The Bulls have lost three of four after an ugly 111-82 loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. Here are four observations from that game.
1. It was pretty easy to see this one coming.
OK, maybe not trailing by 30 in the fourth quarter. But the Bulls have been the second worst offense in the NBA since Halloween, and the Celtics - despite their offensive woes - have been the league's best defense. This was a recipe for disaster from the get-go, even though the Bulls got off to a quick start and led most of the first quarter.
It didn't last. They shot 39 percent from the field, 30 percent from deep and had six more turnovers (22) than assists (16). Zach LaVine continues to just look out of energy with all that's been asked of him; his 20-point streak ended with a 10-point effort on 3-for-11 shooting and he turned it over four more times. He missed both 3-point attempts and now is shooting 37.6 percent from the field and 25.6 percent from deep in November. Wendell Carter Jr. couldn't make the Celtics pay when rolling to the basket, as the Celtics were quick to rotate.
Yes, the offense is undermanned as we've pointed out dozens of times. But the current crop of players isn't worst-in-the-NBA bad, especially with LaVine.
And it's not getting any easier with Milwaukee and Toronto on the horizon.
2. It came across Twitter timelines subtly, but Chicago Tribune beat reporter K.C. Johnson noted that Lauri Markkanen has begun shooting 3-pointers without pain. He's just 7 weeks removed from his elbow sprain and remains on a firm 8 to 10-week recovery timeline, but this is promising. He's clearly getting his legs back, too, as this video @NBCSBulls tweeted out earlier Wednesday.
Glad to see Lauri’s feeling better 👀 pic.twitter.com/ikAj09cCmF— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 14, 2018
Just as important as getting Markkanen back into the Bulls lineup and allowing the 21-year-old to blossom is how it will affect Zach LaVine. The fourth year guard spoke at practice last week about what getting Markkanen back in the lineup will do.
It should help his efficiency, too. Right now LaVine doesn't really have another scorer to play with in a two-man game, and defenses are keying in on him. It's led to a handful of inefficient performances that have coincided with the Bulls slipping on offense.
When we were in practice a lot of times if we ran a side pick-and-roll or a step-up on the outer-third of the lane, they had to pick one," LaVine said. "I’m going to go downhill and make the big commit. Or they’re going to switch or show or whatever it is, they’re going to have to commit to one of us. Lauri is such a good shooter. He almost makes the defender drop off and go into a help position. That helps spacing-wise. If they drop off too much, you can pass to him. I’m excited to get him back out there."
3. Part of the reason Zach LaVIne is feeling so taxed during thie recent rough stretch is the lack of a consistent second scorer. It appeared as though Jabari Parker was on his way to providing that when the $20 million man scored 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting. He was aggressive but under control, made some contested shots and took what the Celtics were giving while doubling LaVine.
But Parker quickly reverted to his old ways in the final three quarters, going 0-for-4 with three turnovers. It was yet another maddening performance from Parker, who when he's in rhythm looks like a capable scorer at the NBA level. But he's now shooting 17 of 43 over his last three games and has eight turnovers to seven assists. He actually made a pair of 3-pointers - he had made just one triple in the last eight games combined - in that first quarter but just couldn't get anything else going.
4. Realistically there weren't any positives to take from this game. It was ugly, ugly, ugly after the first quarter. But if you want to take anything from the disappointing loss it's that Shaq Harrison's motor never stops. It's clear the backup (third string-ish?) point guard is attempting to make the most of his minutes, and he's fun to watch. Some of it came in garbage time, but Harrison finished with a season-best 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting, 6 rebounds and 4 steals in 23 minutes.
At this point, Fred Hoiberg has little reason to keep rolling Ryan Arcidiacono out there - his 8 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists weren't bad, but he just doesn't affect the game - and the Cam Payne Experiment is still over for now. Maybe Harrison will get some run this weekend, especially with the Bulls facing a back to back. At this point, why not?