Let’s just pretend this day in Chicago sports never happened.
After the Bears embarrassed themselves in a virtually lifeless loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Chicago Bulls followed suit with an equally harrowing 108-95 loss against an Indiana Pacers squad that was missing several of its best players including Victor Oladipo.
When a team loses five of its first seven, the causes for losing usually start to become habitual. The Bulls defense still sucks, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine haven’t lived up to preseason expectations, and Jim Boylen continues to make head-scratching decisions.
Their schedule has been incredibly favorable and they continue to throw away wins. It’ll be decidedly tougher now with dates against the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, and Houston Rockets looming.
This is so incredibly pessimistic, but at this point have the Bulls really earned the right to look at any other game on their schedule this season and be like ‘hey that is one that we should win?’ Maybe it’s time for Boylen to start inspiring them with the underdog narrative because that’s what they should be considered in basically every game moving forward.
But here are some takeaways that are maybe unique to this game. Enjoy!
Lauri Markkanen/Zach LaVine Usage
It kind of started on Friday night against the Detroit Pistons, but it was very evident tonight.
Head coach Jim Boylen is making a concerted effort to stagger Markkanen’s and LaVine’s minutes. The two players have a -9.9 net rating when they share the court together this season so maybe it is not such a bad idea to play them with each other a little bit less.
Both players started, but Markkanen was yanked early while LaVine stayed in. Markkanen returned to help anchor one of the Bulls three-guard, bench units at the end of the quarter when Boylen gave a breather to LaVine.
The Bulls repeated this pattern in the third quarter with Markkanen spending the waning seconds of the quarter with another bench unit absent LaVine and then Boylen sticking with that group into the fourth quarter.
This is one of the things that Boylen is doing that most Bulls fans should be able to get behind. Markkanen and LaVine have struggled sharing the court together this season and staggering minutes allows Boylen to add one or the other as a scorer in lineups that need some offense.
Wendell Carter Jr. is a multitalented scorer offensively
The young big man from Duke had arguably his best game of the season tonight against the Indiana Pacers.
He scored 20 points on 9-for-10 from the field as he is slowly beginning to shake the finishing around the rim issues that plagued him at the beginning of the season (he has shot 75 percent from the field in his last four games).
On both these plays, he showed his ability as a roll man to cut hard to the basket and finish through traffic. He’s actually in the 36th percentile in points per possession as a roll man this season after he was in the 65th percentile in the same category last season (NBA.com), but it just seems like he is better than what those numbers indicate especially this year.
But, he’s not just a rim-running big man. Check out this play.
These two plays don’t even delve into how he creates scoring opportunities for himself on the offensive boards.
But, if there was a disappointing aspect to the game in regards to how Carter Jr. played, it’s that he finished with zero 3-point attempts and on a couple of occasions passed up on good looks from out deep. This was a part of his game he flashed in college, so he kind of needs to just stop being shy about shooting from out there.
As several writers on this site have pointed out on Twitter and elsewhere, maybe it’s time for Boylen to give Carter Jr. a larger role offensively which could sometimes even include running the offense through him from the high post.