The Bulls hung with Philadelphia in the first half, but let another one slip in the third quarter and beyond. Observations from the Sixers' 100-89 victory:
Run, Chicago, run
The Bulls are at their best on the run — they entered play tonight ranked sixth in the NBA in percentage of total points on the fastbreak (14.3%), and that dynamic kept them in this one in the earlygoing.
Through quarter one, the Bulls outscored the Sixers 11-2 on the fastbreak (24-11 on the scoreboard), and extending into the beginning of the second, 16 of the Bulls’ first 27 points came in transition. By halftime, leading Philadelphia 47-46, their fastbreak points advantage had swelled to 18-4. All of that while forcing only five Sixers turnovers.
Lauri Markkanen benefitted the most from the pick-up in pace. He ran the floor hard throughout the first two quarters — cutting, dunking and curling around screens with purpose en route to 12 first half points on 5-for-7 shooting.
As a team, the Bulls had six dunks in the first half. Rims were rattling:
The Bulls finished the night wih 29 fastbreak points, but the energy noticably shifted in the Sixers' favor as the game wore on.
The third quarter got away from the Bulls
In the Bulls’ three games prior to this one, they outscored opponents by an average of 4.7 points per game in third quarters. Their season-long -1.9 third-quarter point differential ranks 27th in the NBA.
Tonight’s third quarter, which the Sixers won 35-24, was thus a regression to reality. In the 12 minutes that ultimately decided the game, Ben Simmons sliced and diced his way to six points and four assists, and Al Horford had nine points on 4-for-5 shooting. The two of them burned the Sixers’ pick-and-pop coverages with regularity. The Bulls committed five turnovers and shot 2-for-8 from three in the period.
But Furkan Korkmaz led the way. In the period, he scored 14 points and hit 4 of 4 from 3-point range on the heels of a first half that the Sixers shot the longball at only a 21.4% clip. Korkmaz finished the night 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting and hit a career-high six threes.
In the second half, the Sixers outshot the Bulls 55% to 41.5% from the field, 40% to 10.5% from three and outscored them 54-42. Philadelphia is a vastly better team and dominant at home, but it felt all too familiar.
Lauri Markkanen faded again
Also of note from that third quarter: Markkanen played eight-and-a-half of 12 minutes and took no shots as the 76ers vaulted from down one to up 10. In the second half, overall, Markkanen went scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting after his aforementioned strong first half.
This is a pattern now and has been for some time. Markkanen's 13:22 minutes in the first half (a half in which he at one point sat for a 10:38 minute stretch between the first and second quarter) and 28:48 minutes for the game feels too few (with the obvious caveat being the unknown severity of his lingering ankle ailment). Still, when all was said and done, Luke Kornet finished with more points (13) and shots (10) than Markkanen.
Salvaging Markkanen’s development should be trending towards a major priority for the Bulls in the second half of this season. Performances like this aren’t encouraging in the context of that mission.
Ben Simmons loves playing the Bulls. He finished this one with 20 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and for long stretches looked absolutely unstoppable against the undersized cast of characters the Bulls threw at him. Entering play, Simmons was averaging 19.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists with three triple-doubles against Chicago in his career.
Might it be Coby time? A bright spot! (I always try to sneak one in these things). Coby White ended up the Bulls’ second-leading scorer with 14 points and added four assists, to boot. His 5-for-13 shooting from the field and 2-for-6 from three don’t jump off the screen, but in spurts, he sparked the Bulls’ offensive attack and is beginning to pepper in more instances of his improved patience and decision-making in the halfcourt. The Bulls are now 15-28. If development is the focus, might it be time to give White a shot with the big boys?
- Zach LaVine couldn’t find the netting on his jumpers tonight, finishing 0-for-7 from three. But he still got to the rim at will and finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and 9-for-13 shooting inside the arc. It’s his first game since Jan. 6 with less than 25 points. It all goes to show how not-empty LaVine’s offensive numbers are, even if not all of his stellar performances translate to wins. On a night where he was good not great, the Bulls mustered only 89 points and were out of the game part-way through the third quarter.
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