Down 21 to the San Antonio Spurs in the second half, the Chicago Bulls looked dead and buried, headed for another Bulls blowout. However, Chicago kept battling back in the second half to find themselves within striking distance in the final moments of the game.
Usually this season, the young Bulls would fade away with a close loss, but this wasn’t one of those nights. And their usual closer, Zach LaVine, is out injured. Thanks to a great defensive performance in the second half (Spurs only scored 31) and clutch baskets from the duo of Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, the Bulls were able to escape San Antonio with a 98-93 victory.
Dunn had a monster performance, scoring a team-high 24 points on 11 of 19 shooting from the field and added 7 rebounds.
This was one of the best games we have seen from Dunn in the injury-plagued two years he’s been in Chicago. He was aggressive offensively, and came up clutch. After Markkanen’s turn-around basket tied things up at 90, Dunn scored 6 of Chicago’s final 8 points and added an assist too.
Last 2 minutes of the Bulls game edited down pic.twitter.com/R3NdVQzwJd— Ⓜ️arcusD ᴿᴵᴾ ᴹᵃʳᶜᵘˢᴰ² (@_MarcusD3_) December 16, 2018
(0:35 - 0:48)
Thanks to a Markkanen block on the defensive end the Bulls had the ball and a chance to extend their lead. Dunn is situated on the far end of the court to start the play and after getting a screen from Markkanen, he runs up to the top of the three-point line to get the ball from Justin Holiday. As soon as Dunn catches and pivots so he’s facing the basket, Bobby Portis goes on the move. He runs up to DeMar DeRozan and acts like he’s going to set a screen on the shooting guard. But at the last minute he jumps past DeRozan and begins to move towards the hoop, looking for a pass. While this is happening Dunn drives to his right, using Portis as a screen. This puts Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge in a very tough spot. Already back in the paint by the time Portis slips the screen, Aldridge is not fast enough to step up to stop Dunn from driving. He does a good job, however, of making sure that Dunn has to get through him to get to the basket. He’s also merely a step away from Portis if he catches the ball. Seeing LMA right near the basket, Dunn slows down and it allows DeRozan to catch up to him and get on his hip. With Rudy Gay staying home on Markkanen, Dunn really doesn’t have many other choices or than to shoot it himself. Realizing this, Dunn decides to opt for a floater off one leg. The ball seemed to hang in the air for an eternity and it eventually fell down right through the hoop. It wasn’t the prettiest of shots from Dunn but it was effective.
(1:06 - 1:24)
Now Chicago has a chance to score a much-needed basket to put them up 3 in the dying moments of the game. Dunn has the ball at the top of the key and is being guarded by Patty Mills. Chicago wisely begins to operate their offense with 13 seconds left on the game clock and less than 7 seconds on the shot clock. Markkanen comes from the right side of the court and sets a screen on Mills. Preventing the catch to Markkanen, San Antonio decides to completely let Dunn be ungraded for a couple of moments while Mills goes under the screen. Before he makes his move, Dunn jumps up for a bit and then begins to go. He does two standing dribbles with his right hand and then jumps back, looking for the fadeaway shot. As you can see in the video, Mills stumbles back when Dunn makes his second standing dribble move. That allows just enough space for Dunn to get off the shot. Mills is just a bit late contesting and all he can do is watch as Dunn steps back and drains the jumper to seal the game for Chicago.
Without Zach LaVine, the Bulls needed a lot of guys to step up. Markkanen pitched in with 23 points and Arcidiacono had 12. However, it was Dunn who took the reigns offensively and made the plays when needed. Solid point guard play is something Chicago has desperately needed this season and for this game at least, Dunn was up to the challenge. Hopefully this can spark a run of good games from him.