The Chicago Bulls can’t seem to stop winning, the latest being a 120-116 victory over the Charlotte Hornets to give them three in a row.
It was another bizarre game at home as the Bulls recovered from a shaky 19-point first quarter with an offensive explosion, scoring 33 or more points in each of the remaining 3 quarters. Despite the Hornets making pushes to take the lead in this game, reducing the deficit to 1 with 3:57 left, the Bulls even with their tank lineup on the court just couldn’t seem to stop making plays. It was fascinating to watch guys like Cristiano Felicio grab offensive boards and David Nwaba score tough baskets while most Bulls fans watching were probably screaming “What are you doing??” .
It was Sean Kilpatrick who had the biggest performance of any Bull. The guard who only recently joined Chicago (for no real reason) had 19 points in the 4th quarter. Yes you read that last sentence correctly. Kilpatrick and Hornets guard Malik Monk put the 4th quarter into complete chaos, trading baskets throughout.
(0:22-0:31) The Bulls once again use a dribble handoff to initiate their offense and it results in Kilpatrick scoring a three-point play. To begin this sequence, Ryan Arcidiacano is the initial handoff man, giving it up to Jerian Grant as soon as Grant sprints across the halfway line. Running to his left, Grant runs along the three-point line and fires a pass to Kilpatrick, who is running towards him. As Kilpatrick dribbles to his right, Felicio is coming over to set a screen on his right hand side near the free throw line. But instead of using the screen, Kilpatrick uses the pick as a decoy. He quickly crosses over and goes into the lane, which catches his defender totally off guard. Thinking Kilpatrick was going to use the Felicio screen, Kilpatrick’s defender jumped in front and tried to go over the screen. But he ended up overcommitting and opened up a driving lane for the Bulls shooting guard. Seeing the space, Kilpatrick drove near the lane and pulled up for a jump shot. He was able to hit the shot despite the contact at the end to complete a solid three-point play.
(0:33 - 0:40) Again, the Bulls do the same hand-off sequence and get the same result with Kilpatrick putting the ball in the basket. This time, he starts off near the left sideline instead of the corner, making it an easier hand off for Grant. The Hornets don’t switch on any of these handoffs, leaving Kilpatrick to be guarded by Charlotte forward Nic Batum. Also since the Hornets didn’t switch, they didn’t step up on any of the hand-offs. They instead chose to sag back and protect the drive instead of moving any Bulls player off the three-point line. So when Kilpatrick got the ball from Grant, there was a decent amount of space between Batum and him. All this space gave Kilpatrick room to do a simple crossover and pull up with no hesitation. Batum could only contest so far and it wasn’t enough to affect Kilpatrick from splashing a three in his face.
There were a lot of big performances from Bulls players in this game. Justin Holiday and Bobby Portis had 19 and 16 points respectively.
More importantly, Lauri Markkanen had another strong game, notching 24 points and grabbing 7 rebounds while hitting 5 three-pointers in the process. Like in his game against Washington, Markkanen had all of his offensive damage done in the first three quarters.
(0:12 - 0:25) Here, Markkanen gets a favorable with and is able to take advantage of it. Markkanen gets the ball at the top of the key and immediately goes left and pas the ball off to Justin Holiday, setting a screen as well. On this possession, the Hornets chose to switch on defense, leaving Michael Kidd-Gilchrist having to guard Lauri. Sensing a mismatch, Markkanen calls for the ball and then goes to work. He gets the ball at the three-point line and initially faces up against MKG but quickly goes into post up mode. After a couple of dribbles in the post the Hornets decided to double Markkanen, sending Marvin Williams to go help out his teammate. Seeing this, Markkanen has two options and he must decide quickly. Either pass the ball out to Holiday or shoot quickly. Markkanen chooses the second option by spinning to his right and shooting a Dirk Nowitzki like fadeaway. Given his height and fadeaway skills, neither Williams or Kidd-Gilchrist were able to fully contest Markkanen on the shot. As you might have guessed, this sequence ends with the ball swishing through the net.
Markkanen also showed his usual range from three, and made the Hornets pay off the PNR (1:54-1:59). He slipped the screen on PNR play and with his man too focused on the drive and Kemba Walker switching too late, it was a wide open three for Markkanen.
This was another weird game for the Bulls. In a second half where they are clearly trying to tank, Chicago is getting these fantastic performances from guys offensively. Especially from Markkanen, who is ending the season on a high note.