Top 10 Bulls moments of the 2019-20 season
The ones that just missed the cut:
Lauri Markkanen drops 35 points and 17 rebounds on opening night: Markkanen’s best and most assertive game of the season was his first. Unfortunately, it ended with the Bulls squandering a 10-point lead in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter and falling 126-125 to the Hornets.
Daniel Gafford (basically) debuts: A 2019 second-round pick to the Bulls, Gafford spent the first couple weeks of the season waiting in the wings. His first NBA game with over five minutes played was a coming-out party against the Bucks on Nov. 18 — he scored 21 points (still a career-high), snared five rebounds and blocked two shots in a 115-101 defeat. Gafford has gone on to be a solid contributor for the Bulls since and currently leads rookies in total blocks.
- Zach LaVine nearly logs first career triple-double: LaVine submitted perhaps his most all-encompassing performance of the season against the Cavaliers on Jan. 25, posting a line of 44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a 118-106 win. At the time, it was another notch in an All-Star case that ultimately fell short.
10. Feb. 6 — Mokoka-mania
On the eve of a trade deadline the Bulls sat out, rookie two-way swingman Adam Mokoka made a one-sided loss to the Pelicans interesting. Playing just the final 5:07 minutes of the game, Mokoka scored 15 points, making him the first player in the shot clock era to score 15 points in as little playing time. In Mokoka’s minutes, the Bulls trimmed an 18-point deficit to as few as four before ultimately losing 125-119 — his teammates and the United Center en masse had fun with it, even in defeat.
9. Feb. 23 — Zach LaVine breaks the Bulls’ single-season record for 3-pointers made
One of many highlights in a career year for LaVine. In a 126-117 win over the Wizards on Feb. 23, LaVine hit six 3-pointers, the third of which marked his 174th of the season and a new single-season franchise record (breaking Ben Gordon’s mark of 173 from 2008-09). Inflation adjustments aside, it was a nice moment. And in a victory!
8. Dec. 16 — Bulls stage 18-point fourth quarter comeback to beat Wizards in overtime
For once, a miraculous second-half comeback swung in the Bulls’ favor. This one was especially improbable, as they erased an 18-point fourth quarter deficit in a matter of eight minutes, and eventually toppled the Wizards 110-109 in overtime. A Zach LaVine assist to Wendell Carter Jr. in the waning seconds of OT sealed it. Underrated from this one: Lauri Markkanen had his second-best game of the season, leading all scorers with 31 points and snagging nine rebounds.
7. March 2 — Bulls beat Mavericks in first game without Zach LaVine
Zach LaVine played in each of the Bulls’ first 60 games of the season, but missed the last five leading into the league’s hiatus with a quad strain. In the first of those games, the Bulls knocked off Luka Doncic and the Mavericks at home 109-107 behind a balanced scoring attack and stellar defense from Adam Mokoka. It was just their second win of the season against a team better than .500 at the time.
6. March 10 — Bulls beat Cavaliers in Coby White’s first start
In the Bulls’ final game before the hiatus, Coby White reached a career milestone by making his first NBA start. In it, he notched 20 points, five assists and five rebounds in a 108-103 win over the Cavaliers. To this day, the Bulls have a 1.000 win percentage when White starts. Just the facts.
5. Jan. 28 — Chicago tributes Kobe Bryant the day after his tragic passing
On Jan. 27, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi and seven others tragically perished in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles. One day later, the Bulls (along with countless others across the league) attempted a return to normalcy by facing the Spurs. It was a somber affair that saw touching tributes by fans in the form of chalk inscriptions and floral offerings, players and coaches in the form of anecdotes, and both teams during the game in the form of respective 24- and eight-second shot clock violations. The result, which felt small in the grand scheme of recent events, was a 110-109 Bulls victory.
4. Feb. 22 - Feb. 25 — Coby White becomes first rookie reserve to score 30-plus points in three straight games
Coby White logged his first start on March 10, but his breakout began weeks before. In an infernal three-game stretch from Feb. 22 - Feb. 25, White averaged 33.7 points per game on preposterous 57.4/58.1/92.9 shooting splits (20.3 FGA/g, 10.3 3PA/g), becoming the first rookie reserve in NBA history to score 30-plus points in three straight games in the process. It was outrageous fun to watch. The Bulls went just 1-2 in those games, but White’s ascendance has been the brightest story line of the second half of the season in Chicago.
3. Dec. 14 — Zach LaVine seals signature win vs. Clippers
The Bulls spent most of 2019-20 famously falling short against premium competition. I mentioned them beating the Mavericks on March 2 was their second win against a team above-.500. Well, the first came against a relatively shorthanded Clippers team (sans Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverly and Lou Williams) on Dec. 14 in a game in which Zach LaVine scored 31 points. The final three of those came by way of an and-one layup over Montrezl Harrell in the final seconds of the fourth quarter that put the Bulls in front for good, 109-106. At the time, it was a signature win for a team in the Bulls looking to turn their season around.
2. Nov. 12 — Coby White sets franchise record for 3-pointers made in a quarter vs. Knicks
White gave Bulls fans a tantalizing taste of his instant-offense potential back in November against the Knicks in Chicago. In the fourth quarter of an eventual 120-102 Bulls win, White drilled seven 3-pointers, setting a Bulls franchise record for threes in a quarter. Also of note: Roy Williams, who coached White at UNC, was in attendance.
1. Nov. 23 — Zach LaVine sinks single-game franchise-record 13 3-pointers to beat Hornets
One day after being unceremoniously yanked from a loss to the Heat for what coach Jim Boylen called three “egregious” defensive errors, LaVine scorched Charlotte for a career-high 49 points and 13 3-pointers. Those 13 3s set a Bulls single-game franchise record. The last one, which came off a Coby White steal with 0.8 seconds remaining, capped a 12-point fourth quarter comeback and gave the Bulls a 116-115 victory. It's the signature snapshot of this Bulls season.