Bulls

Bulls suffer worst loss of season to Hornets

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Bulls suffer worst loss of season to Hornets

Doug McDermott’s silky smooth jumper was immediately followed by Jeremy Lamb treating him as if he were a three-feet cone on a 3-pointer.

Aaron Brooks’s third triple of the night was met by Kemba Walker losing him on a deadly crossover and nailing a jumper of his own.

The Bulls’ offense wasn’t a huge problem but it was a reminder about playing on one end of the floor won’t get it done, as they handed the Charlotte Hornets their first win of the season, a 130-105 drubbing at Time Warner Cable Arena.

The loss was their worst defensive showing in regulation since March 9, 2010, a 132-108 loss to the Utah Jazz—the last season before Tom Thibodeau took over as coach.

“It was a complete domination from the tip, and they just had their way with us,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We didn’t have any fight, no resolve, didn’t try and go back at them. Just kind of accepted it tonight.”

[MORE: Bulls' defense carrying the load thus far; Dunleavy on the mend]

The only resistance was accidental, as they allowed the Hornets to hit eight of their first 10 triples and encouraged their 70 percent first-quarter shooting by being completely indifferent to the premise of defending.

In the first half, Joakim Noah nailed Cody Zeller with an accidental elbow that drew blood all over the baseline as the Bulls galloped downcourt for a 3-pointer.

Before then and soon after, it was evident that the Bulls were seeing red—and against one of the league’s most inept offensive teams at that.

But one wouldn’t know that by seeing Lamb, a recipient of a new three-year, $21 million deal many around the NBA questioned, responded by playing free, hitting his first six shots from the field on the way to 20 points, missing just one of his 10 attempts.

“I mean you want to compete,” Hoiberg said. “There’s nights that ball is not going to go in the basket, you gotta fight. I mean they scored over 30 every quarter, and that’s disappointing. Everyone seemed like they were on an island. Not only on defense, but offense and defense. Just not a good night.”

Lamb wasn’t the only one, considering the group of himself, Spencer Hawes, Jeremy Lin and Frank Kaminsky went eight for nine from 3-point range, putting on their best Golden State Warriors impersonation.

The Hornets shot 51 percent and 61 from 3-point range. In essence, the Bulls played like strangers.

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“It was an individual effort out there tonight,” Hoiberg said. “Nobody had each other’s back, nobody made extra passes, they outrebounded us by 19 … you can go right down the line. Just wasn’t there. We’ve been pretty solid on that end of the floor, holding a good percentage from three, keeping teams off the line pretty well, and they just beat us in all areas tonight.”

Seven Hornets scored in double figures, as they seemed to heed whatever suggestions former Bulls coach Thibodeau sent Steve Clifford’s way—Thibodeau and Clifford are close friends, as Clifford said Thibodeau sent “37 suggestions last night."

All of them must’ve worked, as the Bulls got worked from the opening tip, clearly a step slow defensively and unable to stop the bleeding. Hoiberg even inserted Joakim Noah to play with Pau Gasol to stop the damage Al Jefferson was inflicting on the Bulls but to no avail.

The Hornets kept pouring it on, with 37 first-quarter points and 69 in the first half, committing only one turnover in the first half. The Hornets were more aggressive in every tangible and intangible way, going to the line double the amount of times and outrebounding them by a wide margin.

It negated Jimmy Butler scoring 26 points in 32 minutes and even McDermott’s career-high of 17.

With the way the Hornets were shooting, the Bulls had better hope it was an aberration of the worst kind—because if this continues, it could be a warning sign of the worst kind of things to come.

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

The Bulls recorded their first win of the preseason with Sunday night’s 105-91 win over the Raptors. Here are three takeaways:

We got a peek at Jim Boylen's regular-season rotation

We had a clue that Boylen was going to go with Tomas Satoransky as his starter after he chose to sit him with the starters in the Bulls third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers, and tonight helped further confirm this idea. Boylen stated before the game that he would be starting to roll out his regular season rotations, and we saw "Sato" start next to the regular Bulls starting group of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and the returning Wendell Carter Jr.

On top of seeing the starting group, we got to see Thaddeus Young in his probable role as the sixth man, coming in for Carter to provide the Bulls with more of a small look where Markkanen acts as the center.

Markkanen was particularly effective on the glass against the smaller Raptors frontline sans Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam. Lauri collected a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, including 4 offensive rebounds. 

Giving an even greater effort on the glass will push Markkanen closer to All-Star status and it is not out of the question as we have seen him raise his rebounding average every season. Games like Sunday night's show that all of the muscle Markkanen added this offseason is going to pay dividends in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and beyond, which will allow the Bulls to play smaller more often to get dynamic scorers like Coby White on the floor.

White came in as a substitute for Porter, giving the Bulls another small-ball lineup in which LaVine acts as the small forward next to him and Satoransky.

Satoransky was great, finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes. Sato pushed the pace but also could sense the right time to pull the ball back out and run a play in the halfcourt.

In general, the Bulls trotted out more three-guard lineups in this game, and the size of big guards like Satoransky and Dunn help the Bulls blur the lines between wing and guard, mitigating some of the risks involved with not having a traditional wing on the floor.

On the flip side, the perimeter skills of a big man like Young allow the Bulls to play bigger lineups in which Young plays small forward next to two big men. In Sunday night's win over the Raptors, Young finished the game second on the Bulls in rebounds (7) and assists (3), while being in the right spot more times than not on D. 

With stretch-five Luke Kornet (2-7 from 3-point line vs Raptors), the gritty, playmaking Ryan Arcidiacono (3 assists, no turnovers), and rookie Daniel Gafford rounding out the rest of the new Bulls' Bench Mob", Boylen will have the ability to play many different ways, affording us a fair chance to see what Boylen is made of as an NBA head coach. He is already passing his first test of showing that he is open to change, with the Bulls shooting 49 3-pointers on Sunday night, keeping their promise of being more aggressive from deep.

The Zach LaVine All-Star push starts now 

Overall, Zach LaVine has not been shy about already being at an All-Star level of play, you just have to ask him.

LaVine came into Sunday night's game sixth in the league in preseason scoring, averaging 22.0 points per game through two contests, and he kept up that scoring onslaught in a big way. He finished the Bulls win over the Raptors with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in just 24 minutes of action. He finished the night with four turnovers as well, and while you would like to see the assist-to-turnover ratio improve, high turnover totals are just the name of the game for high-usage stars.

Besides, Boylen and co. likely would rather see LaVine collect some turnovers trying to make the extra pass—something the Bulls have committed to hard this preseason—rather than trying to iso and make a play for himself.

Notably, the LaVine-Markkanen pick-and-roll that figures to be a staple of the Bulls offense for a long time again made an appearance in this game, looking crisp at moments as defenses struggle with scrambling to Markkanen at the 3-point line or worrying more about LaVine's oftentimes dominant drives to the rim.

While it is encouraging to see LaVine score effortlessly, that is not a new development for Bulls fans. The true mark of improvement for LaVine will be his defense and playmaking, both of which looked good on Sunday night.

LaVine racked up two steals and showed an improved awareness and aggressiveness when prowling the passing lanes. What makes defense so huge for LaVine besides the fact that his effort-level sets the tone for the team is that he so often turns opponent turnovers into points in transition for Chicago.

The Bulls had 14 fastbreak points and 17 points off of turnovers in their win over the Raptors, with LaVine's efforts playing a large hand in the win. 

Coby White continues to score in bunches 

It has been stated many times how Coby White was more of a shooting guard in high school and only transitioned into being more a lead guard at North Carolina. And those natural scoring instincts have shown up time and time again in the NBA preseason, especially in transition. 

If you get White going towards the rim with a head of steam in transition, he will make it to the basket before the 24-second shot clock hits the 19-second mark, a remarkable display of his blazing speed.

Of course, everything is to be taken with a grain of salt in the NBA preseason, as we are often seeing White (and others) face off against a team's backups or even worse, players that won't even make an NBA roster. But what White has done well should play in the regular season too. He scored 18 points on 37.5% shooting from the field, including hitting 4 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. White was 2-2 from the free throw line and finished with one assist and no turnovers. 

It looks like it will be a while before we see Coby White look like an NBA-level floor general but he is already playing like an uber-confident, spark plug shooting guard.

The Bulls can utilize White's scoring in the regular season knowing that even if his court vision isn't where they want it to be, his shoot-first mentality and propensity to keep the ball moving should result in lower turnover totals than your usual score-first point guard.

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

After getting a look at each point guard in the starting lineup this preseason, Jim Boylen finally got a look at what appears to be his starting lineup for Opening Night. 

Tomas Satoransky started as the point next to Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. That group was down 10-7 when Carter subbed out at the 8:36 mark but looked better in later stints in the game. 

Carter was noticeably slow on his first step on his defense, specifically on plays where Raptors center Chris Boucher was able to use his speed and length advantage to finish at the rim. But he was solid on the glass, even chipping in on the offensive rebounding side of things, grabbing 3 offensive boards in the first half alone. 

Carter was clearly re-adjusting to the speed of NBA basketball and as play-by-play broadcaster Stacey King noted during the game, he "just doesn't have his legs underneath him." He was 1-6 from the floor, struggling to get lift as he went up for putback layups around the basket. 

That being said, he was decent, more so on the defensive side of the floor where he became more active as the game wore on.

In his 16-minutes stint, Carter posted 10 points, 7 rebounds, an assist and a block, while picking up 3 personal fouls. 

Outside of Carter's return stint, the Bulls new-look starting group looked solid and offers hope as we approach the start of the NBA regular season.