Bulls

Two-man game: LaVine, Markkanen finally roll together in Bulls victory

Two-man game: LaVine, Markkanen finally roll together in Bulls victory

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The reserves helped turn an early 11-point deficit into a 16-point lead before halftime.

Coach Jim Boylen said the box score represented his vision for how he wants his Bulls to play — going 10-deep and with contributions from everybody.

But the NBA is about teams’ best players playing their best. And for the first time this season, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen each scored at least 20 points in the same game.

Is it any wonder the Bulls snapped a three-game skid with a 113-106 victory over the Kings to cap a 1-2 trip?

“It’s long overdue,” LaVine said of Markkanen posting his third 20-point game this season. “We’ve been looking for it. We’ve been encouraging him. He had a great game. He needs to play like that all the time. He’s capable of it.”

Markkanen tied his season high with four 3-pointers and sank four critical free throws late as part of his 20 points to go along with seven rebounds.

“That’s a big game for him. We were looking for him,” LaVine said. “I think me and him started doing some more two-man game stuff, even if we had to break a little bit of offense up. Two-man game with me and him is deadly because if they’re helping off me, they’re going to leave a great shooter open. I’m excited.”

Markkanen agreed he and LaVine ran more pick-and-rolls together. LaVine finished with 28 points and for the second straight game attempted at least 10 free throws. Both players shot better than 50 percent.

“Zach has been doing his part,” Markkanen said of joining LaVine in the 20-point club. “We talked about playing our game and we ended up being in a couple pick-and-rolls more than we’ve been this year. We talked about it before the game. We’ve kind of gotten away from that.

“I don’t want to be one who just shoots 3s. That’s what I’ve kind of been. I’ve been trying to find my spots and it’s been a lot of 3s. I’m glad I got to the rim a couple times.”

The contributions of the reserves can’t be ignored. Coby White, Thad Young, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford all finished with positive plus-minus designations, while, in a rarity for a victory, all five starters finished with minus designations.

“If you look at the box score, that’s how we envisioned this group of guys to look — contributions from everybody,” Boylen said. “A real solid game from Zach. A real solid game from Lauri. A double-double from Wendell [Carter]. Sato [Tomas Satoransky] gets 14 [points] and 5 [assists]. That’s what we hope it can be. And we hope it can be that more consistently.”

But at the end of the day, the Bulls will only go as far as LaVine and Markkanen take them. They’re the most important players. That’s just how the NBA works.

“When he gets on a roll, they have to guard the whole floor,” LaVine said of Markkanen. “He shouldn’t be in this slump for that long. We need to help him get out of it. I don’t think we’ve done a good job of that. We had to do a little more two-man game and find him early. Once he made his first two, he looked like the old Lauri. Hopefully it’s wheels up from there.”

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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.

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

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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.

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