Bulls

Bulls' trio puts it all together on a promising night for the rebuild

Bulls' trio puts it all together on a promising night for the rebuild

John Paxson spoke to the media before Friday’s tilt against the Pacers and said that as Year 2 of the rebuild went on, he and the rest of the front office needed to see continued growth from their core, specifically the trio of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn. As it so happened, a couple hours after Paxson spoke the Bulls’ young core posted their best game together, got timely and important contributions across the board and went toe-to-toe with the league’s hottest team.

The difference was a Victor Oladipo banked 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining that ultimately gave Indiana their 13th victory in their last 15 tries. But in a season that will be judged on growth and chemistry, and in a season where losses ultimately help in the long run, Friday night was just about a perfect one in Chicago.

Kris Dunn posted a career-high 17 assists and had total command of the offense, Zach LaVine added 31 points and nearly sent the game to a second overtime with a circus shot, and Lauri Markkanen finished with 29 points and nine rebounds. The Bulls’ Big 3 were at their very best, and for the first time did it all on the same night.

“I think there’s been multiple games where we kind of had it,” Dunn said after the game, “but this is a game where all three played at a high level.”

The most promising aspect of the trio’s performance was that none of it seemed forced. It helped that the Bulls were making everything, shooting 51 percent as a team against one of the best defenses in the league. But LaVine and Markkanen nearly matched each other in shots (LaVine took 21 shots to Markkanen’s 20, and both had nine 3-point attempts).

LaVine got hot early, scoring 17 first-quarter points but played only a minute in the second quarter after picking up a third foul. So Markkanen took over, scoring nine points on 4 of 6 shooting that helped the Bulls maintain a first half lead. All the while Dunn continued to distribute, racking up 11 assists through three quarters to five different players.

LaVine took five of the Bulls’ final seven attempts in the fourth quarter, including the final two 3-pointers that sent the game to overtime. Before that it was Dunn who connected on the first triple that cut the deficit to three with 26.3 seconds left.

In overtime it was Markkanen who took over, attempting five of the Bulls’ nine attempts and scoring seven of their 11 points. Dunn got his in overtime, too, finishing on a thundering dunk over Myles Turner with 1:12 to play to put the Bulls up three with 1:12 to play. That came one possession after a LaVine jumper, his only make of the extra period.

It was chemistry at its finest. Dunn finished 6 of 9 from the field and had just two turnovers in 40 minutes; he attacked when he needed to attack, and he found the Bulls’ two best scorers when they needed the ball. Markkanen and LaVine also added five assists and didn’t force too many looks.

“I think everybody had their moments when they were feeling hot and making shots,” Markkanen said. “I think we found the right guys at the right time tonight and just tried to play unselfish and make plays.”

The trio won’t combine for 74 points on 29 of 50 shooting every night, but that kind of energy and flow all three played with can become a constant. The Bulls are banking on it. Even Wendell Carter Jr. got in on the action, quietly finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds against a difficult Pacers frontcourt.

Chandler Hutchison saw the floor with those four players for the first time, signaling a sort of new chapter for a Bulls franchise looking to see what it has in their young group before another important offseason.

“We’re dangerous because we have so many weapons out there. We just have to learn how to put it all together. That’s the main thing,” LaVine said. “It’s tough, too, because chemistry doesn’t come in a day, learning how to win doesn’t come in a day.

“There’s gonna be ups and downs, we’re just trying to speed that process up because we know how good we can be.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Darnell Mayberry’s prediction for the Bulls draft

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Darnell Mayberry’s prediction for the Bulls draft

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill are joined by Darnell Mayberry.

0:45       On chances Bulls trade up to 4 or 5

2:00       On Darius Garland and why Kendall thinks he could be better than Ja Morant

2:50       What would be the cost of moving up to 5?

4:00       On Bulls need at point guard- draft or free agency?

4:45       Odds that Coby White falls to the Bulls at 7. Darnell has concerns with White’s skill set

7:35       Will the Celtics surprise everyone and move into the top 5?

8:30       Trade scenarios involving the Pelicans

10:25    Assuming no trades, who do Bulls take at 7?

13:25    Concerns over Cam Reddish’s motor

15:30    On Jazz trade for Mike Conley, price too high?

17:50    On Bulls potential interest in Ricky Rubio (Kendall has a different veteran free agent idea….)

20:20    Darnell predicts that Derrick Rose joins LeBron and the Lakers

21:10    On Bulls interest in Malcolm Brogdon

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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All of our 2019 NBA Draft content in one convenient location

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USA TODAY

All of our 2019 NBA Draft content in one convenient location

Here's all our NBA Draft coverage to get you ready for Thursday night's main event.

Analysis

Every move the Bulls make should be geared toward 2021

Forget needs: The Bulls need to draft the best player on Thursday

How the Bulls can land a max free agent this summer

Versatile Coby White makes one thing clear at Combine: 'I'm a point guard'

Bulls not a part of Anthony Davis trade but it could affect draft night

The statistical need that top NBA Draft prospects would fill for the Bulls

Cam Reddish out to prove doubters, show he's the total package

Jarrett Culver checks all the boxes as a perfect two-way wing in today's NBA

Could Rui Hachimura be an option if the Bulls trade down?

A history of the Bulls trading up and down in the NBA Draft

Here's what it would cost for the Bulls to trade up

Draft Profiles

Why Cam Reddish should be an option at No. 7

What the Bulls would get in Virginia's De'Andre Hunter

If Bulls draft for need, here's what Darius Garland or Coby White would bring

If the Bulls draft Texas center Jaxson Hayes, here's what they'd get

USC's Kevin Porter Jr. could be the steal of the draft

Why Jarrett Culver should be an option at No. 7

NBA Mock Drafts

Expect lots of movement on draft night

How does the Anthony Davis trade affect the draft?

If the Bulls trade back with the Hawks, who might they target?

Mailbags

Trade talks heating up surrounding the Bulls

Best fits for the Bulls rebuild in the draft, free agency

Heading into a crucial offseason, where will the Bulls look for help?

News

Report: Bulls looking to trade up for Vanderbilt PG Darius Garland

Report: Bulls interested in Celtics forward Marcus Morris

Patrick Beverley is a fan of Bulls assistant Roy Rogers

Cam Reddish will miss 6 weeks after undergoing core muscle surgery

Assistant coach hires could hint at philosophy shift for Bulls offense

Here's who experts around the league have the Bulls drafting at No. 7

John Paxson confident Bulls will find a player that fits the rebuild

Podcasts

Reaction to Anthony Davis trade and impact on Bulls' draft strategy

K.C. Johnson joins to talk latest Bulls offseason rumors

Ricky O'Donnell on the Bulls' chances of landing a star at No. 7

Could the Bucks go after Malcolm Brogdon in free agency?

Would the Bulls consider trading for Mike Conley?

John Paxson confident in where the Bulls' rebuild is headed

Will Cam Reddish find his place in the NBA or be a bust?

Sarah Kustok joins to talk Lottery, draft, free agency and more

Catching up at the Combine with Vinnie Goodwill

Options at 38

Will high-flying Luguentz Dort be on the board when the Bulls pick at 38?

Admiral Schofield could be an option for Bulls

Why the Bulls should take Missouri center Jontay Porter at 38

Why the Bulls should take Kansas' Dedric Lawson at 38

Why the Bull should take Ty Jerome at 38

Why the Bulls should take Carsen Edwards at 38

Why the Bull should take Admiral Schofield at 38

Why the Bulls should take Shamorie Ponds at 38

Why the Bulls should take Zach Norvell at 38

Charles Bassey scouting report (went back to school for 2019-20)