Bulls

Ten dates to circle on the Bulls' 2018-19 schedule

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USA TODAY

Ten dates to circle on the Bulls' 2018-19 schedule

The Bulls' 2018-19 schedule came out Friday afternoon. You can check out the 82-game slate. But we're also keying in on 10 specific dates that Bulls fans will want to circle on their calendars.

1. LeBron brings Hollywood to the Windy City (vs. LAL, March 12)

The Bulls will play LeBron James and the Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, but there's no atmosphere like when The King comes to town. Add in the fact that the Lakers have the league's largest fan base and you understand why this one is going to be massive. After seeing James four times a year the last four seasons, the Bulls will only get two shots at James this season. Seeing as this will be his only trip to Chicago, it's easily the biggest game of the year.

2. The TimberBulls reunion, pt. II (vs. MIN, Dec. 26)

Some of the buzz will be gone considering Tom Thibodeau, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson came to Chicago last season. But this time around, a day after Christmas, they'll have Derrick Rose with them (and maybe even Joakim Noah). That's going to create some serious nostalgia at the United Center. And don't forget, this will always loom large as a big game for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine after it was Thibodeau who sent them packing in exchange for Butler.

3. Jabari Parker returns to his favorite suburb (at MIL, Nov. 16)

Jabari Parker said all the right things upon leaving Milwaukee and joining his hometown Bulls. But you can bet there's some real animosity between the two and he'll want to get his revenge on when they clash for the first of four meetings. It'll also be the first matchup between the Bulls and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who looks ready to make a real run at MVP. Considering it's also a division game, every Bulls-Bucks game will be a big one this season. 

4. The Warriors' dynasty makes an early stop in CHI (vs. GSW, Oct. 29)

Three titles in four years makes the Warriors a dynasty. Sorry, 90s Bulls fans. The good - and we use that term lightly - news is that DeMarcus Cousins will be sidelined for this early-season affair. And the even better news it that the Bulls have some recent success against the Warriors: since the start of the 2012-13 season the Bulls have gone 5-7 against Steph and co. Hey, it's something.

5. The Prospects vs. The Process (at PHI, Oct. 18)

This may be a few years away from becoming a real rivalry, but the finished process of the Sixers' rebuild will square off against the Bulls' blossoming one to begin the year. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid terrorized the Bulls last season, but a healthy core and the rookie additions plus Jabari Parker should even out these contests. It'll be a good test to open the year for Fred Hoiberg's group.

6. Anthony Davis' (un)official recruiting visit (vs. NOP, Feb. 6)

Hey, Anthony! Look at all this great young talent! OK, Davis can't become a free agent until 2020 and it would be surprising if he didn't sign a super-max deal with the Pelicans. But we can dream. It's a hometown return for the Prospectives alum, and we can't help but think he'll be keeping an eye on the Bulls' young core...just in case he gets the itch to pull a Jabari Parker and come on home. Let us dream.

7. Wendell Carter Jr. gets to show Marvin Bagley III what he can do (vs. SAC, Dec. 10)

Wendell Carter Jr. took a back seat at Duke when Marvin Bagley III arrived as a late addition to the 2018 class. Both Bagley and Carter showed promise in their respective Summer League performances, but now the two will go head-to-head for the first time outside of Duke practices. You can bet Carter will be playing with an added chip on his shoulder after Bagley received all the accolades in Durham last season.

8. The Unicorn vs. The Finnisher...with potential playoff implications (at NYK/vs. NYK, Apr. 1/9)

Kristaps Porzingis is recovering from ACL surgery, so he wont be ready for the teams' first matchup on Nov. 5. But the teams will play twice in the regular season's final two weeks, and the Knicks and Bulls could very well be in the playoff hunt for the final few spots. Porzingis and Markkanen are two of the most unique players in the game, and this could be a battle of big-city bigs for a long time to come. And for the first time it could have playoff implications.

9. David Nwaba revenge game? (at CLE, Dec. 23)

OK, it doesn't sound as good written out as it did in our heads. But still, Nwaba was thought to be a piece of the Bulls' future after an impressive first season in Chicago. Instead the Bulls opted to go with Jabari Parker (and Antonio Blakeney), letting the hounding defender leave for a division rival in Cleveland. You can bet points on the wing will be hard to come by when Nwaba gets his chance to lock up the Bulls' backcourt.

10. Toe-to-toe with the East's best (at BOS, Nov. 14)

The Bulls will have three meetings against the presumed top team in the East. The first of these matchups takes place in Boston, and it'll be against a Celtics team that's fully healthy for the first time since last year's Opening Night, when Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle injury that cost him the entire regular season. Another tough matchup for the Bulls, but a good barometer for where they are early in the season.

The Bulls' taco theft in Los Angeles last night was their best win of the season and you can't convince me otherwise

The Bulls' taco theft in Los Angeles last night was their best win of the season and you can't convince me otherwise

Tired: The Bulls dropped last night's game to extend their losing streak to 8 and even the most preposterous displays of athleticsim from Zion Williamson can only bring momentary relief from the palpable sadness and apathy this team is drenched in. 
Wired: The Bulls stole free tacos right out of the hands of tan fans in Los Angeles last night, hell yeah, who's to even say what defines a 'loss'

In a world where late night SportsTwitter is just 10-second clips of game-ending basketball heaves with BAD BEAT WOAHHH slapped above it, this may be the Baddest Beat of all. 

You see, this season the Lakers -- in partnership with Jack-in-The-Box -- are happy to offer you a promotion where, when the Lakers win at home while keeping the other team under 100 points, you get two free tacos. Now obviously I don't need to explain to you that it is a terrific deal, because you too love the taco; we won't even get into how much you love the free taco. And 2 of them? Incogitable. 

So now we come to the hero of our story, a 34-loss Bulls team. With less than 2 seconds left, all the makings of a post game Taco Tuesday were in place. The Lakers had over 100 points, were at home, and had held the Bulls to 98. Chicago was swinging the ball around aimlessly (ball movement!) and things were dire. Like Ethan Hunt trying to chase down a full-speed 747, all seemed lost. 

And then: 

Don't you ever say Shaquille Harrison isn't the most clutch player on the Bulls. Look how that 100th point just hangs on the rim, tantalizing LA residents like the sizzling pile of spiced meat and fajita veggies that they'll now have to pay AT LEAST 99 cents for now. 

Fans were *not* having it: 

The Bulls might give you 92 points in one half. They may give you an NBA-record 10 three-pointers too. But they'll never give you two free tacos. 

Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!

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USA TODAY

Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!

The Bulls have now lost eight straight. The most recent defeat came in Los Angeles against a LeBron-less Lakers team, and there's not a whole lot to take from it. But we tried to find three items.

1. It was just one game, but Jabari Parker looks reinvigorated

Jabari Parker looks like he's back in the rotation to stay - or until he's traded - and while it was just a one-game sample size, he sure looks like he wants to remain there, too.

Parker's statline won't jump out in the box score but he made a few plays defensively and was arguably the Bulls' best offensive player. He hit a couple tough jumpers, made an important hustle play in the fourth quarter and finished with a jam. He wasn't outstanding defensively but played a few passing lanes and contested a few shots inside.

All isn't forgiven, and he isn't going to give Rudy Gobert a run for his money for Defensive Player of the Year, but it's about baby steps with Parker. Whether it's to help the Bulls progress as a young team, or to showcase his talents (we're using that word liberally) for a potential trade, these are seriously important games for Parker and the Bulls.

Part of his night came in that frantic stretch in the final minutes of the game (see below) and he finished with a team-high 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting, a pair of 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in just 17 minutes.

The better Parker plays, the more interest there is in him around the league. His contract still makes him a minimal asset and the Bulls can't expect to get much in return for him, but it beats him rotting on the end of the bench or taking minutes away from Markkanen or Bobby Portis.

2. Shaq Harrison rips out the heart of 21,000+ at Staples Center

If you're a true #AuthenticFan and stayed up through the end of the Bulls game you saw an incredible fourth quarter run in which the Bulls....denied Lakers fans free tacos.

Staples Center and the Lakers run a promotion where if the team wins and holds its opponent under 100 points, all fans in attendance get free tacos from Jack In The Box.

Fans looked to be in good shape as the Bulls had just 83 points with 2:19 remaining. From there, the Bulls' possessions went: 2 made free throws (85), layup (87), 3-pointer (90), dunk (92), one free throw (93), layup (95), 3-pointer (98). There were just 35 seconds remaining at that point, when Jabari Parker missed two free throws and gave the ball back to the Lakers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope split a pair of free throws with 19.2 seconds left. And on the Bulls' presumably final possession, Shaq Harrison missed a 3-pointer, but Ryan Arcidiacono grabbed an offensive rebound and found Harrison on the left wing, who pump faked and drew a foul on Ivica Zubac.

Harrison made the first two free throws to give the Bulls 100 points and send fans home hungry. The entire sequence was amazing.

3. It doesn't get any easier for the Bulls

The Bulls have now lost eight straight games, four more than the second longest losing streak in the league (New York). And the road isn't getting any easier.

They'll finish this difficult West Coast road trip on Thursday against the Denver Nuggets, who were just embarrassed by the Warriors on their home floor. You can bet the West's top seed is going to come out and play with some serious passion. That spells trouble for the Bulls.

On Saturday the Bulls return home to face the Heat, who are all sorts of a mess right now. But that first game after a road trip is a seriously difficult one. That could easily be a loss.

Then the Zion Bowl occurs on Monday: Bulls-Cavs.

It's the Cam Payne revenge game and it's going to be glorious. The Bulls should win that one, but then again....the Cavaliers beat the Lakers in L.A. on Tuesday and the Bulls couldn't do that.