The Bulls dirtied up their Sunday evening tilt against the Toronto Raptors, but eventually talent won out. The Bulls weren’t able to earn a third straight road win, falling 95-89 to the top team in the East.
Here are four observations from North of the border.
1. Mark Schanowski did an awesome job in his play-by-play debut
Let’s start with the real story here. Our colleague and friend Mark Schanowski crossed off a bucket list item by calling play-by-play for Sunday’s game. He was awesome. Like just about everything he does for the company, he was a natural. He crushed it in his first game; we hope it isn’t his last.
2. Chandler Hutchison also did an awesome job
Not to be outdone by Schanowski, Chandler Hutchison put together a career night. The bar wasn’t all that high, but he showed glimpses – especially on the offensive end – of a player who should get the chance to earn minutes down the stretch.
He did what he’s done best in his limited minutes in Chicago, driving to the basket. He finished on three pretty moves and also knocked down his only triple of the evening. Jim Boylen opted to go with Justin Holiday down the stretch instead of letting Hutchison roll, which was a bit surprising not only for the rookie’s progression but simply that Hutchison was the better player on Sunday.
Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. Hutchison hasn’t really strung together good games but should have the opportunity to do so. He’s getting more run with Bobby Portis out (and Jabari Parker having a permanent residence in the dog house) and Holiday should be on the move sooner than later. That means an opening at either forward position – though we’d like to see him at the 3 – and with the way he played tonight there should be 20-25 minutes for him every night. He added three rebounds and nothing else, but for now we’ll take the shots and move along.
3. It’s going to be tough for the Bulls to win on LaVine off-nights
Zach LaVine simply couldn’t get anything going, and he went through another night where he didn’t receive many calls going to the basket and it affected him all night. It’s similar to what he went through during his ugly stretch in early December.
LaVine finished with 13 points on 3 of 17 shooting, and while he did get to the free throw line seven times it didn’t help much. He only committed one turnover on a pretty high usage night but the reality is the offense is bad even when LaVine is on; when he’s off? It’s downright awful.
The Bulls shot 41 percent and had as many assists as they did turnovers. It’s a lot to ask for LaVine to bring it on offense every night, but such is life for the $78 million man.
4. The Bulls need a few wins this week before hitting the West Coast
The Bulls are back for three home games this week before a five-game West Coast road trip.
Two of those games are against the Magic and Nets, teams that have played better of late but ones that the Bulls should be favored in. The surging Pacers are sandwiched between those two teams, so the Bulls should be shooting for a 2-1 week.
They’ll need two wins, because the West Coast trip they’re about to embark on is going to be incredibly difficult. In a nine-day stretch they’ll face the Blazers, Warriors, Jazz, Lakers and Nuggets. LeBron James might still be out with a strained groin when the Bulls travel to L.A., but this will be a five-game stretch in which the Bulls are underdogs in all five. It doesn’t mean anything for playoff purposes, of course, but for morale it’s important the Bulls pick up a few wins before heading West.