Well the Bulls narrowly avoided an 0-2 start to the season by defeating the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night 110-102. This, thanks to the scoring of Zach LaVine, 37 points, and Coby White, 25 points, respectively, and the contributions late from Kris Dunn, Tomas Santoranksy and Wendell Carter Jr.
Down as much as 14 at one point in the first half, the Bulls again looked out of sorts on both ends of the floor. While LaVine’s start to this game was immensely better than the opener, Santoransky found himself in early foul trouble, Otto Porter was nonexistent, and Lauri Markkanen’s offensive firepower from Wednesday nowhere to be found. Granted, Lauri’s matchup against Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas weren’t great to start with.
That trio went 2-16 from the field in the first half.
The Bulls struggles in terms of replicating their pace offensively from the preseason, and playing remotely competent defense showed again. Unforced turnovers, and a slow, bogged down offense marred the first half. On the other end, the Bulls consistently struggled to stop Jaren Jackson Jr., and the Grizzlies pick-and-roll. Time after time, Memphis was getting clean looks at the rim or open three’s because rotations weren’t there.
Bulls give up a wide open corner 3 on the first possession. Having Wendell try to trap the ball handler really exposes the back side.— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) October 26, 2019
Otto is supposed to step to the help line and it's on Zach to split the difference and get to the corner. pic.twitter.com/Dk9ajngfAK
Bulls entered halftime down 13, 47-60, giving up as many points in two straight games. LaVine entered halftime with 20 points, and was the only thing keeping them in the game.
Things looked promising with a 9-0 run by the Bulls to start the second half spurred by five quick points from Satoranksy, before the Grizzlies responded with their own 9-0 run.
Enter Coby White.
More relaxed entering the second half, White came in and provided a much needed spark on both ends which allowed the Bulls to claw their way back into the game.
Coby getting fancy with it pic.twitter.com/muNVPzmdiR— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) October 26, 2019
White ended up with 10 points in the quarter, including a three with only a few seconds left that got the Bulls within two, 81-79 heading into the fourth.
Much of the fourth quarter was a back and forth affair with Chicago clawing to get ahead of Memphis before they would respond. The Bulls first lead of the game came with 3:54 remaining in the game after, you guessed it, a White three pointer. A LaVine layup got the Bulls up 102-101 with 1:30 to play, and an ensuing stop and two made free throws from Sato got it to 104-101. On the next possession Sato got a steal and the Bulls got to the stripe again after a huge offensive rebound from Carter with 34 seconds left.
Chicago went on the close things out over the next few seconds for the eight point win.
The big story here is White, who scored 21 points in the second half. When he was able to calm down after a jumpy start, he was the Bulls best player. Attacking the rim at will, with confidence, and stepping into three’s out of catch and shoot opportunities (not off the bounce, that’s bad), White’s scoring kept the Bulls in it and helped propel them to the win. Looks like Chicago got themselves star in this summer’s draft.
- Otto Porter Jr. does not look good through two games. He looks old and stiff; he’s not moving well defensively, his shot isn’t falling on offense and he’s not aggressive attacking the rim. The Bulls are publicly saying they’re proactively using ‘load management’ with Porter, setting a 24 minute limit on him tonight and perhaps not playing at all tomorrow. But I have to wonder what else is going on.
- Luke Kornet...maybe we jumped to conclusions too soon. He’s a sieve defensively. The only way I think Kornet can play is if he’s paired with Carter.
- Lauri’s shooting struggles continued. He’s 2-17 from three this season so far. It’s not as if he’s taking bad shots either, he’s getting great looks. Somehow, Markkanen needs to find his rhythm from deep.
- Bulls defense still has so many glaring issues it needs to clean up if it wants to be in the postseason this year. It’s really basic things that they’re whiffing on too.
- Offensively, the pace needs to pick up and so does the ball movement. We saw what it could be during the preseason (yes I know it’s just preseason), but that shouldn’t change over to the regular season. The Bulls put up a franchise record 42 three pointers in this game, but they’re now 21-72 from three on the season.
Bulls face the Toronto Raptors on the second night of their back-to-back and their home opener at the United Center Saturday night.