Bulls

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Bucks

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Bucks

Watch as the Bulls take on the Bucks tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Rotations may change again. Thursday night saw Denzel Valentine (19 minutes) and Bobby Portis (23 minutes) enter the rotation, while Nikola Mirotic logged a DNP-CD. The results was an ugly, ugly loss. Will we see more rotation changes on Friday? Perhaps second-round pick Paul Zipser?

2. Slowing down Jabari/Giannis. The Bucks' two franchise players were electric on Thursday. Parker went for 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting and five rebounds, while Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds. In all they tallied 58 points on 46 shots, and made 5 of 9 triples. The Bulls need to find an answer quickly.

3. The back-to-back. The Bulls are 2-3 this year on the second half of back-to-backs, while the Bucks are 0-4 in such situations. Having a more veteran group knowing how to deal with back-to-backs will help. But right now the Bucks appear to be the more athletic and deeper team, which will work in their favor.

4. Build on that momentum. This one might be a stretch, but the Bulls were able to pull within eight of the Bucks in the fourth quarter. They won the final period, 31-20, which admittedly masked just how bad the performance was. But maybe that strong fourth quarter will give the team a boost out of the gates on Friday.

5. Tony Snell returns. OK, so the wing probably won't receive the kind of ovation Tom Thibodeau did on Tuesday. But it will be Snell's first trip back since being dealt for Michael Carter-Williams in the offseason. Snell had nine points and four rebounds in 31 minutes on Thursday.

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The Bulls' taco theft in Los Angeles last night was their best win of the season and you can't convince me otherwise

The Bulls' taco theft in Los Angeles last night was their best win of the season and you can't convince me otherwise

Tired: The Bulls dropped last night's game to extend their losing streak to 8 and even the most preposterous displays of athleticsim from Zion Williamson can only bring momentary relief from the palpable sadness and apathy this team is drenched in. 
Wired: The Bulls stole free tacos right out of the hands of tan fans in Los Angeles last night, hell yeah, who's to even say what defines a 'loss'

In a world where late night SportsTwitter is just 10-second clips of game-ending basketball heaves with BAD BEAT WOAHHH slapped above it, this may be the Baddest Beat of all. 

You see, this season the Lakers -- in partnership with Jack-in-The-Box -- are happy to offer you a promotion where, when the Lakers win at home while keeping the other team under 100 points, you get two free tacos. Now obviously I don't need to explain to you that it is a terrific deal, because you too love the taco; we won't even get into how much you love the free taco. And 2 of them? Incogitable. 

So now we come to the hero of our story, a 34-loss Bulls team. With less than 2 seconds left, all the makings of a post game Taco Tuesday were in place. The Lakers had over 100 points, were at home, and had held the Bulls to 98. Chicago was swinging the ball around aimlessly (ball movement!) and things were dire. Like Ethan Hunt trying to chase down a full-speed 747, all seemed lost. 

And then: 

Don't you ever say Shaquille Harrison isn't the most clutch player on the Bulls. Look how that 100th point just hangs on the rim, tantalizing LA residents like the sizzling pile of spiced meat and fajita veggies that they'll now have to pay AT LEAST 99 cents for now. 

Fans were *not* having it: 

The Bulls might give you 92 points in one half. They may give you an NBA-record 10 three-pointers too. But they'll never give you two free tacos. 

Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!

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USA TODAY

Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!

The Bulls have now lost eight straight. The most recent defeat came in Los Angeles against a LeBron-less Lakers team, and there's not a whole lot to take from it. But we tried to find three items.

1. It was just one game, but Jabari Parker looks reinvigorated

Jabari Parker looks like he's back in the rotation to stay - or until he's traded - and while it was just a one-game sample size, he sure looks like he wants to remain there, too.

Parker's statline won't jump out in the box score but he made a few plays defensively and was arguably the Bulls' best offensive player. He hit a couple tough jumpers, made an important hustle play in the fourth quarter and finished with a jam. He wasn't outstanding defensively but played a few passing lanes and contested a few shots inside.

All isn't forgiven, and he isn't going to give Rudy Gobert a run for his money for Defensive Player of the Year, but it's about baby steps with Parker. Whether it's to help the Bulls progress as a young team, or to showcase his talents (we're using that word liberally) for a potential trade, these are seriously important games for Parker and the Bulls.

Part of his night came in that frantic stretch in the final minutes of the game (see below) and he finished with a team-high 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting, a pair of 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in just 17 minutes.

The better Parker plays, the more interest there is in him around the league. His contract still makes him a minimal asset and the Bulls can't expect to get much in return for him, but it beats him rotting on the end of the bench or taking minutes away from Markkanen or Bobby Portis.

2. Shaq Harrison rips out the heart of 21,000+ at Staples Center

If you're a true #AuthenticFan and stayed up through the end of the Bulls game you saw an incredible fourth quarter run in which the Bulls....denied Lakers fans free tacos.

Staples Center and the Lakers run a promotion where if the team wins and holds its opponent under 100 points, all fans in attendance get free tacos from Jack In The Box.

Fans looked to be in good shape as the Bulls had just 83 points with 2:19 remaining. From there, the Bulls' possessions went: 2 made free throws (85), layup (87), 3-pointer (90), dunk (92), one free throw (93), layup (95), 3-pointer (98). There were just 35 seconds remaining at that point, when Jabari Parker missed two free throws and gave the ball back to the Lakers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope split a pair of free throws with 19.2 seconds left. And on the Bulls' presumably final possession, Shaq Harrison missed a 3-pointer, but Ryan Arcidiacono grabbed an offensive rebound and found Harrison on the left wing, who pump faked and drew a foul on Ivica Zubac.

Harrison made the first two free throws to give the Bulls 100 points and send fans home hungry. The entire sequence was amazing.

3. It doesn't get any easier for the Bulls

The Bulls have now lost eight straight games, four more than the second longest losing streak in the league (New York). And the road isn't getting any easier.

They'll finish this difficult West Coast road trip on Thursday against the Denver Nuggets, who were just embarrassed by the Warriors on their home floor. You can bet the West's top seed is going to come out and play with some serious passion. That spells trouble for the Bulls.

On Saturday the Bulls return home to face the Heat, who are all sorts of a mess right now. But that first game after a road trip is a seriously difficult one. That could easily be a loss.

Then the Zion Bowl occurs on Monday: Bulls-Cavs.

It's the Cam Payne revenge game and it's going to be glorious. The Bulls should win that one, but then again....the Cavaliers beat the Lakers in L.A. on Tuesday and the Bulls couldn't do that.