Tuesday morning when I woke up and read the recap from the Bulls prior win over the Kings, I was honestly surprised they had won given that Sacramento was playing well recently. What I wasn’t surprised to see was the fact that Chicago had blown a 19 point lead, 13 at one point in the final period. It’s become one of those things you just expect at this point.
Such was the case during Wednesday night’s 106-99 win against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Bulls had a 22 point lead at one point in the first half, and heading into the fourth were up 14. That lead got down to as little as one point before some clutch shot making from Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn (weird, I know), and Lauri Markkanen.
At this point it’s just amusing: seeing how much Chicago can build up a lead before letting their opponent back in the game. To me, it shows a lack of consistency and an ability to stay mentally locked in for four quarters. That’s on both the players and coaches, respectively.
But, at the end of the day, a win is a win. There was some good, and some bad things to take away from the Bulls FIRST WINNING STREAK!
Yes, Wendell Carter, Jr. does foul
One of the hot topics has been Carter’s constant foul trouble. Many will point to the bad whistles that he gets, there are a lot and it’s been documented well enough. However, he still brings a lot of his fouls on himself, and they’re little mistakes that young players typically make.
Wednesday night he had two offensive fouls off of moving screens. First instance he wasn’t set by the time he made contact with the defender (this is probably on the ball handler’s shoulders too, he needs to wait for Carter to get set). And the second offensive foul Carter stuck his butt out into the defender.
On the other side of the ball Carter brought down his hands on the shooter, hitting his elbow.
This is one of those little things, and Carter has recently mentioned the coaching staff working with him on these areas. It’s bringing his arms down, or putting his hands on the defender that usually land him trouble. If he can become more disciplined there, he’ll be fine.
Bulls get added rim protection from Markkanen and Daniel Gafford
Carter was his usual self against Memphis around the rim collecting four blocks. The Bulls as a team had a season-high of 13 blocks. Markkanen added two himself, and rookie Daniel Gafford chipped in four, a Bulls rookie high since 2003.
Collectively, these three had some really good moments defensively Wednesday night and gave a glimpse of what this trio’s potential could be.
Denzel Valentine carving out a role
After being lodged on the Bulls bench for most of the early part of this season, Denzel Valentine may be carving out a role.
In just over 15 minutes of action Valentine totaled eight points, four rebounds and two really nice assists to finish with a team-high, +9.
Stacey says Denzel might be the best passer on the team.— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) December 5, 2019
Strong evidence here: pic.twitter.com/aFO1H9OPAH
I’m generally a pessimist when it comes to Valentine, but with wings Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison hurt, and Coby White’s at times erratic play, Denzel has been a nice surprise of late. Wednesday night when White’s play was a bit of a whirlwind, Valentine was sort of the opposite, calming force to help combat it.
Turnovers and missed free throws
The really good teams are the ones who can stay locked in for 48 minutes. Chicago is not one of those teams.
Yes, we can point to lineup management, and the Bulls god-awful defensive pick-and-roll strategy, but Wednesday night came down to two things; turnovers and missed free throws.
Poor decision-making and lack of care for the ball resulted in 20 turnovers (22 assists), and 10 missed free throws (27-37). Those two things turned into more opportunities for Memphis offensively and allowed them to get back in the game.
Luckily for Chicago: clutch threes, and Ja Morant sitting out, saved them.