All throughout the preseason, we saw a new-look Chicago Bulls offense. Gone were the days of slow-building post-up plays (we still miss you, Robin Lopez) and punting on fast-break opportunities to instead set up the offense. Chicago emphasized pushing the pace to find open baskets and shooting as many 3-pointers as possible. A majority of their attempts came either at the rim or from deep. It looked like the Bulls had finally adapted to the modern era of pace and space.
The first two games saw the Bulls implement the style they talked about. Against Charlotte and Memphis, Chicago took 30 and 42 3-point attempts, respectively. Likewise, they decreased their reliance on the mid-range. The Bulls scored a combined six points from mid-range in their first two games and chose to find more efficient shots instead. They scored a whopping 78 points in the paint against the Hornets and 52 against the Grizzlies. Even though the Bulls hadn’t gotten a whole team effort on offense, guys stepped up with big individual performances.
Everything came to a screeching halt against the Toronto Raptors.
Chicago’s offense sputtered against the defending NBA champions, scoring just 84 points for the entire game. The Bulls failed to score more than 25 points in a single quarter in a blowout loss. They shot 29.9 percent from the field and weren’t any better from 3 at 25.7 percent. As you would expect, the offensive efficiency metrics weren’t pretty either with their true shooting percentage at 38.9 precent.
Chicago wasn’t able to find easy baskets in transition, scoring just seven points on the fast break. Unlike the first two games, nobody stepped up to be the Superman of the Bulls’ offense. Everyone underwhelmed as only two Bulls scored in double digits. Wendell Carter Jr. led the team in scoring with 12 points and no other Bull made more than four field goals.
Lauri Markkanen was nowhere to be seen on offense, scoring just nine points on 10 field goal attempts. For Chicago, you aren’t going to win many games in which Markkanen has fewer shot attempts than WCJ (14) and only one more than Luke Kornet (9). Not only does he need to be more assertive in getting the ball, but Chicago needs to continue to run plays to get him open shots. The Bulls did a great job of doing it in their first two games, but getting Markkanen offensive touches needs to be a nightly priority. It takes the pressure off Zach LaVine from having to be the focal point of the offense all the time and opens up spaces on the court for guys like Otto Porter Jr. to find easy shots.
Speaking of LaVine, he had just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting and took this shot:
These types of possessions just cannot happen. pic.twitter.com/OAPReCXtTM— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) October 27, 2019
Toronto didn’t aid Chicago in any way, especially thanks to the defense of OG Anunoby. He had a career-high four blocked shots, including a stuff on a Thad Young dunk attempt:
OG also had a block on Coby White’s attempt near the rim, defending the pick-and-roll Chicago drew up.
Along with Serge Ibaka’s three, the Raptors were a force to be reckoned with when it came to guarding the rim. As a team they 12 blocked shots, which was huge compared to the two the Bulls had. While Chicago’s offense did have its issues, Toronto’s defense also gave them problems. The Bulls were a shockingly bad 14-of-45 on shots at the rim, and the Raptors deserve some credit for that:
This game was a stark reminder of how much work the Bulls have to do when it comes to matching up against the elite of the Eastern Conference. There is still a long ways to go until they can battle the likes of the Sixers, Bucks, and even the Raptors. Chicago needs to be at least scoring the ball at a high rate to be competitive given their defensive woes. In the game against the Raptors, the offense didn’t have a good game and they paid the price for it.