It took 9 games and 19 days but the Chicago Bulls finally notched a victory in 2019. Granted it came against the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of only two teams with a worse record than Chicago, but a win is a win.
They Bulls offense was able to pick apart a very vulnerable Cavaliers defense, a unit which is ranked last in defensive rating at 117.9. The Bulls shot an eFG% of 57.2 and a TS% of 60.2 from the field, spreading it around with having five guys score in double figures. Zach LaVine led the way with 25 points on an efficient 9 of 16 from the field. Kris Dunn played his best game in a long time by nearly having a double double with 13 points and 9 assists.
As a team the Bulls really surprised with their three-point shooting, going 15 of 30 from deep. Again, this is a deficiency for Cleveland’s defense as they are second to last in the NBA in opponents 3P%. So the Bulls’ looks were quality all game, and they had eight different players hit a three.
Below, after giving up an three-pointer to Channing Frye, the Bulls decide to run a three-point play attempt of their own:
Ryan Aricidiacano is the one who starts off this possession with the ball as he dribbles up the floor. As soon as he gets past half court he flips to Bobby Portis who then moves it to Jabari Parker. Arch runs to the corner and the man who was previously there, Wayne Selden, runs towards the top of the three-point line. Initially it looks like Selden is either going to screen for Parker or get the ball himself at the top. Portis also sells this really well by motioning to Selden to go around him. But at the last minute both Portis and Selden diverge to opposite directions. Portis goes back to the three-point line while Selden darts in and sets a screen on Frye. Having been standing in the paint during the entire time this play has happening, it took a while for Frye to get around the Selden screen. This gave Portis more than enough time to set and knock down a shot from deep.
Here’s another sequence where the Bulls orchestrate a shot for near the top of the three-point line: This time the recipient is Lauri Markkanen.
Dunn first dribbles up the court and as soon as he gets to the three-point line he is faced with two options. Both Markkanen and Robin Lopez are situated on either side of him and it’s up to Dunn to choose where he wants to go. Dunn’s man in Rodney Hood anticipates he’s going to his right and moves towards Lopez to get ready to fight over the screen. This prompts Dunn to go left towards Markkanen. Lauri sets a pick in front of Hood before quickly slipping out to the three-point line. Lopez is on the move too. As soon as Markkanen releases from Hood, Lopez rumbles towards Cedi Osman and sets a screen which seems to startle Markkanen’s man. It takes him a bit to get around the Lopez screen but by then it’s too late. Osman is a few seconds late to contest Markkanen’s shot and it is three points for the Bulls.
This was one of the better offensive performances we have seen from Chicago all season. It was still a slow-paced game but a 107 ORTG is well above Chicago’s average. They were moving the ball, taking smart shots, and making their open looks from three. The last point is especially important as the Bulls are still in the bottom of the league in terms of getting looks from there, averaging 26.7 three-point attempts per game. So this was a bit of an improvement in not only their percentages but their attempts too.