The Bulls haven’t won back-to-back games all season. They also haven’t lost four in a row, so getting a W late last night in Sacramento is objectively good. It just can’t be really extrapolated into a trend until we see it in the next few very winnable games.
Similarly, while it is notable that Lauri Markkanen crossed the 20-point threshold in a game where Zach LaVine did the same, trying to get much out of it is a challenge. The more clear reasons for this rare Bulls win was the bench going 7/14 from three while the Kings bench had 12 turnovers. Both Markkanen and LaVine were net negatives in the game overall.
But both tried to point to a change meaning hope. And hey, why not:
The players also improvised a little from their structured mandate of hitting the paint with a drive and finding someone for a three. Markkanen said he and LaVine talked before the game about getting into pick and roll more often, and also between the two.
”Zach has been doing his part,” Markkanen agreed. “We talked about playing our game. We ended up being in a couple of pick and rolls more than we’d been this year. We talked about it before the game, try to do that more; we’ve kind of gotten away from that.”
“When he gets on a roll then they have to guard the whole floor,” LaVine said about Markkanen. “We know how good he is and how good he can be and he shouldn’t be in a slump that long. We need to help him get out of it and I don’t think we did a good job of that. We did a little more two-man game and finding him early. But once he made his first two, it started looking back to the old Lauri. Hopefully it’s wheels up from there.”
Looking back at the tape, it doesn’t look like this LaVine+Markkanen interaction really happened that often. But it did happen.
That first play above is more picking out atrocious defense, but it does go to show what running a pick and roll with multiple threats can do.
Later in the game, the Bulls starting lineup had nearly choked away the lead again. But both Markkanen and LaVine responded well to eventually ice it. The interesting thing here was that it was not either guy leading the decisionmaker, but instead total non-threat in Kris Dunn.
Again, this doesn’t look like glaring evidence of the Bulls lead offensive weapons snapping out of things: Markkanen misses a chippie - a problem he’s had all season. And the Kings defense was brutal. But, it was good to see something at the end of the game that wasn’t just LaVine going for an All-Star nod.
The Bulls offense put up a very good 114 offensive rating in Sacramento. They have a long way to go to actually look good against a solid team, but a nice progression would be looking bad against the bad teams, and they have a chance to do that this week. We’ll have to just wait and see if it’s a genuine improvement, or shot-making variance.