Bulls

What to watch for when the Bulls face off with the league-worst Golden State Warriors

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USA Today

What to watch for when the Bulls face off with the league-worst Golden State Warriors

Wednesday night, the Bulls will look to give the city of Chicago something to be thankful for when they take on the listless Warriors in San Francisco. The game tips at 9:30 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:

A get-right game

Is it an exaggeration to call this game — only the Bulls’ 19th of the regular season, against the consensus worst team in the league — a must-win? Somehow, it doesn’t feel like it.

The Bulls need to win this game and, frankly, they need to win it handily. These Warriors are five-time repeat NBA Finalists only in name — Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala are departed for other teams and *deep inhale* Steph Curry (hand), Klay Thompson (knee), D’Angelo Russell (thumb) and Kevon Looney (hamstring) are all currently out with injuries of varying severity.

That leaves a team of scrappy youngsters and select journeymen (for a reason) in Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein, Glen Robinson III and co. As a group, they’ve shown flashes. But ultimately, this is a team that’s lost 15 of their first 18 games and ranks dead last in the league in Net Rating (they’re 24th in offense and 30th in defense). 

And despite the early-season mayhem swirling around Chicago with more ferocity than the prevailing westerlies off Lake Michigan: The Bulls are only one game out of the eighth seed in the woeful Eastern Conference and are staring down a five-game stretch against opponents with a combined 24-62 record. Granted, one of those is against a Portland team that just torched them at the United Center, but the point stands. 

This has to be a win. It just has to be. But, as of this writing, that is certainly not guaranteed.

Silver linings to be wary of

Regardless of all that’s gone wrong for Golden State this season, it’s worth briefly examining a few Warriors playing well. If the Bulls defense continues to both defend ball-handlers aggressively off screens and scramble in their rotations on the back-end, these are the guys that could hurt them:

  • Glenn Robinson III: currently authoring a career year, averaging 12 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on 49.1% shooting (41.8% from three). He’s been prolific from the left wing behind the arc and certain midrange pockets. Beware of him attacking clumsy closeouts, a la Carmelo Anthony on Monday.

  • Ky Bowman: a revelation for the Dubs on a two-way contract at the start of the season. He’ll shoulder the load at point guard with Curry and Russell both out — he played 39 minutes in their matchup with Oklahoma City on Monday. Bowman is a capable shooter, pesky defensively, but the Bulls hope he doesn’t have the vision or savvy to pick them apart they way Damian Lillard and other accomplished point guards have, of late.

  • Eric Paschall: somehow, a dark-horse Rookie of the Year candidate and another second-round gem for the Warriors. He’s second on the team in scoring (excluding Curry, who has only played four games) and is an absolute bruiser. He’s only a 23.3% three-point shooter, but his physicality makes him a tough matchup on both ends for Lauri Markkanen.

And really, that’s about it. If the Bulls make a star out of any of the other role players on this misfit roster, you’ll be the first to hear. 

Staying aggressive — offensively and on the boards — an imperative

The Bulls’ starting backcourt got off to a fast start in the first quarter against Portland on Monday, and looked crisp in doing so. Tomas Satoransky pushed pace, sank floaters and dotted assists, and Zach LaVine was crafty both in passing lanes on defense and slinking around screens off-ball on the offensive end.

I’d love to see the Bulls work the Satoransky-LaVine combo in more sets like this:

 

When he’s right, LaVine is a deadly spot-up shooter and this movement like this provides a different type of look for an offense prone to stagnation. And the Bulls didn't bring in Satoransky to be the 10th highest used guy on the team. The Warriors are undersized, undermanned and under-talented on the perimeter — get them in rotation and on their heels, and the shots will flow. The key is to make sure that urgency doesn't wane as the game drags on.

The Bulls were also absolutely decimated on the glass (55-37) Monday against one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA in Portland. The Warriors rank in the bottom third of the league in Reb% and DReb% (along with the Bulls), as well. If the Bulls can flip that script tonight, it means they’re finishing off defensive possessions, which they should be able to do consistently against — again, on paper — an inferior opponent. 

But if the 2019 Bulls have proven anything, it’s that games are not played on paper, and anything can happen. Absolutely anything.

Injury updates

After being active but not starting for the past two games, Chandler Hutchison will rejoin the starting lineup tonight:


Hutchison said before the Portland game that Boylen was waiting to give him extended run until he saw full-contact action. Per the Bulls, Ryan Arcidiacono will be a game-time decision.

For the Warriors, Draymond Green has been upgraded to probable.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls swept by Bucks in 2020

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls swept by Bucks in 2020

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson discuss the Bulls loss to the Bucks, pick their lineups for the 2020 All-Star game, and discuss acceptable basketball tattoos.

1:00 - The difference between the Bucks and Bulls is staggering

3:20 - What is going on with Lauri Markkanen?

5:00 - How bad does Zach LaVine's back hurt after carrying this squad?

6:30 - Jim Boylen just refuses to play Denzel Valentine

8:30 - Why do the Bulls keep falling apart in the 2nd half?

10:00 - Which players progressed for the Bulls this season?

12:00 - Viewer comment about Bulls playoff chances

15:10 - The guys pick their starters for the 2020 All Star Game

21:45 - Viewer comments about Spencer Dinwiddie/Derrick Rose

24:20 - David Kaplan got a tattoo!

25:30 - If you had to get a basketball tattoo what would it be

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders

Subscribe:

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Lauri Markkanen's struggles are a daily storyline, but the solve isn't simple

Lauri Markkanen's struggles are a daily storyline, but the solve isn't simple

MILWAUKEE — When Thad Young played for the Pacers, this was, according to Young, that team’s scouting report on Lauri Markkanen:

“He’s a guy who can score in different levels of the game. He can shoot the midrange. He can take you off the dribble and do his hanging fade to get his shot off. Or he can step behind the line and tee up some 3s,” Young said. “So we tried to keep him seeing bodies so he wouldn’t take the ball from one side to the other.”

Markkanen’s struggles — and the Bulls’ usage of him — is becoming an almost daily storyline. It certainly dominated Monday’s postgame questioning after the Bulls dropped to 1-18 versus winning teams with a 111-98 loss to the Bucks.

For the second time in three games, Markkanen failed to score in the second half. Seven of his 11 attempts came from 3-point range — all of which he missed. His eight points came from two putbacks and four free throws.

That’s it.

“He missed some shots he normally makes. That happens,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I thought he was moving well. He had a couple great cuts to the basket, opportunities at the rim. That’s what we want from him — inside, outside.”

But that’s not happening enough. Fifty-three percent of Markkanen’s attempts this season have been 3-pointers. That’s up 11.5 percent from last season and 4.1 percent from his rookie season.

Too often, Markkanen is being relegated to playing as a stationary, 3-point shooter and not the dynamic, multifaceted scorer for whom Young’s Pacers teams prepared.

“Yeah, I think I can do a lot of good things besides just shoot threes,’’ Markkanen said. “Haven’t really been able to do that lately. Just have to figure out the way I can attack the rim more and get to the free-throw line. I need to figure out my spots.”

This is not meant to fully absolve Markkanen, who has indeed missed open looks consistently this season. For the second straight game, Markkanen joked about how Boylen called a play for him on the first possession, only for Markkanen to turn it over.

Markkanen also again acknowledged the sore left ankle he is playing through as he tries to reach his well documented goal of playing all 82 games. Markkanen called the ankle “not normal but getting there” and also shook off banging knees with Donte DiVincenzo that left him running hobbled for a few possessions.

Markkanen said he has no problem talking to Boylen about his usage and, as is his nature, looked inward.

“We’ve talked about it. He ran some plays for me. I turned it over. He does run some stuff for me. I just have to make the plays,” he said. “If you shoot the ball like [I have], you don’t really deserve touches. Can’t really complain.

“When you’re feeling it and actually making shots, it would be good to get closer to the rim and kind of keep it going. A lot of our plays I screen and pop.’’

The Bulls tied their franchise record with 48 3-point attempts. Boylen said that was the gameplan since opponents averaged 40 3-point attempts and 17.5 makes in the Bucks’ mere six losses.

Never mind that even if the Bulls hadn’t gone ice cold in the second half to finish with 14 makes that adding 3.5 more makes would’ve still left them on the losing end. The Markkanen problem is bigger than a math problem.

“I think the system complements him to the point where he has a lot of freedom to do different things,” Young said. “If he’s open, he takes a 3. If he’s not, he tries to make a play. He’s doing the best he can, just like me and any other guy on this roster. He has to continue to believe in what we’re doing.”

Markkanen now has nine single-digit scoring games after posting just four last season. He has nine 20-point games after registering 22 last season.

This is a huge season for Markkanen not only because his success is tied into the success of the Bulls’ rebuild but also because he’ll be eligible for an extension of his rookie contract following this season.

“I know he’s going to work. And he cares. He has high character,” Boylen said. “I believe in him. And our team believes in him.”

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.