The Bulls are in the win column for 2019 after a decisive 104-88 win over the NBA-worst Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. Here are four observations from the Martin Luther King Day victory.
3-point happy Bulls get it done
The Bulls would have made Fred Hoiberg proud on Monday afternoon. Though it came against the league’s worst defense the Bulls will take what they can get, and against the Cavaliers they had their way from beyond the arc.
Ten Bulls saw double-digit minutes on Monday afternoon and eight different players made a 3-pointer. The Bulls finished 15 of 30 from beyond the arc, the most triples they’ve hit under Jim Boylen. This came after a Saturday performance in which they made 12 3-pointers against the Heat. They’ve tallied 12+ triples in consecutive games for the first time since early November, which is certainly a step in the right direction.
Lauri Markkanen led the way with three 3-pointers, and he’s now got 15 triples in his last four games; that’s the most for him in any four-game span since he had 18 in a four-game stretch last January. This comes on the heels of a four-game stretch in which Markkanen made two triples, so it’s nice to see him getting back in rhythm, regardless of the opponent.
Bobby Portis got hot early and finished with a trio of triples as well. Jabari Parker continued his hot stretch as well, and Kris Dunn made his first triple since the first quarter of the Golden State game 10 days ago. It’s important to note that this came against the Cavaliers, but for one night the Bulls played to their strengths and nearly reached a season-high in 3-point makes. Baby steps.
Kris Dunn inches his way back
Kris Dunn admitted Saturday that he’s struggling. Well, playing the Cavaliers is usually a recipe for success when it comes to slump-busting, and Dunn made the most of an ugly Cleveland backcourt.
He finished with a modest 13 points and nine assists and also added two steals. The biggest numbers of note were the 3-pointer he made and the trip to the free throw line he took, his first since the second quarter of the Lakers game last week.
Dunn was aggressive, engaged defensively and hit the glass well with four defensive rebounds. The three turnovers weren’t great but the Bulls as a whole struggled, turning it over 18 times. It didn’t matter against the lowly Cavs but it will moving forward. Like the Bulls and their 3-pointers, baby steps for Dunn as he looks to work his way out of this slump.
Cam Payne wasn’t good, but we guess he wasn’t bad either?
If for nothing else, Cam Payne was entertaining on Monday. He got hot early in the second quarter by connecting on a 3-pointer and a floater, and he playfully (we think?) jawed at the Bulls bench on the way down the floor.
Payne wasn’t bad, finishing with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 25 minutes. But he also made a couple awful decisions, had an airball and treated us to this crisp pass to the Cleveland bench. He made 4 of 11 shots, including 1 of 5 from deep, and finished a +2 thanks to that quick run for the second unit in the second quarter.
Payne will get a loud reception in six days when the Cavaliers make a trip to the United Center on Sunday.
Potential for more wins?
Look away, Zion Williamson fans. The Bulls may be in line for a few more victories going forward. They earned win No. 11 against the Cavs on Sunday and will host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Atlanta has played much better of late, earning wins over the Sixers and Thunder in the last few weeks, but they’re still 6-19 on the road this season. Then the Cavaliers come to town on Sunday, with a difficult matchup against the Clippers sandwiched in between.
The Bulls should be favored in both the Atlanta and Cleveland game, meaning there’s a real shot the Bulls could have a 3-1 record when they hit the road for Brooklyn on Monday. Don’t look now but a couple wins could be on the horizon.