Utah Jazz

Jim Boylen, Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter react to deflating loss to Warriors

Jim Boylen, Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter react to deflating loss to Warriors

At 11:52 p.m. Central time Wednesday, the final buzzer blared on the Bulls’ most demoralizing loss of the 2019 season, yet: a 104-90 unraveling at the hands of the Warriors.

Eight minutes later, the clock struck midnight on Thanksgiving Eve and, perhaps with it, the Bulls rebuild.

Losing games is one thing. The Bulls, for their part, are well-acquainted with the concept. Wednesday night’s loss marked the team’s 13th defeat in 19 games to open the 2019 season; the 54th of the 77th game (and counting) of the Jim Boylen era; the 128th in 2 1/4 seasons since shipping Jimmy Butler to Minnesota in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the pick that became Lauri Markkanen. 

But losing this game? A game against a team that entered the contest with the NBA’s worst record (3-15) and without four starters (two of whom are future hall of famers)? A game in which the lowest-rated defensive team in the league both outrebounded the Bulls 54-42 and held them to 27.6 points below their previous opponents’ season average? A game that kicked off a road trip flush with supposedly winnable games, at a do-or-die juncture in terms of turning this season around?

That’s quite different.

“I think at times we're very confident, I think at times we struggle with that. I think that's what young teams do. And I go back to consistency. You know, we're looking for consistency,” Jim Boylen said after the game. “We had some really good moments tonight, again, and we battled. It was a physical, hard-fought game. They made some plays at the end that we didn't. And that was the difference.”

And on the plan, moving forward?

“You just go to work the next day, that's all you do. You go to work the next day,” Boylen continued. “There's no shame in this game tonight. We played hard and we competed and we battled and we're gonna do the same thing, we're gonna practice tomorrow, we're gonna have some turkey and we're gonna play Friday… This is not the defining moment of our season. We're gonna keep playing.”

 

Only in some ways this loss seems to perfectly define this Bulls season, in brutally microcosmic fashion. In the game, Boylen trotted out 13 players for at least five minutes (with the exception of Chandler Hutchison, who left the game early in the first with an apparent shoulder injury), but the Bulls bench was outscored 35-19. 

Markkanen, more maligned with each passing day, attempted only 10 shots in 25 minutes, scoring eight points on 3-for-10 shooting. Kris Dunn fouled out early in the fourth quarter with zero points. Coby White shot 0-for-7 from the field. Wendell Carter struggled with foul trouble.

“They're a physical team,” Boylen said. “I thought in the first quarter that kind of shook us a little bit. Then I thought the game under control and we battled back and had a hell of a second quarter, and then we came out in the third and I thought we battled.”

At the heart of that second quarter resurgence was Zach LaVine. In fact, he has been at the heart of every competitive stretch the Bulls have played in their last three games. Tonight, he scored 36 points on 54.9% shooting (44.4% from three) with five rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. He attempted twice as many shots (24) as the next closest Bull (Tomas Satoransky with 12).

Once again, LaVine played well enough to win, and once again, it wasn’t enough.

“I think every loss you should be upset about. I don't think you should be ashamed about any loss, but you should be upset every time you lose the game,” LaVine said when asked about Boylen saying the Bulls shouldn’t be ashamed of the performance. “If we lose to the worst team or the best team in the league, or if you lose by one or 25, it's still an L.

“This is the Golden State Warriors, man, they have championship class, they got championship coaching, you know, they still have veteran players on the team, so there's no shame in any of that, they still played their game.”

But those were only the ‘championship-class’ Warriors in name and uniform. Sure, Draymond Green suited up for the hosts and posted a vintage statline of seven points, eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks. But the rest of his castmates are largely unfamiliar. Eric Paschall. Omari Spellman. Marquese Chriss. Alec Burks. 

These are fine NBA players. They do not comprise a roster that the Bulls — given the level of expectation for this season — should be walking away from proud for having simply “competed” with. This was a game they could have and should have won. 

Wendell Carter acknowledged that fact after the game, further cementing themselves as a stalwart locker-room presence beyond his age:

Now, fans and pundits will begin to turn up the heat. And they should. But the Bulls are also wise to shut that noise out. The players can only control what they can control, after all, and right now, that needs to be exacting vengeance on Portland this Friday.

Boylen says they will keep going to work. LaVine, in a way, echoed that sentiment.

“I try to keep everybody up, you know, especially in the huddles in stuff like that. Each day is a new day, a new game,” LaVine said. “This can flip at any time. You just gotta be confident, you gotta think that way, you know, you can't think negatively.

“Any outside people trying to bring us down, you know, I don't even want to listen to it, cause you gotta psych yourself out to get out of a rut sometimes. And I think that's what we're in right now, a little bit of a rut. But I still believe we can get ourselves out of it.”

The longer this malaise drags on, the more difficult the questions that need answering will become.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

NBA Power Rankings: Christmas Day sheds light on several title contenders

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USA TODAY

NBA Power Rankings: Christmas Day sheds light on several title contenders

Sadly—fortunately?—the Bulls were left off of the NBA Christmas Day slate. But while we didn’t get to see another big night from Lauri Markkanen and co., we did get a better idea of the true contenders among the some of the top teams in the league.

Christmas Day featured five games, all involving teams still in the playoff hunt sans the Knicks. So what did we learn?

We learned that the Rockets can still hang with the league’s best, as they downed the Thunder 113-109 behind 41 points from James Harden. Houston held the Thunder to 43 percent from the field and seem to have rediscovered last seasons’ mojo. Their win was even more impressive considering that it came without Chris Paul in the lineup.

https://twitter.com/HoustonRockets/status/1077927008930353153

PJ Tucker and Danuel House Jr. form a tenacious defensive duo on the wings, with rookie Gary Clark Jr. also playing the role of low-usage, defensive-minded forward well. Turnovers will continue to be an issue for Houston in the absence of Paul, just as 3-point shooting will continue to be an issue for the Thunder all season. But both teams should see the light at the end of the playoff tunnel by the end of the season.

There wasn’t much to take away from the first game of the day, as the Bucks 14-point win over the Knicks was only surprising because Milwaukee shot a miserable 6-for-32 from the 3-point line.


Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated with a 30/14/3/4/2 stat line, though New York got solid performances from some of their young talent, with Noah Vonleh specifically shining with a 14-point, 15-rebound double-double in 33 minutes.

Boston proved that last season’s playoff series win over the Sixers was no fluke, as Kyrie Irving got whatever he wanted all  night. He dropped 40 points in the OT win, including some truly amazing shots that he hit while guarded by All-Star Jimmy Butler.


The Sixers lack of bench production--13 points off the bench compared to 25 for the Celtics --sunk them in this game. With their “big 3” in place, the rest of this season should be about adding depth around the margins for Philly.

Even if the Sixers had home court advantage in the playoffs, they will be hard-pressed to make the NBA Finals with Landry Shamet being the best shooter off the bench.

The final two matchups of the night were Western Conference showdowns. The main event of the evening (Warriors-Lakers) almost marred by injury, as LeBron James went down with a groin injury after just 21 minutes of play. But once James went down, Rajon Rondo led the charge. He showed a heightened aggressiveness on offense, finishing with 15 points and 10 assists, while shooting 1-for-3 from the 3-point line. Los Angeles also had seven players score in double figures. We learned that the Lakers will be a tough out in the postseason because of the attention to detail on defense, combined with their ability to get up-and-down the floor quickly. Curry had a rough game against the Lakers, and Lonzo Ball deserves some credit for applying pressure on or off-ball.

In the Christmas nightcap, the Jazz dominated the Trail Blazers 117-96. Utah is still trying to climb back into the playoff race, as they sit a full two games back of the No. 8 seed. But we learned that their dominant defense is capable of vaulting them back into the thick of things, even with a struggling offense.

Donovan Mitchell is still shooting a horrid 31 percent over his last five games, but in that same span the Jazz are playing some of their best defense of the season. Utah is tops in the league in defensive rating over their last five games, allowing an impressively low 97 points per 100 possessions. Until Mitchell starts shooting better, the offense can stay afloat by emphasizing Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio more than usual. The duo combined for 32 points in the Jazz’ Christmas day win, one of the rare times Mitchell and Rubio have scored effectively, at the same time.


There are still doubts to be had as far as the Jazz’ case to make the postseason. If Mitchell’s regression this season is real, then move the Jazz to the top of the list of teams that need to make a roster move. They can win games with a less efficient Mitchell, but it is increasingly hard to string together wins with the offense being where it is currently.

Now that all of the Christmas Day dust has settled, we sit with 11 teams in playoff contention in the East and 14 (!!) in the ultra-competitive, parity-filled West. See how Christmas Day and the rest of the week changed our NBA Power Rankings here.

Utah Jazz show they're still salty about MJ's final shot with Bulls

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AP

Utah Jazz show they're still salty about MJ's final shot with Bulls

The 1998 NBA Finals resulted in two things: the Bulls’ sixth title and 20 years of bitterness for the Utah Jazz.

Exactly two decades after “The Last Shot,” the Jazz proved they still haven’t gotten over that Game 6 loss to the Bulls, particularly Michael Jordan’s “push-off,” with their latest comment on NBA’s Instagram.

What appeared to be a push-off on Bryon Russell that gave Jordan an open look and game-winning bucket with 5.2 seconds left to play has cemented a sour taste in the mouths of the Jazz organization for countless years.

When fans look back 20 seasons, the history books only describe how Jordan won his sixth title by scoring one of his famed clutch shots in Salt Lake City. But in reality, that was the last time the Jazz appeared in the NBA Finals. Utah has gone that long without even making a championship appearance.

In fact, the Jazz, formerly led by John Stockton and Karl Malone, lost both of their Finals appearances to the Bulls in 1997 and 1998.

Putting that in perspective, the last memory Utah has in a championship game is Jordan pushing off on their own Russell and the loss that came just moments after. The Jazz are obviously still scarred from that moment.

This past season, the Jazz lost in the Western Conference Semifinals and the Bulls didn’t make the playoffs. Things are looking up for an evidently resentful Utah organization, but it hasn’t helped them forget about what happened in 1998.