With coach Billy Donovan confirming it's "unlikely" that Lauri Markkanen plays Saturday after spraining his right shoulder Friday night, the Bulls almost certainly will change their starting lineup again.
However, with Daniel Gafford already in for the injured Wendell Carter Jr., don't expect the human band-aid that is Thad Young to be a long-term solution.
"I can’t keep playing Thad 31 minutes a night," said Donovan, who actually played the veteran 32 minutes. "He’s a warrior, and he’s fine. And he’ll never say anything different than that. He’ll play. But it’s really hard to sit there and expect (Otto Porter Jr.) and those guys to play 33, 34 minutes a night. It just is."
Porter also missed Friday's 123-119 loss to the Magic with back spasms. So the Bulls will be extremely shorthanded for Saturday's rematch, which already is a challenge given the back-to-back set and Nikola Vucevic coming off a career-high 43-point, 19-rebound effort.
Donovan actually replaced Gafford with Young to start the second half. And Young continued his fantastic season with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. But even though slow starts continue to plague the Bulls, keeping Young's minutes reasonable remains a focus for Donovan.
"I think you’ve got to look at the second unit, too. And are you bringing him back in? And how many minutes is he actually playing where if you start him and you bring him back at the end of the first and he’s playing a little bit longer in the second? And you rest him and you bring him back to close the second, you start jumping his minutes up," Donovan said. "I’m not saying periodically he can’t handle it. But with as well as he’s played and as great as he’s played this year for us, I need to just be mindful of where he’s at physically. I don’t know if that’s sustainable."
For the third straight game, Donovan burned an early timeout. This one came just 2 minutes, 36 seconds after tipoff and the Bulls already down eight points on their way to a 14-point, first-quarter deficit. In the two straight games against the Knicks, Donovan used timeouts 50 and 103 seconds after tipoff.
"I don't have an explanation for it," rookie Patrick Williams said of the slow starts. "Most of the time we end up fighting back from it. But that just puts us in a hole we don't have to be in from the jump, so that's definitely something that we have to keep in mind."