Bulls

Four observations: Bulls come out flat in low-scoring loss to Charlotte Hornets

Four observations: Bulls come out flat in low-scoring loss to Charlotte Hornets

The Bulls dropped the front-end of their home-and-home back-to-back in an 83-73 loss to the Hornets. Both teams shot poorly, but Charlotte pulled away down the stretch. Observations:

Thad Young watch

For obvious reasons, Thad Young’s minutes allotment will continue to be a topic of conversation, at least for the near future. Tonight, he first checked in at the 4:38 mark of the first quarter, subbing for Lauri Markkanen (who re-entered the game for Wendell Carter Jr. 31 game seconds later).

Young then stayed on the floor for 11:09 consecutive game minutes. Over that stretch, he scored four points, snagged one rebound and shot 2-for-6 from the field. He finished the night with 10 points and five rebounds on 5-for-13 shooting in 26 minutes, 33 seconds of play. Other than Zach Lavine, Young was the only player to see more than 26 minutes of game action.

The Hornets frontcourt was dominant

Nine games ago, the Hornets slid Bismack Biyombo into their starting rotation (in place of Cody Zeller) to improve their subpar team presence in the paint — they entered play tonight 28th in the league in defensive rebounding rate (70.5%) and opponent points in the paint per game (51.8).

The Bulls have had similar struggles this season. Biyombo and the rest of the Hornets exposed them. Biyombo led all scorers with 12 points in the first half, also grabbing six rebounds (three offensive). He finished with 12, but also with nine rebounds. P.J. Washington (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Cody Zeller (11 points, 10 rebounds) both had double-doubles.

Overall, the Hornets outrebounded the Bulls by a staggering 60-45 margin on the evening. That number was certainly a difference-maker.

A sluggish offensive performance

And that might be putting it lightly. The Bulls missed their first seven shots of this one, finished the first quarter shooting 28% from the field (1-for-8 from three) and the first half shooting 32.6% (4-for-15 from three). A lot of those misses were open.

Luckily, they ran into a sluggish opponent tonight, as well, and the Bulls hung around. The Hornets led by as many as 15 in the first half but entered the third quarter shooting only 35.7% from the field (2-for-18 from three). An 11-2 run led by the Bulls starters over the final three-and-a-half minutes of the second brought the score to within 44-40 at the break. 

 

But, somehow, it got worse. The Bulls shot 4-for-22 (18.2%) in the third quarter and saw the Hornets’ lead swell to 59-50 entering the fourth. For those of you keeping track at home, Charlotte won the third quarter by a margin of 15-10. One of those nights.

The teams combined to shoot 13-for-65 from 3-point range, and the Bulls shot only 30% from the field — the first team to shoot 30% or under from the field since... The Bulls, on Oct. 26 against the Raptors.

Fourth quarter fizzle

There were sparks of a rally at various points throughout the quarter. The Bulls pulled to within 66-64 after opening the quarter on a 14-7 run — sparked in large part by a four-point Ryan Arcidiacono sequence in which he canned a fadeaway midrange jumper, then stole the inbounds pass and drew two free throws on a layup attempt. Arcidiacono closed the game along with Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Carter.

Unlike these teams' past two meanings, though, there were no fourth-quarter fireworks in store. Both teams were sloppy — the Hornets turned the ball over 21 times — but Devonte' Green (six fourth-quarter points), Miles Bridges and the Hornets did enough down the stretch to stave a comeback attempt off. Boos cascaded down in the game's closing seconds. It's a tough way to open a back-to-back that features the Clippers tomorrow.

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Zach LaVine leads Bulls to raucous fourth quarter comeback win over Cavaliers

Zach LaVine leads Bulls to raucous fourth quarter comeback win over Cavaliers

The Bulls went down big, then came up bigger down the stretch. Observations from a 118-116 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers:

This one was… a shootout? (For a bit)

Before this one, I wrote that anything and everything was possible in this game — especially given that both teams entered on the back-end of back-to-backs and had their travel delayed overnight on Friday.

A shootout wasn’t high on the list of most probable outcomes, but that’s what we got, at least early on. Kevin Love and Collin Sexton led the charge for Cleveland. Love notched 21 first half points, scoring with relative ease at all three levels (4-for-6 from three). Sexton’s full array of crisp crossovers and breakneck dribble drives were on display — he had 16 at the break.

As a team, the Cavaliers shot an unholy 12-for-17 from 3-point range (with one of those misses being a last-second heave just before the half), 68.4% from the field and at one point made 14 consecutive field goals in the first half. They won the second quarter 40-25. 

The Bulls shot 54.5%, scored 56 points and forced 12 turnovers, yet all of that amounted in a 73-56 deficit entering the third. The Cavs’ shooting numbers regressed from there, as the Bulls eventually staged a furious rally.

Credit Cleveland for playing with pride and energy in a game they could have phoned in. And credit the Bulls for rebounding from a porous defensive first half in a game they should have dominated from the start.

Lauri Markkanen bounced back

The Bulls ran plays for Markkanen to start all three quarters that he began on the floor (the first, the third and the fourth). In that order: one ended in a turnover, one a made 3-pointer of a pick-and-pop feed from Tomas Satoransky, one a missed 3-pointer on a similar action.

His increased involvement seemed intentional on the heels of a three-game stretch in which Markkanen averaged 8.7 field goal attempts per game. He finished the night with 17 points, scoring seven of those in the fourth, on 7-for-14 shooting in 33 minutes. His 2-for-8 from 3-point range sticks out, but it was encouraging to see him find his offense in other ways (on the break, facing up and off offensive rebounds).

Markkanen gave the Bulls a 112-111 lead, a lead they never surrendered, with a transition layup through contact with just under three minutes left.

A rally ends in victory

The Bulls entered the fourth quarter trailing 102-87 but claimed the lead — 108-107 — by the 4:38 mark with a torrid 21-5 run. Games of this narrative arc are a pattern for the Bulls — only this time, the late rally ended in victory.

Zach LaVine was, again, the hero. He poured in 21 fourth quarter points — finishing the game with 42 on 19-for-31 shooting — and ignited the UC throughout the game’s last 12 minutes with tough bucket after tough bucket of every variety. His last one was an and-one layup that stretched the Bulls’ lead to four with under a minute left that caused a frenzy.

Dunn bounced back after Sexton got loose in the first half and made a litany of key plays. Some that stick out: drawing an offensive foul on Love that set up the possession that initially gave the Bulls the lead, a steal that resulted in a LaVine dunk to retake it a few minutes later and the game-clinching rebound off a Love miss with seconds remaining. He was everywhere. 

The Bulls’ closing lineup consisted of Chandler Hutchison at the presumptive four and Markkanen at center, with Satoransky, LaVine, and Dunn manning the wing. Hutchison only took two shots but played his role — his length and activity were pivotal to the Bulls holding the Cavaliers to 14 fourth-quarter points. It was an encouraging performance for him.

The game swung on a coach’s challenge won by Jim Boylen that took the ‘and-one’ designation off a Love dunk with 20.1 seconds left (the foul, on Markkanen, was ticky-tack). The Bulls forced nine turnovers and held the Cavaliers to 4-for-15 shooting, outscoring them 31-14 in the fourth quarter and 62-43 in the second half. The clamps went on at the right time.

It was an absolute ride, and though against suspect competition, an exhilarating win. Reality calls with Milwaukee in town on Monday.

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Olympic swimmer Ryan Held reps Bulls' Ryan Arcidiacono at TYR Pro Series

arcidiacono_for_mark.jpg
USA Today

Olympic swimmer Ryan Held reps Bulls' Ryan Arcidiacono at TYR Pro Series

When Ryan Arcidiacono saw Olympic swimmer Ryan Held’s latest Twitter post showing his homestate Bulls some love, the guard did a double-take.

“I was like, ‘I wonder if it’s Chandler [Hutchison],’” Arcidiacono said of Held wearing a Bulls No. 15 jersey as he prepared to take the blocks for a race. “And then I saw him bend and I could see my name and I was like, ‘Wow. That’s pretty cool.’”

This is the depth of Held’s fandom. The Springfield, Ill., native is breaking out Arcidiacono jerseys from the journeyman guard’s rookie season. Arcidiacono wears No. 51 now. Hutchison sports No. 15. 

“He’s a Bulls fan,” Arcidiacono said of Held. “I’ve never met him but we’ve exchanged some [direct messages] on Twitter. This last one, I Tweeted back at him and said, ‘Way to represent.’ I also wished him luck.” 

Held, who swam at Springfield’s Sacred-Heart Griffin High, may not need it. The Illinois swimmer of the year in 2014, he qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics and swam a leg on the gold-medal winning 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay team.

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