Bulls

Bulls try to push pace with multi ballhandler system in preseason loss to Bucks

Bulls try to push pace with multi ballhandler system in preseason loss to Bucks

The Bulls’ point guard situation is so crowded and complex, it could be written about every game.

Kris Dunn drew the initial start for Monday’s 122-112 loss to the Bucks in the Bulls’ preseason opener at the United Center and, after some initial struggles defensively, finished with 11 points, three assists and three steals in close to 24 minutes.

Coby White showed flashes of the speed, strength and fearlessness that attracted management to him as the No. 7 pick in last June’s draft. But he also, at least for one night, appeared to be allergic to passing, taking 10 shots with one assist.

And while missing five of six shots, Tomas Satoransky finished with seven rebounds, five steals and three assists and made the kind of heady plays that he’s known for and don’t always appear in the box score.

In other words, nobody separated themselves from the pack.

Coach Jim Boylen has made clear he will try different starting lineups throughout the preseason.

“We’re going to take this two weeks, 10 days, whatever it is to look at everybody and figure it out,” Boylen said. “What you’ve seen though is Coby was on the floor and maybe he was matched up with the point guard defensively but he played shooting guard because he’s a baller. He’s just a guy who plays. Sato, the same thing. I had a lineup where Sato was guarding the small forward but he brought the ball up.

“I think that makes us hard to guard. I think that’s a reason we shot 38 free throws because we got a lot of people driving the ball and handling the ball.”

White is fearless. Give him that. He certainly looks more like a shooting guard trapped in a point guard position.

But that’s the thing about Boylen’s multi ballhandler system. It allows for versatility and flexibility, players reading off each other and trying to push the pace.

“He didn’t look nervous. He was poised, tough, physical and confident. No moment is too big for him. He’s getting better and better and better,” Boylen said of White. “I also thought he learned some things defensively tonight. He learned some guys in our league can shoot it. He got back cut a couple of times. He realized the spacing in our league is different. As well as he played, he’s going to learn a ton each night.”

White, who reiterated his comfort level playing off the ball, proved his own harshest critic.

“I played alright. I could’ve played better,” he said. “First game, but I have high expectations for myself. I could’ve played better offensively with my decision-making and defensively with my one-on-one defense.”

Dunn spoke for all the point guards when he said the only goal is to win and make the playoffs.

“We’re capable of doing that,” he said.

Ultimately, the ball has to find its way to Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen anyway since those are the team’s primary scorers. LaVine looked effortless in posting 16 points and five assists in just over 22 minutes.

LaVine took six of the Bulls’ 38 3-point attempts.

“I feel it’s going to help us get out, get on the break a little better, and take more 3s,” LaVine said of the multi ballhandler system and players reading off each other. “I’ve been very happy. (Boylen) said, ‘Take more 3s.’ And I was all for it.

“That’s the way the league is going now. And we have the type of team to do it. I’m excited about that. Multiballhanders, whoever gets off the rim, push it, run your lane and get up and down the court.”

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 93-92 loss to Toronto.

0:45 - Reaction to losing another close game

2:00 - Kendall Gill stops by to give Matt Peck a hard time about Derrick Rose

3:30 - On Wendell Carter Jr and wanting more

4:45 - Viewer comment on Bulls shooting 46 three-point attempts

7:20 - Concern over Lauri Markkanen

8:10 - Viewer comment still believing in Lauri

9:40 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford

12:10 - Viewer comment on running more pick n roll w Zach and Lauri

15:35 - Viewer question on Otto Porter and Hutchison

16:30 - Viewer trade idea: Kevin Love for Markkanen

17:15 - Any comfort in coming close to beating two of the top teams in the East?

20:30 - Viewer comment on losing games

23:00 - Viewer comment on Coby should start

24:05 - Viewer comment pandering to John Sabine

24:40 - Sabine shares his weird dream that involves Jim Boylen

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

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

Monday night, 14,775 fans attended the Bulls' latest in a line of hard-fought defeats: a 93-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors. That's the smallest reported crowd at the United Center for a Bulls game since Dec. 16, 2004.

For stretches, though, it felt like a full house. 

"The UC was great tonight, the fans were awesome," Denzel Valentine said.

The starters carried the team, to start: Of the Bulls' 50 first-half points, 46 were scored by Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. But it wasn't the usual suspects that pushed the Chicago faithful's decibel count to levels unheard of in the earlygoing of this season.

Thank Valentine and Daniel Gafford, in large part, for that. With the Bulls trailing 61-58 at the 4:45 mark of the third, Jim Boylen turned to a bench-dominated unit of Coby White, Valentine, Thad Young, Gafford and LaVine to spark his group. It was a potential tipping point in the game: The Raptors were in the midst of an 11-3 run and the Bulls' offense was fizzling. White, Valentine, Young and Gafford had four points between them upon entry.

With that move, the fates tilted towards the home side. For a time.

"It was great minutes from them," Satoransky said of Valentine and Gafford after the game. "I think [Denzel] is feeling more himself right now. And DG will always bring that energy. He's one of the most athletic guys I've ever seen, his energy... will always refresh our game."

It certainly did in this one. Gafford blocked three shots and notched 10 points over the game's final quarter-and-a-half. Valentine scored all 13 of his points for the night after that juncture in the third, shooting 5-for-9 from the floor and 3-for-7 from 3-point range. The Bulls finished the night 12-for-46 from 3-point land.

"Just energy," Valentine said, of what that bench unit brought. "We started playing defense. It started on the defensive end, started in transition, getting rebounds. Played with a little bit more life. Playing with each other too. We were moving the ball together."

"We go in, we produce with the minutes that we get," Gafford said. And on what the fans gave back: "There was definitely energy. I was blocking shots, Denzel was knocking down shots, we were getting stops on defense. We were doing everything we needed to do to win the game, and the crowd helped us do that."

Of course, they didn't do it alone. In spite of not scoring, White played a solid defensive game and finished the night with eight rebounds and five assists. Young and Kris Dunn each hit crucial 3-pointers in the third. But watching Valentine and Gafford ignite the home crowd made it even more surreal that neither of them cracked the regular rotation until mid-to-late November.

"We got a bond," Gafford said. "He finds me when I'm open, and I find him when he's open... We just go out and play basketball."

That strategy helped the Bulls build an 85-77 lead with eight minutes left in the game, but the team's good fortunes faded fast from there. After an alley-oop from Valentine to Gafford gave them their 84th and 85th points of the night, the Bulls didn't score for the next five-and-a-half minutes of game action. The Raptors surged down the stretch. The Bulls scrapped, but ultimately faltered when it mattered most.

Both Gafford and Valentine found themselves in the Bulls' closing lineup — Valentine by way of the hot-hand, Gafford in Carter's stead after he fouled out with just under four minutes remaining. A Valentine transition layup, Markkanen 3-pointer and Gafford layup represented the Bulls' only points of the final eight minutes.

"We gotta learn how to put it away. If we can't at the end of the third quarter, we gotta put it away at the beginning of the fourth," Gafford said. "We just gotta learn how to put it away, seal the deal." 

But, as a team, they didn't. And thus, the bottom line doesn't change. The Bulls won a(nother) moral victory or two tonight, but when the final points were tallied, they were on the short end. That's the only stat that matters, especially to those 14,775 that stood behind their team, in person, tonight.

"It’s disappointing when we don’t win games. It’s disappointing when we don’t win home games," Boylen, who has presided over only 10 home victories in his tenure, said. "Nobody is running from that."

"No excuses, nobody cares, we just gotta come out and play hard and learn from our mistakes," Valentine said. "It's tough, because we lose the last three and we were up in the fourth [quarter], I think, in all of those games. So it's tough. But hopefully at some point we'll figure it out."

Gafford and Valentine provided a jolt, but because of the result, they're only would-be heroes — their combined performance amounts to nothing more than an all-too-familiar silver lining. In some ways, that stings even more.

"That's why this game is so frustrating," Satoransky said. "Because I know we were there. Fans were engaged and I think we played very well, and we missed a lot of shots. You know, that always hurts."

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