I expected the Bulls to beat the awful Cavaliers by double digits at home on Saturday night, and it looked like they were well on their way when they went up by 16 points early in the second quarter. The Cavs fought back to tie it by halftime, though, and the rest of the game was competitively bad until the Bulls won 99-98 after Collin Sexton missed a floater and then got the putback blocked by ... Jabari Paker (!?!?) in the final seconds.
Fred Hoiberg surprisingly inserted Parker in for Wendell Carter Jr. on the last possession because the Cavs went super small, and the decision worked out this time thanks to Parker’s second effort:
who says Jabari can't play defense? pic.twitter.com/VzUkz8B7Ud— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 11, 2018
Parker was terrible for most of this game, but he picked it up down the stretch on both ends of the floor with this block, a few buckets and other moments of competent defensive play. It’s these kinds of stretches that make him such a frustrating player, because you can see what he can bring when locked in and engaged. Even while playing the hero he only had 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting and was a minus-9, but we have to give him credit for bringing it in the clutch.
Also, props to Ryan Arcidiacono, who shined in his first career start. Arcidiacono played Sexton well on that final drive, and he also had a terrific overall game with a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He was a team-best plus-11 and the Bulls fell apart when he had to go to the bench with foul trouble. Shaq Harrison didn’t play terribly in relief (yes, Cameron Payne was out of the rotation), but he wasn’t nearly as effective as Arcidiacono and the team just didn’t operate as well with him out there.
Other than that, there wasn’t much too notable to talk about from this one. Zach LaVine had a mostly strong game with 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but he melted down in the final minutes and nearly cost the Bulls the game, with one especially awful turnover before the final possession. He did do this, though:
Carter also had solid numbers with 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks.
The Cavs are really bad and labor for good looks on the offensive end, but Tristan Thompson was a problem all night (22/12, plus-12) and Sexton went for a career-high 20 points. Rodney Hood also woke up in the second half after a quiet first half to put up 20 points and a facial of Carter, but it wasn’t quite enough.
The Bulls are now 4-9 on the season and have gone 3-1 against fellow bad teams, which is following a trend from last season. I don’t want to be a total tank humper here, but these last two wins over the Knicks and Cavs have been hard to get excited about because of the poor quality on the floor. LaVine scoring 41 in the Knicks game was at least awesome, but tonight’s win was just kind of a mess after the monster first quarter and a victory I can really only shrug my shoulders at.
The Bulls deserve credit for fighting through all their injuries and I appreciate their improved defensive effort, but Ricky’s discussion on our last Cash Considerations Podcast had me thinking about them going the tank route one more year to get in on these Duke studs. Winning games like these last two don’t really help that cause, and ultimately I think this team will be too good when healthy (if healthy?) to be at the bottom.
So, basically, if the Bulls are going to win games, I want to see them doing it together in impressive fashion as a young core rather than these ugly crapfests that don’t mean anything. Get well soon, Lauri (and others).