The Bulls earned a second straight road win Friday night in Washington, D.C., beating a John Wall-less Wizards team 101-92. They needed a strong second half to get it done, and did so by shooting 61 percent after halftime and knocking down seven triples and managing just one in the first 24 minutes. Here are four observations from the victory as the Bulls move to 10-26, two full games better than the 8-27 Cavaliers.
1. Wendell Carter Jr. breaks out (for Jim Boylen)
He was much more effective in the first half but Friday was still a monster performance from Wendell Carter Jr. He finished the victory with 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots in 33 minutes, the most he had played since Fred Hoiberg's last game as head coach.
He double-doubled in Jim Boylen's head-coaching debut, but he hasn't had much of an impact since the coaching change. Entering Friday, Carter was averaging 8.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 11 just 22.2 minutes. He nearly reached those marks in the first quarter alone against the Wizards, tallying 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks while playing all 12 minutes.
Carter was virtually unstoppable rolling to the basket, and Kris Dunn (game-high 8 assists) did an excellent job finding him. All but three of Carter's 10 field-goal attempts came in the restricted area, where he was a perfect 7-for-7. It was great seeing him knock down a 21-footer in the second half, but it's clear he's most comfortable and confident around the basket. He can add to his offensive game later; for now he should be rolling, rolling and rolling some more.
If nothing else, those rolls collapsed the Wizards defense that gave the Bulls some better perimeter looks in the second half. He'll have a much stiffer test against the Raptors defense on Sunday, but this was a great sign. The Bulls needed to get Carter rolling after some uninspiring play the last few weeks.
2. The second half was all Zach LaVine's
It's safe to say Zach LaVine has knocked off the rust from missing five games with an ankle injury. Jim Boylen said LaVine would be limited to 30 minutes, and that's all he needed to tally 24 points on 7 of 12 shooting and three triples. The best part? LaVine went to the free throw line eight times. That was the most attempts he had taken since Nov. 24 in a road loss to the Timberwolves.
After 28 points on Wednesday and 24 more tonight, it's safe to say LaVine is going to be just fine with Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen in the lineup with him. He had the ball in his hands much more in the second half, which took Dunn out of the offense for large stretches, but it resulted in a victory. It's tough to argue with a 19-point second half from LaVine, regardless of how it affected everyone else. He took over when he needed to and got the job done against a hapless, injury-riddled Wizards team.
3. Robin Lopez was...actually pretty good
We highly doubt Robin Lopez has any sort of trade value, but he's doing the Bulls some favors with his play of late. Yes, he went 3-for-13 in Wednesday's loss to the Timberwolves, but as bad as he was two days ago he was that impressive Friday, tallying 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks off the bench in 15 minutes.
It's the third time in four games he's reached double figures, and he now has a block in 10 straight games (to put that in context, Wendell Carter Jr. has three games without a block in that same span). We won't write too much about it, but at the very least Lopez will have teams keeping an eye on him as the trade deadline and buyout deadline near. It'd be a shock if the Bulls got anything of value for him, but it was nice to see him string together a positive outing again.
Of note on the trade front, we'll add here that Justin Holiday found a little rhythm. He made a pair of 3-pointers and added three more steals in 38 minutes. Jim Boylen is showing no signs of slowing his minutes down.
4. Jabari Parker remains nowhere to be seen
The $20 million man couldn't get into a 20-point victory in Cleveland or a 25-point blowout loss on Wednesday. And even when the Bulls were playing some of their worst offensive basketball of the year...Parker remained on the bench.
Not that this was unexpected, but (*pure speculation alert*) Parker may have played his last minutes with the Bulls. Blowout wins, blowout losses, stagnant-as-all-hell offense, and yet no sign of Parker. All with Bobby Portis out, too.
The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 8. That's really all you need to know here.