Without Zach LaVine, who was rested due to illness, the Bulls never had a legitimate shot of bouncing back from an embarrassing loss to the Milwaukee Bucks the previous night. Chalking up a loss before the game was obvious, but a 39-point drubbing to a team who was also on a back-to-back and missing Kawhi Leonard, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and C.J. Miles went beyond expectations.
Already missing four rotational players, losing LaVine made viewing incredibly difficult. For much of the season, LaVine has been the only credible on-ball creator. Even then, a stagnant Bulls offense struggled to make an impact. Now, with LaVine out and starting backcourt duties left to Ryan Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne, it was too much to ask of two career backup guards. And so as expected, the offense fell into an isolation-heavy malaise.
Thrust into the lead scoring role, Jabari Parker could only manage 12 points (5-of-14 shooting). Justin Holiday also contributed 12 points of his own, but it was Antonio Blakeney who led the team in scoring, setting a career high in field goal attempts en route to a 13-point (6-of-19 shooting) night off the bench.
Finishing the game with more turnovers (22) than assists (21) and shooting 34.9 percent from the field, this was arguably the worst performance the Bulls have had all season, perhaps even more so than the infamous blunder against the Golden State Warriors — in that game at least, we had Wendell Carter Jr. stepping out and setting then careervhighs in points and shot attempts.
In this one, though, unless you enjoy watching bad players like Blakeney go out and force up shots, there was no notable highlight or outlier performance. It was all just a mess. So much so, it forced rookie center Carter to raise some telling points post game.
Wendell Carter Jr. doesn’t just show maturity in his game. Here’s the 19-year-old on if Bulls are committed to team effort despite his assertion they separate under duress: pic.twitter.com/ezfGYRvB4C— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 18, 2018
Wise beyond his years, Carter is emerging as a leader of this team. He may only be 19, but he’s right. If nothing else, hopefully these crushing losses force the young big into maturing and overtaking the leadership role from a squad solely lacking an identity.
In games like this, it’s hard not to feel sorry for coach Fred Hoiberg. The guy is without so many of his talented players and is being forced into starting players who are not far removed from spending time running the floor with Summer League squads or the Windy City Bulls -- Arcidiacono (30), Payne (22), Blakeney (32) and Shaquille Harrison (27) all played big minutes. Visibly reeling, you have to wonder if this period of inept play is breaking him.
It's 15 seconds out of halftime and Hoiberg already looks totally miserable. pic.twitter.com/qUydMLyBBj— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) November 18, 2018
After consecutive games against three of the best teams in the East this week, the Bulls have fallen to 4-13 on the season. The good news for all involved — including Hoiberg — is a three-day break awaits.
Up next, the Bulls head back to the United Center on Wednesday to face the equally terrible Phoenix Suns. LaVine should be over his illness by then, and hopefully back in the lineup.