Bulls

Zach LaVine turns up volume on Bulls' offensive woes after another loss

Zach LaVine turns up volume on Bulls' offensive woes after another loss

The team picture for most disappointing loss of the season is getting crowded.

Make room for Saturday evening, though.

A Nets team already without Kevin Durant and Caris LeVert also sat Kyrie Irving to shoulder soreness and then smoked the Bulls by 11 in the first quarter and 10 in the fourth on their way to a 117-111 victory. Ex-Bull Spencer Dinwiddie added insult to injury by scoring 20 of his 24 points in the fourth.

“They just wanted it more than us,” Zach LaVine said.

For a team that made improving their home mark a major priority after winning a franchise-low nine games at the United Center last season, the Bulls sure aren’t playing with much urgency.

“Our start was unacceptable,” said coach Jim Boylen, who burned two early timeouts.

The Bulls nearly doubled the Nets up in an impressive second quarter that featured defense leading to offense and plenty of transition attacks that led to a season-high 41 free-throw attempts. The Bulls also finally won the rebounding battle 56-40.

But the Bulls again shot poorly from 3-point range, needing a late flurry to even crack 20 percent and finish 9-for-39.

Missed shots always make an offense look worse. But the issues go beyond poor shooting. The Bulls aren’t sprinting the floor consistently. Their halfcourt sets feature little cutting. And since utilizing Lauri Markkanen in this role in the opener against a smallish Hornets frontline, they’ve largely ditched post-up attempts.

“We get stagnant a lot out there,” LaVine said. “We’ll run one action and then everybody is staring at the person with the ball. We gotta get more fluid. I don’t feel a lot of people are in rhythm. When that happens, obviously everybody starts trying to do it themselves.

“It’s tough. I blame myself. I try to do that as well. I’m in the gym late. I’m putting up shots. I’m making sure I’m prepared so I can do everything I can to help. We gotta do a better job as a team.”

LaVine is slowly giving stronger voice to issues he sees with the offense. Following Friday’s practice, he talked about needing to utilize Markkanen more in the post. Markkanen also has talked about the equal opportunity offense in the context of him attempting 10 or fewer shots in eight of 13 games now.

“Sometimes you get the ball and to me it feels like there are 12 eyes staring at me,” LaVine said. “I’m not scared to take any shot. I’ve not scared to miss a shot. I’ve taken all these shots before. If I’m the person to blame, I can take it. I’m in the gym working on my craft each night. I always look at myself first before anyone else. We just gotta do better as a unit.”

What does LaVine, who finished with 36 points, do when he feels 12 eyes staring at him?

"I try to call a pick-and-roll most of the time when that happens and then if nothing comes from that, I'm going to take the shot or pass it. I'm definitely going to at least get a shot on the rim,” he said. “I'm not one to just dribble the clock out or anything like that or throw it to somebody with seven seconds left (on the shot clock). If I get it at the top of the key with eight, nine seconds left on the clock, I'm going to try to make a play."

But what about the lack of cutting?

“I mean, it's our offense. We have a five-out offense,” he said. “So it gets tough when we get to those stagnant points because that's how it's supposed to be."

LaVine attempted double-digit free throws for just the second time this season. He had four such games through 13 games last season.

He also joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls to post at least 2,100 points, 400 rebounds, 400 assists, 100 steals and 30 blocks in his first 100 games with the franchise. But until the Bulls start winning, LaVine knows his numbers mean little.

“We should take offense to it. We’ve had a really easy schedule to start off,” LaVine said. “You gotta win the games you’re supposed to win. We’ve pissed away a lot of games I think we should’ve won.”

But no changes are coming to the rotation or system.

"I think we gotta stay the course," Boylen said. "Listen, nobody likes losing games. There’s no shame in losing an NBA game. It happens every day. What I’m disappointed in is our start, a home game, on a Saturday night in Chicago. I didn’t like the way we started. I can’t play for them. They gotta come out and do it."

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, See Red Fred joins Big Dave and Matt Peck. The guys talk about some big plays down the stretch by Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine. Plus a great defensive job by Kris Dunn on Paul George. (1:30) See Red Fred states his case for more playing time for Denzel Valentine. (4:00) Plus what's going to happen when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison come back. (8:00) The guys share some concerns about Coby White in the short term. (10:30) See Red Fred tells you about 3 players who have exceeded expectations this year. (13:00) Plus the guys debate whether Zach LaVine should compete in the dunk contest or 3 point competition. (18:00) They discuss the impact that Kris Dunn has had on the defensive end of the floor. (20:30) Plus See Red Fred lays out his blueprint for the Bulls to make the playoffs. (23:30) Plus the guys make a wager regarding the rest of the season. (25:00)
 

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

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Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Just over two hours before tipoff, in his first public comments since Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how Jim Boylen’s teaching and coaching hasn’t always translated from the practice floor and film room to games.

Could the Bulls’ first victory this season over a winning team be a step?

And don’t mention that the Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams in the Bulls’ 109-106 victory, secured on Zach LaVine’s three-point play with 2 seconds to play.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto Porter Jr.) or Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) or (Daniel) Gafford,” Boylen said. “So we can ‘Yeah, but’ it a little bit too.”

Bravado aside, there’s stuff on which the Bulls can build here.

LaVine posted his sixth 30-point game and ended a week filled with closing misses with a game-winner in which he powered through a Montrezl Harrell foul on a nice misdirection play involving Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen tied his season-high with 17 rebounds while posting his third double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine, playing all but two seconds of the fourth, hit a huge tying 3-pointer in the final minute and scored a season-high 16 points. Thad Young tied his season-high with 17 points.

And Dunn was everywhere, relishing the challenge of guarding Paul George down the stretch and winning a crucial battle for a 50-50 ball that led to Valentine’s tying shot.

“That was a huge moment,” Boylen said.

So was Valentine closing a game.

“I just thought we needed some more shooting on the floor,” Boylen said. “We’ve wrestled with defensive lineups, offensive lineups. We try to mingle them a little bit. I just thought we needed someone to make a big shot. And he did.”

Valentine has now scored in double figures off the bench in five of six games.

“I’m very confident in my abilities,” Valentine said. “I was just waiting for the ball to come my way. Zach is our best player. So the ball’s going to be in his hands. But shoot, I’m ready for it. I love those moments. I love to make those shots.”

Dunn, who finished a plus-22, defended George as he missed a good look for a tying 3-pointer. George scored 10 points in just over 7 minutes in the fourth but missed all three attempts following Valentine’s tying shot.

“I love it,” Dunn said of guarding great players. “I know my niche on this team is to guard. And I take pride in that. It feels good to go against a big-time player and be able to get stops towards the end.”

Markkanen actually received credit for the rebound that Dunn kept alive to lead to Valentine’s tying shot, which Dunn said Markkanen teased him about. Dunn finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.

But his two biggest plays didn’t even crash the box score. He won the 50-50 ball to lead to Valentine’s tying shot and then confused the Clippers’ defense by slipping a screen on LaVine’s game-winner.

“I knew Zach was going to get downhill,” Dunn said. “Because once I did it, I saw Paul George look at me.”

LaVine couldn’t believe how much space he had to operate.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “Once I saw the lane open up, I think there were like 5 seconds left. We were trying to get the last shot. But once the lane opened up, I tried to get a one-on-one. He’s a tough dude. I knew I could attack his body.”

LaVine missed game-winning attempts on an isolation 3-pointer against the Warriors and over a double-team against the Raptors. His three-point play offered a dose of redemption for a player who is never afraid to fail.

“You’re not going to be perfect. As much as people are going to show more of the bad than the good, I’ve had a lot of good times in the clutch as well,” LaVine said. “I try to make the right play for us to win. And I did that tonight.”

For one night, matters were more positive. The Bulls closed out a game against a good team and received multiple contributions while doing so.

Heck, Boylen even downplayed Paxson’s vote of confidence.

“We understand what we’re trying to do. We’re in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like,” the coach said. “I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t expect anything less.”