The Bulls got Kris Dunn back for his first game of the season Monday night in Dallas, but a disastrous start to the fourth quarter ruined Dunn’s debut and yet another huge Zach LaVine scoring night in a 115-109 loss to the Mavericks. The Bulls have started the season 0-3.
LaVine’s ridiculous shotmaking continued as he poured in 34 points on 11-of-15 shooting to join Michael Jordan and Bob Love as the only Bulls in franchise history to hit the 30-point mark in each of the first three games of the season. LaVine made his first seven shots, all with a high degree of difficulty from all over the floor, with most of the shots not even hitting rim. When he wasn’t splashing jumpers, he was throwing down dunks like this:
Jabari Parker joined in on the scoring fun in the early going, pouring in 16 first-half points on 7-of-11 shooting as the Bulls held a 61-59 lead at the break. At several points in the third quarter it looked like the Bulls may open up a comfortable lead, but the offense began to bog down with sloppiness and they couldn’t get enough stops, despite the Mavs throwing the ball all over the place themselves. Dallas closed the quarter on an 18-9 run after going down 75-70, capped off by an absurd J.J. Barea heave at the buzzer to make it 88-84. There was some Robin Lopez goofiness in there that didn’t help matters as he picked up five fouls in 10 total minutes of action, though some were real soft.
The fourth quarter was just a train wreck until a garbage-time surge almost made things interesting. There was way too much Cameron Payne to start the frame, as he forced up a handful of awkward looks and also committed a turnover. Unfortunately, Dunn wasn’t any better when he returned to the game.
As the Bulls’ offense devolved into one-on-one play and a gaggle of bad turnovers, the Mavs sliced and diced Chicago’s terrible defense. Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell both provided a ton of energy off the Mavs’ bench with 12 points, and while Barea struggled with his shooting, he was way more effective overall than starter Dennis Smith Jr., who was really bad throughout the game.
The Mavs went up by as many as 14 points with just under five minutes to play as the Bulls simply couldn’t get out of their own way. Chicago turned the ball over seven times in the final frame and 19 times for the game, leading to 27 Mavs points. LaVine and Dunn were both guilty of their share of miscues, and Dunn ultimately fouled out with a poor line of nine points on 4-of-13 shooting, seven assists, four turnovers and four rebounds, though at least he did a stellar defensive job on Smith. LaVine had five turnovers to two assists. The Bulls had more turnovers than assists (18) for the game. Not great, Bob.
The Bulls hit a flurry of 3-pointers late (including two Justin Holiday banked triples) as the Mavs tried to fumble the game away with missed treys and bad turnovers, but one final Wendell Carter Jr. giveaway resulted in a Luka Doncic bucket (he was a lot of fun with 19/6/3) to seal the game.
The Bulls shot 51.3 percent overall and a red-hot 13-of-23 from 3, but all the turnovers and 13 Mavs offensive rebounds (DeAndre Jordan had six himself) resulted in 13 more shot attempts for Dallas. And while the Mavs only shot 31.9 percent from 3, they got up a whopping 47 attempts and hit 15 of them, so they still outscored the Bulls from distance.
Parker slowed down significantly in the second half, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting after his first-half explosion. And while he showed nice effort on both ends in the first half, the second half was more of the disaster we’ve been accustomed to seeing early this season. Slow rotations, lazy getting out to 3-point shooters, no rim protection, etc. He finished a game-worst minus-11 despite his big scoring night.
There were some positives from the young fellas. Carter didn’t shoot well (2-of-7) and had that last gaffe, but he was active on both ends and played a key role in one of the highlights of the game:
Meanwhile, Chandler Hutchison actually saw first-quarter minutes after LaVine picked up two early fouls and totaled 18 for the game. While Hutch only had two shot attempts, he did have a nice drive and finish while playing solid defense, especially against Doncic. The Bulls badly need a wing who can defend anybody, and hopefully the rookie can become a guy they can rely on to at least try.
But, overall, as pretty as some of the shooting was (LaVine’s jumper is as pure as it gets), this was an ugly loss featuring more awful defense on the whole. The Bulls’ scoring chops will get them some wins, but this defense appears to be as bad as we all feared.