While the Bulls had just lost Wendell Carter Jr. to an ankle injury, they had momentum going in their favor when they tied the home Mavericks up at 69-69 midway through the third quarter on Monday night.
Then Luka Doncic happened.
Doncic scored 12 straight Mavs points as part of a 21-point third quarter to regain control of the game, and he led them home to a 118-110 victory. The second-year phenom finished with a triple-double of 38 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to send the Bulls to a fourth straight loss and a record of 13-24, which is now four games back of the Magic and Nets. Chicago is 1-15 against teams above .500.
Doncic struggled a bit with his shot early, but he was creating quality offense all night before he himself caught fire and wound up shooting 14-of-24 overall and 5-of-10 from 3-point range. He scored in just about every way imaginable, with a variety of step-back 3s, floaters, drives, free throws, you name it. When he wasn’t scoring himself, he was helping the Mavs get wide-open looks thanks to all of the attention he was receiving, making the right pass time and time again. Dallas shot 16-of-41 from 3-point range and probably had another five or six triples go halfway down and out.
Kris Dunn has stepped up to the challenge against many top-level scorers this season, but he got himself in foul trouble early and was saddled with those issues all game. He also contributed to a shaky Bulls start offensively by badly missing three wide-open treys. Dunn did pickpocket Doncic once late in the fourth quarter, but for some reason he decided to start talking trash down 10 points. The Mavs promptly scored eight points on the next three possessions to put the nail in the coffin.
The Bulls were able to hang around most of the night thanks to a few factors. They grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, turned 14 Mavs turnovers into 21 points, racked up 27 fast-break points and dominated down low to the tune of 72 points in the paint. The Bulls took advantage of Kristaps Porzingis’ absence, as Dallas played small lineups and had no rim protection whatsoever.
Unfortunately, the Bulls shot just 9-of-31 from beyond the 3-point line. Lauri Markkanen went 4-of-10 from deep (a couple of those were in garbage time) as part of a stellar 26-point performance after it initially looked like he wasn’t going to play due to an ankle injury, so his teammates went a woeful 5-of-21 from distance. Zach LaVine missed all five of his 3-point shots and didn’t get to the free-throw line a single time, marking just the second time he has failed to make a 3-pointer or a free throw as a Bull. He had 20 points on 10-of-23 shooting to go along with seven assists and five rebounds.
The Bulls got a nice passing game from Tomas Satoransky, who racked up 14 assists on the night. Sato was especially good at throwing lobs, with Daniel Gafford the recipient of several. Gafford delivered a strong performance off the bench with 13 points (6-of-6 shooting), eight rebounds and two blocks in nearly 25 minutes, shaking off a sprained ankle of his own that looked bad when it happened. He played all of those minutes due to the Carter injury, which also looked nasty when it happened. X-rays were negative, but the big man was on crutches in the postgame locker room. We should know more tomorrow.
The Bulls did also get double-digit scoring performances off the bench from Coby White (15) and Thaddeus Young (11 points and nine rebounds), and we even saw a few Chandler Hutchison minutes. Jim Boylen went 10-deep in this game after the eight-man rotation we saw against the Celtics, with Shaquille Harrison getting some action and the Doncic assignment with Dunn in foul trouble.
While the Bulls fought hard during this recent stretch of games against quality competition, they still went 0-4 and don’t really look the part of a playoff team. They face a 12-25 Pelicans team up next in New Orleans, but the Pellies have been playing much better of late. It’s likely going to take a really strong performance to end this losing streak on Wednesday night.