The Bulls have been shooting flames lately, and they ran into a similarly hot Heat team in a MLK Day matinee at the United Center. When the ashes settled, it was the Bulls ending Miami’s seven-game winning streak in a 119-111 victory behind 16 3-pointers and a career game from Justin Holiday.
Holiday hit a career-high seven triples en route to a game-high 25 points. Holiday is making around 50 percent of his 3s in January and playing a big role in this recent stretch of games that has seen the Bulls hit 60 3-pointers over the last four games (44.1 percent from deep). They’ve also hit 10-plus 3s in eight straight games, a franchise record.
Speaking of 3-pointers, Lauri Markkanen made history by becoming the fastest player in NBA history to hit 100 long balls (41 games). Markkanen had another solid game with 17 points and nine rebounds, and he had several dagger buckets. The first was an open triple at the end of a mostly busted possession thanks to ex-Bull James Johnson falling asleep:
Bulls taking way too long to get anything in late game offense but Laur3 bailing them out pic.twitter.com/lrtmIDQssh— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) January 15, 2018
The second was a wild play that saw Kelly Olynyk ride Lauri all the way down the floor before the rook somehow gathered the ball and finished an and-1. Lauri even did the Bobby Portis Flex, and it was actually the second time he did it this game:
Lauri Markkanen with the left and 1. pic.twitter.com/YfsHv8rFad— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) January 15, 2018
I haven’t even mentioned Zach LaVine yet! LaVine again showed off a high skill level with tough shotmaking from both inside and out by scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting in 20 minutes. He added two treys, with one of them turning into a 4-point play at the end of the first half as the Bulls finished the half on a 14-2 surge to turn a five-point deficit into a seven-point advantage:
In addition to his scoring, LaVine added five assists and five rebounds. He showed proficiency in the pick-and-roll and found Robin Lopez down low for several buckets, which will be an important part of his game to monitor. We know the guy can really score, but becoming an all-around offensive player will be important if he wants to become a true No. 1 guy.
Becoming better defensively will also be important, and right now, as expected, LaVine just isn’t there. His awareness on that side of the ball is very poor, and there were some real ugly lowlights. But, again, this was to be expected. The fact that he looks incredible athletically and offensively is a huge plus. He obviously won’t continue to shoot at this level, but it’s a nice start.
At several points in this game it looked like the Bulls were going to run away from a Heat squad that played Sunday afternoon against the Bucks. LaVine got the Bulls out to a hot start and the Heat starting lineup was lethargic, but Miami’s bench (Olynyk and Wayne Ellington combined for 41 points) provided a jolt of energy while Chicago’s reserves struggles. The Bulls only scored nine points in the first 10 minutes of the second quarter, but the Heat failed to capitalize enough before Chicago ended the half on that huge run. That surge carried over to the third quarter as the Miami starters again looked like they were running in mud. The Bulls opened up a 19-point advantage, and it looked like the Heat may just throw in the towel.
However, Goran Dragic finally woke up from his slumber after an awful start and made the game competitive. Dragic (22 points, nine assists, five rebounds) led a charge that saw that 19-point lead dwindle all the way down to five, but the Bulls did just enough late to hold off the Heat. Nikola Mirotic scored all 18 of his points in the fourth quarter, both Holiday and Denzel Valentine (12 points off the bench) hit really tough shots, and Lauri hit the aforementioned daggers.
Last but not least, Kris Dunn had a poor shooting night (3 of 11), but he handed out 10 assists. Dunn has recorded at least eight assists in seven straight games. Ultimately, I think Dunn attacking and distributing will be much better than him trying to be a top scoring option, though he’ll have his games when he goes off.
The Bulls have won three games in a row and welcome the champs to the United Center on Wednesday. The way the Bulls are playing ... I almost expect them to win. At the very least, if they continue to shoot like this, it should be a real fun game.