Bulls

Jim Boylen disappointed, Zach LaVine embarrassed following Bulls' worst loss in franchise history

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USA TODAY

Jim Boylen disappointed, Zach LaVine embarrassed following Bulls' worst loss in franchise history

A lot can change in 24 hours. 

Friday, the Bulls picked up their most impressive win of the season, defeating the Thunder 114-112 at the United Center. The Thunder, now 16-8, sit near the top of the Western Conference playoff standings.

And then Saturday night happened.

The Celtics rolled into the United Center and handed the Bulls their worst loss in franchise history. Boston beat the Bulls 133-77, a scoring deficit of a mere 56 points.

“Disappointing, disappointing effort, disappointing outcome after I thought a really hard-fought two games at Indiana and at home last night," said Bulls head coach Jim Boylen. "I’m not discouraged, but I’m disappointed.

"We gotta care more about our effort on a nightly basis, we gotta care more about playing for each other and tonight I thought we didn’t do that."

Before Saturday, the Bulls' worst loss occurred on Nov. 8, 2001, when the Timberwolves picked up a 127-74 win. Fred Hoiberg was on that Bulls team in 2001, ironically.

That 2001 game saw head coach Tim Floyd substitute all five of his starters at once (h/t to K.C. Johnson). Ironically, Boylen did that Saturday night after the Bulls starters shot 0-of-8 to open the game.

The Bulls did not score their first points until the 5:42 mark of the first quarter, going down 17-0 before Jabari Parker hit two free throws. Robin Lopez made the Bulls' first field goal at the 5:06 mark of the quarter on the team's 12th shot of the night.

"Gotta give Boston credit, I thought they made shots," Boylen said. "They kind of punched us and we didn’t respond."

Boylen substituted all five starters in the first quarter and said that the team did not honor the game with their competitiveness, so he gave the reserves a chance.

“I wanted to give the other guys a chance to see if they could right the ship a little bit," he said. "I’ve been a part of teams that have done that before; don’t like the five guys out here, don’t like that combination, look at a new combination, take them all out, let them sit there and think about it.

"We didn’t honor the game very well with our effort and our competitiveness, so why not take them all out? We’re a team, so sub five guys and see what they can do."

"It is what it is,” Zach LaVine said. "We gotta do what he says.

Boston led 35-17 after the first quarter, 64-43 at halftime and 93-60 after the third quarter. They shot 53.8 percent from the field for the game compared to the Bulls' 38.3 percent, hitting 22 three-pointers compared to the Bulls' six.

The Celtics also out-rebounded the Bulls 54-37 for the game, beating Chicago to lose balls late in the fourth quarter despite the Bulls trailing by more than 50 points.

"We were just following them around, I thought we were a step slow on everything, mentally and physically," Boylen said. "Is it want to, is it effort, what is it? I don’t know what it is, but I just wasn’t going to stand for it."

Not only did Boylen pull all five starters in the first quarter, but he also did after the Celtics opened the third quarter on a 5-3 run. LaVine and the four other starters sat for the final 21 minutes of the game, and the Celtics outscored the Bulls 69-34 in the second half.

LaVine scored 11 points in 19 minutes on 4-of-6 shooting. He said that he was embarrassed, mentioning how it sucked watching the Celtics' lead continue to rise.

"I felt embarrassed. I wish I was out there competing," LaVine said. "It sucks man, sitting there watching the score go up and up. I know we’re competing out there, but it sucks. You know you can help."

LaVine said there is a fine line between sending a message and embarrassing the players.

"Yea, I think so. We put a lot of hard work into this. I get up, compete every day. I think regardless of whatever the score is, I want to go out there and compete, but obviously we didn’t get a chance to do that.

But when asked how the starters don't construe getting pulled out as Boylen embarrassing them, Boylen said the team's play was embarrassing.

"I think your play is embarrassing, me subbing them is saving them, maybe. Maybe we saved them," he said. "The pro player thing, this is basketball; this is about honoring the game and doing the right things.

"Embarrassment is not giving the effort in that Bulls uniform, so I put five guys in that I thought could put the effort in.

"They’re disappointed, they feel bad about it. We need some leadership to step up, we need some guys to take leadership roles on the team."

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Zach LaVine's comments after 10th straight loss

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NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Zach LaVine's comments after 10th straight loss

Matt Peck, David Watson and John Sabine feel the Heat after Dwyane Wade and Co. hand the Bulls their 10th straight defeat. Plus, they react to LaVine's comments on the state of the Bulls (1:30), how they feel about stars speaking out (4:55) and Matt wants a new coach next season (6:48).
How can the Bulls attract free agents to this losing culture to improve on their young core (11:35)? Plus, why does it feel like the Bulls get more criticism than the Knicks (16:02)?

The big story was D-Wade's farewell game at the United Center. Watson explains why he's pro-Wade (18:30). Peck provides the rebuttal (19:29). Finally, Watson notes that Markkanen may be struggling to find chemistry with Kris Dunn (25:10).

Don't forget, you can watch Bulls Outsiders after Bulls Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago following every game. You can also stream the show on Facebook Live and interact with Matt, John and David.

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.

Kris Dunn's midrange game has disappeared, and that's spelled disaster for his overall game

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USA TODAY

Kris Dunn's midrange game has disappeared, and that's spelled disaster for his overall game

No player was happier to return home from the Bulls' 0-5 West Coast road trip than Kris Dunn.

Dunn began the trip with a nice 15-point, seven-assist performance in Portland but was a disaster in the remaining four games, averaging 7.0 points on 31.4 percent shooting and 5.0 assists.

But his struggles continued on Wednesday night against a tough Miami Heat defense. Dunn started strong but disappeared after the first quarter, finishing with 6 points on 3 of 14 shooting and 5 assists in 33 minutes. The scoring output marked the fourth time in the last five games he's scored 6 points and the shooting was his worst of the year.

"Definitely going through it," Dunn said after the game. "It's part of the NBA. It's on me to find a way to get out of it. I feel like I'm getting to my spots and it's just not knocking down right now."

Dunn is getting to his spots, but that also might be part of the problem. In his first 13 games back from a sprained MCL he averaged 14.2 points on 50 percent shooting. That included 54 percent shooting on shots 8 to 16 feet away, per NBA.com. That number led the Bulls and was actually fourth in the NBA among players attempting at least 2 of those shots per game (Gay, Clarkson, McConnell were ahead of him) and ahead of players like Kyrie Irving (51.8%), Donovan Mitchell (50%) and Derrick Rose (49%).

But since that West Coast trip began Dunn has hit a wall on those shots. He's made just 30 percent of those attempts, 56th best among those with 2 or more attempts per game. It's only a five-game sample size, compared to 13 when that shot was falling, but the larger issue is that Dunn relies so heavily on them.

Among qualified full-time starting point guards, Dunn's 1.4 3-point attempts per game are second fewest. Only Ben Simmons, who hasn't attempted a 3-pointer this year, is behind Dunn.

And among those same point guards, Dunn's 1.7 free throw attempts per game are fourth fewest. Only De'Anthony Melton, Lonzo Ball and Bryn Forbes have attempted fewer per game than Dunn.

His midrange field goal percentage was eventually going to regress. He's always looked comfortable on those floaters and stepback 12-to-15 footers, but even last year he made just 39.3 percent of those 8 to 16 foot shots. That 54 percent clip was unsustainable, and when Dunn doesn't have that going he really isn't a threat to score anywhere else on the floor.

He's averaging a team-best 13.8 drives per game, per NBA.com, which is also 14th in the NBA and puts him in the same company as players like Jeff Teague and Chris Paul. He's ahead of players such as Mike Conley, De'Aaron Fox and Damian Lillard, so aggressiveness hasn't been the issue.

Dunn's midrange shot has abandoned him, and yet he hasn't been to the free throw line in his last 81 game minutes spanning two-plus games. His last attempts came with 3 minutes left in the second quarter against the Lakers. He's also attempted just four 3-pointers (going 1-for-4) in his last 170 minutes spanning five games; in Saturday night's loss Heat guard Tyler Johnson attempted four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter (and made three of them).

He quite simply isn't a versatile scoring threat, and his one trick has disappeared. This wouldn't be as big an issue if Dunn were an exceptional passer, facilitating the offense and finding open shooters. And while Dunn certainly has had some nice passing nights - and he's inside the top 20 in assists per game despite playing in an offense without a ton of shooters -  it hasn't been nearly enough to overcome his scoring woes.

Life in today's NBA means getting scoring from the point guard position, and Dunn is failing in that regard. Perhaps his midrange touch will find itself, but the more likely scenario is Dunn needing to be more aggressive on all those drives he's taking, getting to the free throw line more and initiating some of the action on his own.

It's unlikely he'll ever become a reliable source of 3-point shooting - he's down to 32.1 percent from deep this season, same as last - but even some improvement in that area will go a long way.

"He knows he can play better. He wants to play better," Jim Boylen said after Saturday's loss. "He takes ownership of his play. That’s one thing I like about him. We gotta keep supporting him, we gotta keep coaching him. That’s what this is all about."