Injury luck has not been kind to the Chicago Bulls this season. Lauri Markkanen’s back, Zach LaVine’s ACL, Kris Dunn’s concussion, and Antonio Blakeney’s wrist are all injuries they’ve had to deal with this year. However yesterday’s game against Milwaukee was somewhat of a relief as Markkanen made his return from a back injury. It was the first time the rookie has since March 11th, missing 5 games in the process. Against a Bucks squad which was missing their best player in Giannis Antetokounmpo along with a matchup against Jabari Parker, this seemed like the best game for Markkanen to ease himself back into the rotation and in the flow of playing again.
However, this was not the case at all. Markkanen struggled in his return, scoring only 6 points on 3 of 7 shooting and 6 rebounds. He only attempted 2 three-point attempts in this game, which is something you don’t like to see from a man of his shooting talents. Markkanen also played the least minutes of any starter, playing only 22 minutes while the likes of Valentine, Felicio, and Payne all played 30+. It was clear Chicago was trying to ease Markkanen back into the game and it was the right move to play him limited minutes. Still, it was tough to see him struggle offensively. His night did not get off to the right start, as he airballed his first three-point attempt and it didn’t get any better from there.
In his first game back, you expected Markkanen to come out rusty. Hopefully he can get back to full strength and not finish out the season in a slump like this.
Tony Snell’s revenge game
It wasn’t Khris Middleton, Parker, or even Eric Bledsoe who were the ones to lead the Bucks to victory against the Bulls, it was their bench unit who put a shift in. Shabazz Mohammed, Brandon Jennings, and Tony Snell all scored more than 15 points off the bench and gave Milwaukee a boost. Especially Snell who literally couldn’t miss in his 18-point outing against his former team. Snell hit all 6 of his field goal attempts (4 of them being 3-pointers) and knocked down both of his free throws in 22 minutes. It was the only contribution he had on both ends of the court in this game (0 steals, rebounds, and assists) but it got the job done.
Snell showed the type of shooting consistency Chicago fans had craved for such a long time while he was with the team. He was lights out and made the Bulls pay for leaving him even a little open.
(0:20 - 0:25) Here the Bulls are trying to guard against a Khris Middleton drive and Snell is located on the left right behind the three-point line. Middleton gets a screen from Thon Maker on his left. Bobby Portis, who is guarding Maker, anticipates Middleton going to his right and jumps that way. This misread by Portis leaves an opening in the lane for the small forward to drive. The Portis mistake also forces David Nwaba, Snell’s defender, to come down into the lane and help out as soon as Middelton rumbles into the lane. It leaves Snell open for a kick out and as expected, Middleton makes the pass to him. With Nwaba all the way inside, Snell has more than enough time to rise up and splash a three-pointer with ease.
(0:32 - 0:40) Again Middleton initiates the action which gets Snell an open three. Middleton drives into the lane and kicks it out to Jabari Parker, who is open at the three-point line. Parker decides to drive into the lane, drawing the attention of Lauri Markkanen and Cameron Payne who stop him in the lane. Denzel Valentine, who is guarding Snell on this play, zones out for a bit and then is put in a tough spot. When Middleton kicked the ball out, he remained in the lane when Parker drove in and was an option for a dump pass by the Bucks power forward. Valentine decided to drop down and help out on the drive, guarding Middleton and cutting off the pass to him. However, it led to Snell being wide open. Snell did a good job getting in good position by drifting to the left wing of the three-point line. Again, with his man in the paint, Snell had all the time in the world to hit the long range shot.
Cameron Payne plays ok!
We have seen the absolute worst out of Cameron Payne but as of late, he’s shown some growth (take that as you will). He scored 17 points on 50% shooting along with 6 assists and 4 rebounds. At this point, the hope for Payne is he can just be a competent NBA player. Especially after the debacle he showed in Las Vegas Summer League. It’s only a stretch of games so let’s keep expectations tempered but it’s still good to see Payne play decently in the role given.