The Bulls came out on fire against the Bucks, putting up 40 points in an explosive first quarter. Unfortunately they followed that up by scoring 41 points in the second half. But the offense of Jabari Parker and Justin Holiday was pretty much the only thing working for Chicago on Friday night.
In case you didn't believe that we're shooting 64.7% from behind the arc: pic.twitter.com/etNfXWj9SJ— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) November 17, 2018
Holiday’s effectiveness as an aggressive, dependable floor-spacer continues to showcase what makes him such a valuable NBA player. Unfortunately, that value has been mostly squandered on a Bulls team that lacks a diverse offensive attack.
Holiday contributed 9 points on 3-3 shooting from the 3-point line in the first quarter. He kept this momentum rolling in the second, and ended up not missing a single shot in the first half. Holiday ended the first half 6-6 from the 3-point line but went on to only score once more in the second half. He ended the game with 20 points, the second-leading scorer on the night for Chicago.
On a night where Zach LaVine was clearly gassed from the burden of carrying the offense all season (6-20 from the field), only Parker could provide a solid secondary option. Parker’s effectiveness also tapered off dramatically in the second half, as he stopped taking 3-pointers and didn’t get to the free throw line at all. Early season struggles were to be expected from Parker, as he is on a new team with a roster full of young players. But his shot selection is what has been so frustrating to watch.
Results do not have to be immediate, but seeing as Parker is taking a greater percentage of his shots from long 2-point range than last season, it is clear he hasn’t fully bought in to the idea of getting all the way to the basket or shooting the 3-pointer without hesitation. And that is why players like Holiday—one of Hoiberg’s loyal soldiers from his first year as Bulls coach—are so crucial.
It is clear that Hoiberg’s preferred playing style has stuck with Holiday and hopefully, that it can rub off on the other players.
We have discussed before how his 3-point attempt rate (72 percent) is the perfect indicator of how often he is hunting the 3-point shot. But the problem is that this current Bulls roster needs more players who create 3-point looks for others, rather than knock them down.
Heading into Friday night’s game, Holiday had been assisted on 72 percent of his 2-point shots and 95 percent of his 3-point shots. This season, he has been assisted on 57 percent of his 2-point shots and 90 percent of his 3-point shots. This is an alarming sign for the Holiday, as he has never been a player known for creating his own shot and the decline in assisted baskets means he is being forced outside of his comfort zone on offense.
It is no coincidence that Holiday’s 3-point percentage in November (35 percent) is lower than his 3-point percentage in October (40 percent). He played 34 minutes per game in October before that number got increased to 37 minutes per game in November. Holiday has been in the top 10 in minutes all year and there is no end in sight for his tremendous minutes load with the Bulls being so thin on the wing.
The 2019 NBA offseason for Chicago will likely be about finding players they can comfortably play at the small forward spot. But Bulls fans should appreciate Holiday’s play while he’s here, as he has been one of the team’s more consistent players. Holiday has done a decent amount of leading by example—especially when it comes to playing the way Hoiberg wants to—and continues to show why he can continue to be a valuable piece on this Bulls team.
Through two quarters the Bulls looked to be on their way to making the right kind of franchise history on Friday night in Milwaukee.
Then the third quarter happened and in a flash the Bulls were on an all too familiar other side of it.
The Milwaukee Bucks poured it on in the third quarter of their 123-104 victory, outscoring the Bulls 46-17 that included a 41-11 run at one point.
The Bulls were -29 in the 3rd quarter (46-17), matching the largest negative point differential in franchise history (-29 in the 4th quarter (47-18) against Detroit on November 6, 1985).— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) November 17, 2018
What made the third quarter even more depressing was how well the Bulls played in the first half. It was arguably their best half of the season, leading the 10-4 Bucks by 18 despite being 15-point underdogs.
Jabari Parker and Justin Holiday were filling in admirably as second options for the ailing Zach LaVine, something they hadn't done in past games as LaVine continued to rack up massive usage games. Holiday made all six of his 3-point attempts and Parker stayed hot early in games with 15 first-quarter points. It was the perfect recipe for success, and the fact that they led as many point as they did with LaVine scoring just XX made it all the more impressive.
The good play didn't last. It's not all that surprising that Milwaukee made a run in the second half. They're arguably the East's second best team (the Bulls will play the best on Saturday night) and were 6-1 at home with the frontrunner for league MVP.
What was surprising is that it happened so quickly and that everything the Bulls did right in the first 24 minutes got totally flipped on its head.
The Bulls finished with seven assists and eight turnovers in the second half after a 15:4 ratio in the first two quarters. Holiday hit a floater early in the third but went scoreless the rest of the evening, finishing with a pretty-in-the-box-score 20 points, while Parker went 2-for-7 with two turnovers in the second half. LaVine, battling an illness, had another horrid shooting performance, going 6 of 20 and scoring 15 points in 34 uninspiring minutes.
It's hard to describe just how bad it was. Fred Hoiberg has said in the past he doesn't want to keep using the fact that his team is young as an excuse, but it's the truth. They're not yet ready to handle adversity, especially with three core players out. They weren't going to shoot 9 for 15 from deep in the second half like they did in the first, but when things went sour the Bulls had no way to stop it.
And they once again made the wrong kind of history with a third quarter that somehow was worse than the 46-17 score looks.