Bulls

Four observations: Led by the cornerstones, Bulls hold on for pivotal victory over Kings

Four observations: Led by the cornerstones, Bulls hold on for pivotal victory over Kings

It wasn't always pretty, but the Bulls held on and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 113-106 victory over the Kings in Sacramento. Four observations from a game the Bulls had to have and wouldn't be denied:

Bench turns the tide

Out of the gates, this game looked destined for a(nother) lackluster Bulls performance. The team’s first quarter offense was stilted in an all-too-familiar way — in the period, the Bulls shot 7-for-20 (35%) from the field, 3-for-12 (25%) from 3-point range and missed four layups, to boot. They trailed by as many as 11 in the frame.

Somehow, though, they were only behind 23-22 going into the second after closing the first on a 10-0 run. That spurt foreshadowed an explosive remainder of the first half, in which we glimpsed into the alternate reality where every optimistic preseason expectation came to fruition. The bench lit the torch. At the 7:56 mark of the second, Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine (!), Thad Young and Daniel Gafford all had plus-minuses of at least +13. None of the starters were better than a -7.

The Bulls forced 18 turnovers in the game, due in large part to the tone their scrappy, swarming reserves set early on. The 23 points they generated off said turnovers proved essential in warding off repeated comeback efforts by Sacramento.

Most encouraging is the fact that, after swinging the tide of the game, the rotations stabilized. They had their hiccups, but ultimately held on. All the starters played over 30 minutes; White was the only reserve to see over 20. That’s a formula for sustained success.

For extended stretches, Lauri Markkanen was excellent

This is the Lauri Markkanen Bulls fans have been waiting for:

 

In the second quarter, specifically, he did everything you could ask of him, hitting 3-for-4 from downtown and repeatedly attacking the basket with gumption. The bench flipped an 11-point Bulls deficit into a six-point lead over a seven-minute stretch spanning the end of the first and the beginning of the second quarter, but the starters took that baton midway through the period and didn’t miss a beat. The Bulls won the period 33-21 and went into the break leading 55-44.

Markkanen, for his part, canned two threes and and blew by Nemanja Bjelica off-the-dribble for a vicious (and much-needed) dunk in the latter half of the period. It feels hyperbolic to say that a third-year player ‘looked like his own self,’ but he really did on Monday, for the first time in what feels like a long time. 

With the eventual victory, the Bulls move to 4-0 in games where Markkanen converts more than three 3-point attempts (he was 4-for-8 tonight).

Buddy Hield got hot, but so did the Bulls

The Kings, of course, didn’t go quietly into the night. The hosts (who hadn’t lost at home since October before this one) admirably stormed back from a 19-point deficit second-half to at one point pull within two. It wasn’t Hield’s most efficient night (9-for-21 from the floor, 3-for-13 from three), but he did lead Sacramento in scoring with 26 points and tallied 14 in the fourth. His presence loomed large with every run the Kings made.

As mentioned, the Bulls finished the first quarter 3-for-12 on 3-pointers. In the final three, they connected on 13 of 25 3-point attempts, and they needed every last one of them.

Bulls (finally) hold a fourth quarter lead

The Bulls entered this game 25th in the NBA in fourth-quarter defensive rating. Hot starts and big leads aren’t completely foreign to this team, but finishing out a full 48 minutes is.

It wasn’t always pretty (as Stacey King said, “they keep you on the edge of your seat”), but they held on tonight. And the guys that sealed the game couldn’t have been scripted better. Early in the fourth, with Buddy Hield beginning to warm, White stymied a few Sacramento bursts with two of his four threes to keep the Bulls at arms-length.

Then, down the stretch, it was Markkanen and LaVine leading the charge. LaVine had two crucial threes down the stretch, including one to put the Bulls up seven with just over a minute to play. Markkanen hit a pivotal long-ball of his own, and he and LaVine combined for eight free throw attempts (making them all) in the fourth. The two each scored 20+ points in the same game for the first time this season, on a combined 13-for-25 (9-for-15 on threes). That's an extremely encouraging development.

This was a game the Bulls could and should have won. And, for once, they did, handing the Kings their first home loss since October. What lies ahead will be plenty challenging, but for now, they can bask in a clean, deserved victory.

Drive home safe.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls' guard Tomas Satoransky and his never-ending pursuit of perfection

Bulls' guard Tomas Satoransky and his never-ending pursuit of perfection

Tomas Satoransky is a perfectionist and a pleaser.

This can be a positive thing. It also can be negative.

“Everyone who is close to me will tell you that I’m hardest on myself. I always expect to play the best,” Satoransky said in an interview. “I always expect to be perfect, which isn’t always the best but in the long term it has always worked out for me.”

That’s because perfection is an unattainable quest. But Satoransky keeps working towards the unachievable goal. So he’s driven, which is good, but sometimes self-destructive, which isn’t.

Early on, as Satoransky slowly adjusted to a new city, new coach, new teammates and new system, the process didn’t go smoothly.

“I didn’t feel down. I felt frustrated and anxious to do better, anxious to help the team as much as he can,” coach Jim Boylen said when asked if he sensed frustration from Satoransky. “He really struggles when he lets the team down. That’s just basketball. You’re not going to play perfect all the time. He takes it to heart. I’ve spoken to him about it. I don’t need him to beat himself up. Just continue to grow and learn how we’re going to play and get used to guys. It does take some time to get a feel for each other.”

And it’s happening. Satoransky has posted nine straight games with at least five assists, the second-longest stretch of his young career. Coincidentally, his assist totals began to rise the more he looked for his shot.

“I think there’s a point where you make other people better, which he tries to do, and a point where you have to play your game. I think he’s starting to figure that out,” Boylen said. “I think he’s starting to understand where his spots are and how he makes people better but also doesn’t lose the positive things he can do individually.”

The selflessness of Satoransky is something that gets mentioned often by others when they’re asked about him. He’s someone who takes the time to read a situation before asserting himself, always trying to make the right play.

This dynamic was exacerbated by Satoransky not only joining a new team but doing so after playing a leading role for his Czech Republic national team at the FIBA World Cup this offseason.

“I think I’m very adaptable. But I won’t aggressively adapt. I’ll try to see what it is---new coaches, new offense---before asserting myself,” Satoransky said. “I knew I had to be patient, especially with a new team, new role. I’m also coming from a very different situation in the World Cup. And I’m trying to fit in and make my teammates feel the best and most comfortable around me. But I’m trying to be more aggressive because it opens up more space.

“I feel we’re more and more on the same page now.”

Satoransky’s averages of 9.6 points, 5.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 27.1 minutes are eerily similar to those he posted last season with the Wizards, his breakout season. In 80 games, including 54 starts for the injured John Wall, he averaged 8.9 points, 5 assists and 3.5 rebounds also in 27.1 minutes.

He’s shooting 39.7 percent on 3 3-point attempts per game---again very similar to last season’s 39.5 percent on 2 3-point attempts per game.

“I tell him he has to take his shots. He’s a threat,” Zach LaVine said. “He can shoot and create for others. Once he gets in the lane, he’s crafty. He isn’t just a spot-up 3-point shooter.”

Satoransky is in the first year of a three-year, $30 million deal that is only partially guaranteed in the final season. He said he is enjoying Chicago and playing for the Bulls.

“Everyone cares. We get along well,” Satoransky said. “This is my second NBA locker room, but I think this is one of the best groups I’ve had.”

Now, he just wants to improve the won-lost record to something closer to perfection.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days

bulls_outsiders_podcast_website_listen_now.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 100-98 loss to the Warriors

0:45 - Reaction to loss and Bulls losing to Warriors again

2:30 - On 4th quarter struggles

3:30 - On Zach LaVine’s game-winning shot attempt

5:20 - Viewer comments on Coby White starting

9:20 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine leads to Matt rant

10:20 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter

12:10 - Viewer comment on Sato needing to be more aggressive

13:30 - Viewer comment on Luke Kornet

16:35 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine talking trash to Warriors

18:00 - On LaVine not being the issue

19:00 - On Otto Porter’s injury and being out indefinitely

22:10 - Viewer comment on Bulls being contenders

23:50 - Viewer comment asking why Matt is always angry

24:50 - Viewer asking Sabine how he feels about the Bears beating the Cowboys

26:20 - Which team is more likely to make playoffs, Bears or Bulls?

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

Bulls Outsiders

Subscribe:

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.