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Chicago Bulls vs. Brooklyn Nets takeaways: Another ugly loss against a shorthanded team

Also Dinwiddie revenge game in the fourth quarter

Brooklyn Nets v Chicago Bulls Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls fought hard, trying the foul game late and adding some tough shot making from Zach LaVine, but still fell 117-111 at the hands of the visiting Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets were without Kyrie Irving and Caris LaVert, but brief former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie had 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Nets outscored the Bulls by 10 in that final frame.

The 4-7 Nets limped into Chicago at the end of a long road trip, without their three best players, and still beat the Bulls. Like when the Bulls fell to the Indiana Pacers in a similarly-depleted state. The Bulls also have losses to the Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks, all teams they “should have beat.”

Despite a favorable schedule to begin the season, the Bulls have started 4-9 which is tied for the fifth-worst record in the league. We should adjust our expectations for each game accordingly: no more “easy wins” or thinking of the Bulls “as the favorites” moving forward.

Bad start, but this hasn’t been a chronic issue

The Nets outscored the Bulls 30-19 in the first quarter. Head coach Jim Boylen wasn’t happy about it.

Not ideal, but the Bulls were leading at halftime and at the end of three. So it probably wasn’t the first quarter bad start that lost them the game. Bad starts actually haven’t been a major or a reoccurring issue for the Bulls this season.

In fact, the Bulls have averaged a 2.4 point lead after one quarter which is fourth best in the NBA. They have led after one frame in 8 of 13 games thus far this season.

To me, Boylen’s quote implies slow starts are a chronic problem and he’s so fed up with it at this point he’s boiled it down to the players just needing to want to play better at the start of games for the problem to fix itself.

But the numbers simply don’t show that this has been a major issue.

WCJ is a one-man wrecking ball on the offensive boards

Wendell Carter Jr. had 18 points and 14 rebounds, yet did foul out for the fourth time this season. After one quarter Wendell Carter Jr. had already grabbed three offensive boards, nearly surmounting the five the Brooklyn Nets had for the entire game.

He finished with a career-high nine offensive rebounds, consistently making the Nets big men look silly.

The Bulls have been one of the worst teams in the NBA in the rebounding department this season (both offensively and defensively) so it’s particularly deflating that they outrebounded the Nets 56-40 and still lost the game.

Jim Boylen used a nice little lineup wrinkle early where he used the much maligned Coby White, Kris Dunn, and Ryan Arcidiacono three-guard lineup with Carter Jr. and Thaddeus Young (28.4 percent offensive rebound percentage together which is the third highest among Bulls two-man combos that have played at least 75 minutes together this season).

After getting killed on the boards on Thursday night against the Milwaukee Bucks because they went small late (didn’t play Young and Carter Jr. together in that fourth quarter, Carter Jr. did foul out to be fair). So pairing two of the Bulls more ferocious rebounders together with the smaller, guard-centric lineup was a good move.

I watched all nine of Carter Jr. boards tonight and here’s a few things I noticed:

  • He recorded six second chance points off of his offensive rebounds. Eight if you count the two free throws he hit getting hacked on a shot attempt after grabbing an offensive board.
  • When a shot goes up, he crashes the boards from wherever he is at on the floor. He doesn’t take possessions off. It’s cliché, but he just works harder than other players and that’s how he gets those extra boards. He’s 6-foot-9-inches tall and he’s athletic but not super duper athletic so there’s a lot of guys more physically equipped to get rebounds than he is. A lot of his success is just his will to be a good rebounder. He also is extremely strong so that helps too.

Carter Jr. grabs 11.4 percent of available offensive rebounds which is 10th best in the NBA this season.

LaVine hijacks the offense late

Zach LaVine had a game-high 36 points but it was on a relatively inefficient 11-for-24 from the field. In the last seven minutes of the fourth quarter when LaVine checked back into the game, he shot 10 of the Bulls 20 attempts from the field. He had zero assists and after watching the Bulls other makes in that sequence it looks like he had one “hockey assist.”

To his credit, LaVine made five of his 10 shot attempts and the score wouldn’t have been as close as it was without his efforts. He’s a good tough shot maker which has the drawback of giving him the confidence to continue to take those low percentage shots.

The offense tends to stagnate when it becomes this LaVine dependent and often the offensive actions on his shot attempts are a pick-and-roll with Carter Jr. that ends with a tough shot for LaVine. Sometimes, he struggles identifying opportunities to make plays for others off these pick and rolls, instead getting tunnel vision and taking a tough shot like this one. It looks like if he waited half a second longer, he could have dumped it off to Carter Jr. who was running pretty much unopposed to the basket. Of course, this is easy to say in hindsight watching the play in slow motion.

LaVine is still the Bulls best scorer so the issue isn’t necessarily that he is taking so many shots rather that the offense pauses and he doesn’t usually look to play make for others.