The Chicago Bulls defense of their Summer League title started off on a shaky note with a 91-75 loss against the Dallas Mavericks. It was a good initial start for the Bulls, particularly from the rookie Lauri Markkanen but Dallas pulled away in the second half to hand Chicago the loss.
To start the game Chicago rolled out the lineup of Cameron Payne, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Paul Zipser, and Markkanen. This was essentially a small ball lineup with the Markkanen playing the five and the Bulls starting two point guards in the backcourt. This was countered by Dallas going with the same style in starting rookie Dennis Smith Jr. and Yogi Ferrell together.
The teams traded baskets all throughout the first quarter with Dunn hitting a shot with 10 seconds left to give Chicago a 21-19 lead at the end of it. The second quarter started more positively for the Bulls, with them taking a five point lead during the middle of it. Dallas made it a run to take the lead but two three’s from Valentine and Antonio Blakely with two Markkanen free throws in the middle helped Chicago take a 43-38 lead into halftime.
Out of all the players for the Bulls it was Markkanen and Valentine who excelled, especially offensively. Valentine showed the same confidence in his shot as he did last year. He went four of six from the field with two of them being three’s. There was no fear from him in terms of shooting. It was still troubling to see Valentine not showing any improvement in driving to the hoop though. Chicago’s lottery pick, Markkanen, also impressed. The rookie from Arizona went four of six from the field in the first half and knocked down a three as well, displaying his ability to stretch the floor for Chicago.
As for the two guys in the backcourt, it was Cameron Payne who handled most of the ball on offense and it did not look good. In the first half Payne looked really out of sorts, going one of five from the field and three turnovers. Dunn looked decent in the first half but looked very uncomfortable playing off the ball as the shooting guard when Payne was handling the ball. Foul trouble and turnovers was also a problem for him in this game, especially when he was over aggressive on defense and picked up silly fouls.
The third quarter belonged to the Mavericks, particularly Ferrell who began to heat up from the field. Ferrell hit three triples in the quarter, including a four-point play as he drew in Valentine and knocked down a deep three. He also the facilitator of some alley-oops to his big men coming off pick and rolls. Chicago was doubling and bringing out their big man to prevent Ferrell and Smith Jr. from a free lane to the basket. That left the roll man open and there were some easy dunks from the Mavs big men when that happened.
Dallas opened up with a 8-2 run to begin the quarter and took the lead with around seven minutes left in the third. Thanks to the likes of Paul Zipser and Dunn, the Bulls were able to keep it close. But every time that happened, the Mavericks would counter with a basket to push the lead even further. It wasn’t a huge deficit for Chicago with the lead only six for Dallas at 66-60 at the end of the third.
Just like the third quarter, Dallas started off on a run and it was one that Chicago couldn’t bounce back from. The Mavericks opened up a 16 point lead and with the Bulls looking lost offensively, it was all but over with around five minutes left in the game. Chicago really didn’t put up much of a fight the rest of the way as Dallas closed out the game with the final score 91-75.
Big man Brandon Ashley led the way for Dallas with 21 points while Markkanen led Chicago with 14 points and 8 rebounds.
Overall, this was a poor game from Chicago, especially from the backcourt of Payne and Dunn. There are some positive takeaways. Particularly from the Markkanen and Valentine, who both played well. Although it is Summer League, seeing guys like Payne and Dunn struggle is tough considering Chicago views them as pieces of their rebuild.
The SummerBulls are back in action Monday against the Atlanta Hawks at 3pm CT.