The Chicago Bulls continued their horrible start to 2019 as they lost 124-112 to the Portland Trail Blazers, stretching their losing streak to 5 games. Chicago was in the game for the first three quarters but began to show signs of faltering heading into 4th. Portland saw that, made a run, and essentially ended the game with about 8 minutes to play as Jim Boylen emptied his bench.
It was a bleh performance from the Bulls defensively as they allowed Portland to shoot 56.6% from the field and 42.3% from three. Offensively the Bulls were actually decent, shooting 46.2% from the field, hitting 9 of their 22 attempted three-pointers (40.9%), and 4 of the 5 starters scoring in double figures.
Of the young starting group, it was a big night for Wendell Carter Jr., who scored a team-high 22 points. He went 7 of 9 from the field, grabbed 6 rebounds, and hit all 7 of his free throws. This was one of these games were Carter Jr. flashed his offensive potential to not only be an efficient scorer around the rim but also someone who can stretch the floor in certain situations.
The sequence starts with Kris Dunn dribbling himself into a double team in the paint. Jusuf Nurkic, who is guarding Carter Jr., is in his way and Dunn quickly realizes he has no chance of getting up a quality look. Dunn quickly kicks it back out to Lauri Markkanen at the top of the key. Portland does a good job of switching and maintaining their defensive assignments so there is no real matchup for the Bulls to exploit. However Markkanen finds space to drive on his left right after he catches the ball due to Al-Farouq Aminu collapsing down on the Dunn drive. With Aminu late on the closeout, Markkanen moves to his left and into the lane. Nurkic stays home to guard the paint and cuts off the Markkanen drive. But while Markkanen was going to the rim, Carter Jr. slipped out to the corner.
Unfortunately we don’t see this too often: this was only the 6th made three-pointer WCJ has made all season (on 30 attempts) and the first he has hit since the Bulls played New Orleans on November 7th. Getting him looks from deep should be something Chicago needs to make happen moving forward.
Here is the craziest play WCJ made all night:
With his man Meyers Leonard committing so heavily to a Ryan Arcidiacono drive into the paint, WCJ was left all alone underneath the rim. Initially Arch goes up for the shot, forcing Leonard to contest, but ended up dishing it to Carter Jr mid air. WCJ did a good job of being ready for the catch and was about to go straight up for the easy dunk. However there was one more obstacle left to clear. Zach Collins, who was guarding Markkanen, came down to help and force Carter Jr. to take a tough shot. WCJ went straight up as soon as Collins did, causing the two to collide and forcing an easy foul call on the Blazers big man. But the play wasn’t over yet as Carter Jr. somehow flipped the ball up from the tightest of angles and somehow the ball went in to complete the three-point play, at the time getting the Bulls within single digits.
While WCJ was a positive, it was another rough night for Markkanen, who went 4 of 12 from the field.
Bulls have given Markkanen the ball in late-clock situations repeatedly tonight. Not ideal. He hit a tough shot that time.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 10, 2019
The offense overall faltered in the second half as they began to slow the pace down again, and there seems to be a general problem with shot distribution in the starting lineup. In a game where Dunn and Zach LaVine combine for 33 field goal attempts, Markkanen should surely have more. He is the Bulls second most important offensive player and needs to be more involved down the stretch of games.
Ever since his back to back 30 point performances against Orlando and Cleveland, there are only two games where he has shot 15 times or more from the field. An aggressive Lauri Markkanen can go a long way in helping this Bulls team become better offensively.
Boylen wants to encourage Lauri Markkanen to shoot more. "He's got the green light, but he's not that kind of guy."— Sean Highkin (@highkin) January 10, 2019