After losing to the one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Chicago Bulls were looking for a bounce back effort against the Portland Trail Blazers. This was a fairly familiar opponent for Chicago as they hosted Portland just a couple of games earlier. In that one, Carmelo Anthony decided to turn back the clock and dunk all over the Bulls. Although Chicago kept the score much closer on the road in the Moda Center, the result was still the same. Portland held off a late Bulls rally to win 104-101.
Chicago had mixed results offensively agains the Trail Blazers. Four of the five starters scored in double figures led by Zach LaVine, who had 28 and Coby White dropped 13 off the bench. The shot ok from deep at 36.8 percent, where LaVine was five of 11. But things didn’t get any easier for the Bulls when they get inside into the paint. In fact, things were a lot worse, resulting in a true shooting percentage of 49.
Hassan Whiteside was a force to be reckoned with at the hoop. Whiteside, who is 10th in the NBA in blocks per game, swatted away 10 of Chicago’s shot attempts, a Blazers single-game record. He made things even more difficult for an already sputtering Chicago offense. When the easiest shot in basketball is not available for you, things can go south very quickly.
Above, Chicago ran a nice play to get what looked like a quality shot for Tomas Satoransky. They had Wendell Carter Jr. have the ball near the edge of the paint and hand off the ball to Satoransky. In theory the set is nice. You get your guard running down hill towards the basket and force the defending big man to make a choice of either stepping up or sag back. Whiteside chooses the latter and doesn’t really move until the final moments. But he does time it well and the layup attempt by Satoransky gets sent right back to him.
Whiteside’s continued to bother Chicago’s offense in crunch time. With less than two minutes left and only down three, the Bulls had a chance to tie the game.
LaVine handed it off to Markkanen who was picked up by CJ McCollum. With the size mismatch, Markkanen gave a shot fake and flew to his left and by his defender. But there was one slight problem in Whiteside being right there in the paint. You can see how confident Portland was in Whiteside’s help defense. McCollum doesn’t even track after Markkanen once he enters the paint, he just turns towards Wendell Carter Jr. and focuses on him. Once he’s in the air, Markkanen runs into Whiteside and goes backwards which results in a rough shot attempt. It was an easy block given Markkanen had to shoot the ball while falling down. Portland recovered the loose ball and ended up getting two free throws from Anthony on the other end.
Whiteside altered a lot of other shots at the rim, forcing Bulls players into taking tougher shots than they would like to. While it’s perplexing for a team to eliminate a shot from a certain part of the court, there was some reason as to why the Bulls should have stayed away from the paint.
It would have also made more sense for the Bulls to keep shooting more threes. Chicago had 38 three-point attempts and with the shooters they have, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be their go-to when things aren’t working. Yet the same problems arose for Chicago amid the game by Whiteside. Chicago looked out of sync and their young players weren’t getting it done efficiently. Markkanen again looked lost for at least the first half and it took a ton of shot attempts from White and LaVine for them to reach their point totals. Wendell Carter should have probably had more than just his one attempt on the night. His lack of shooting has become a bigger issue as of late and rightfully so. Along with running plays for Markkanen and LaVine to get open three-point looks, drawing up sets to have WCJ attempt corner three-pointers is a good idea. It would have been helpful in a game where the Bulls couldn’t score anything at the basket.