Bulls

Bulls return home thwarted with sloppy loss to Lakers

Bulls return home thwarted with sloppy loss to Lakers

The Bulls’ bench had been a warning sign even during this team’s unexpected start, but it was only a matter of time before it came back to bite them

And with the Los Angeles Lakers in town, on a back-to-back after taking a whipping from the New Orleans Pelicans, it didn’t seem likely this would be the night for the Bulls to start off what could be a fruitful home stretch with fruit flies.

But the gnats were all around in the Bulls’ 96-90 loss at the United Center Wednesday, starting from the second quarter and ending with Jimmy Butler’s airballed 3-point attempt that could’ve tied the game with under 20 seconds left, a play where Butler found himself open on in a similar fashion as their late loss in Denver a week ago when Butler didn’t get a chance to tie it late.

“I let it go like I did the other one; It came up short,” Butler said. “I guarantee you it won’t be the last time I take a shot like that. Hopefully it’ll be the last I miss one but I doubt it. I’ll probably miss another one.”

It was an ugly finish to an ugly night for the Bulls, after allegedly heeding the age-old warning about the first game back from a long road being a tough one. They took a 14-point lead in the first but it disappeared when the second units stepped on the floor and the Bulls were in a dogfight for the better part of the last 40 minutes.

“It goes to show you, you don’t go out and play with energy, you’re not gonna give yourself a chance,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It didn’t even look like the same team. The turnovers in the second half, mindless, careless. Disappointing, just disappointing game.”

Shooting just 35 percent, the Bulls couldn’t find much of a rhythm outside the first quarter and the bench was again a problem. Not only were the Lakers so potent off the bench, with Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams scoring 18 each, but Larry Nance Jr added 12 with 11 rebounds and the Bulls bench was outscored 56-16—another sign the Bulls need Michael Carter-Williams and Doug McDermott back in the worst way.

Isaiah Canaan finished with a minus-19 in 25 minutes. Bobby Portis finished with a minus-15 in 10 minutes and Nikola Mirotic shot just three for nine and was a minus-9 in 21 minutes.

“Tried to get a couple of our starters out there early, get them back in there with the second unit,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gotten some solid minutes with the bench in this early portion of the season. Tonight we struggled in the area.”

The memory of Butler tossing Laker defenders off him like rag dolls on his way to a 40-point game was fresh enough in the Lakers’ minds.

He received a much more physical brand of treatment this time around, being double-teamed at seemingly every part of the floor. Butler still went to the line and converted in abundance, hitting 13 of 15, but the easy treading was over.

They were dominated on the glass, a turnaround from what has been a hallmark of this early start as the Lakers outleaped and outhustled the Bulls to loose balls. Julius Randle’s relentlessness on the glass helped the Lakers to a hug 60-46 advantage while subsequently fouling out Taj Gibson with under three minutes left.

Randle’s spin and basket over Mirotic with 45 seconds left as the immediate counter to Butler tying the game at 90 with a triple, as Randle finished with 13 points and 20 rebounds.

The Bulls nearly pulled one from their behinds, as Rajon Rondo was engaged, hitting half of the Bulls’ four triples but nobody could do enough to counter the Bulls going four of 21 from long range.

Mirotic missed all four of his 3-pointers and Isaiah Canaan went one for five from three.

“I think that’s one of those nights,” Butler said. “Take shots you normally make, continue to take them, they’re gonna fall. We’ll be alright.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

And although the Bulls didn’t defend terribly, they didn’t defend well enough to offset their putrid showing offensively.

“I think the missed shots definitely affected us. And again, you can’t let that happen,” Hoiberg said. “Your defense and rebounding has to be your constant. It was one of those games on that end of the floor where the ball wasn’t going in. When they did, it ended up in a layup for them.”

Rondo hit two triples to start the third, looking more assertive as a whole offensively. He poked balls away after the Lakers started fast breaks and when he got the ball with an advantage, he wasn’t content to just settle; he absorbed the space given to him and attacked the rim on occasion.

He finished with 14, eight rebounds and six assists while Dwyane Wade scored 17, with all five starters scoring in double figures but getting nothing from the reserves.

Even the Lakers turning it over 24 times for 26 points couldn't save the Bulls from themselves. Robin Lopez blocked eight shots but the Lakers were so relentless in attacking, he couldn’t stop everything and the Bulls found themselves fighting a team with new life trying to make amends for a bad game the night before.

So the Bulls countered with one of their own.two triples to start the third, looking more assertive as a whole offensively. He poked balls away after the Lakers started fast breaks and when he got the ball with an advantage, he wasn’t content to just settle; he absorbed the space given to him and attacked the rim on occasion.

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 solution isn't simple

Lauri Markkanen's struggles are a daily storyline, but the solution 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.