For a team that currently ranks 28th in the league with an offensive rating of 103.4 points per 100 possessions, the Bulls did a good job of executing their half-court sets in Monday’s win over Sacramento.
They were especially effective in the first half, collecting 14 assists on 20 made field goals and shooting 50% from the field and 40% from the 3 point line in building a 55-44 lead.
Jim Boylen went to his bench early after the Kings jumped out to a 10-point lead, and the reserve group of Coby White, Thaddeus Young, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford changed the flow of the game with good execution on both ends.
By the time the starters began to return to the court, the Bulls were already up 6, with all the momentum on the visitors’ side.
Snapping a three-game losing streak was obviously important, but even more encouraging was the improvement in the offensive execution. We’ve got several plays to illustrate the Bulls’ ball movement and sound decision making in the video above.
Hard to believe, but Monday’s night win marked the first time this season both Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen reached the 20-point mark in the same game. LaVine told reporters afterward that he and Markkanen actually broke off a few plays to run some of the pick-and-pop action that had been successful last season.
Markkanen played efficiently, making 6 of 12 shots from the field, and 4 of 8 from 3-point range in scoring 20 points to go along with 7 rebounds, while LaVine led all scorers with 28 points, including 5 of 7 from long distance and 9 of 11 from the free throw line.
Sure, it’s only one game, and the Bulls have a lot of work to do to get their offensive rating closer to league average, but getting LaVine and Markkanen back into a positive mindset is a huge first step.
The Bulls are also getting more consistent production from free agent addition Tomas Satoransky, who is starting to assert himself more on the offensive end after spending most of the first month passing up shots in favor of setting up teammates.
Plus, 2nd-year center Wendell Carter Jr. has been the team’s most consistent player all season long, providing solid defense and double figures in points and rebounds on most nights.
Only in the Eastern Conference could a 7-14 team actually think about being a playoff contender, but that’s the reality for the Bulls right now with winnable games coming up at home against the injury-depleted Grizzlies and Warriors.
They’ll play 6 of the next 7 at the United Center, so by the end of that stretch, we should have a pretty good idea of whether the Bulls are finally ready to play the kind of offense everyone expected to see when the season began.
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