said of the team's recent defensive woes. "I think we all know our system is solid and been productive, but personnel is a big part of that. So, we'll just keep working on our guys in that system and keep trying to perfect it."

This news dump comes on the heels of a report from the Bulls this morning that extended Dunn's reevaluation timeline to four-to-six weeks after an MRI and reexamination on his right knee on Feb. 14. The Bulls get the benefit of three straight under-.500 opponents (Hornets, Suns, Wizards) out of the break, but if guys don't start getting back soon, matters could devolve.

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