The Bulls have earned a top-5 defensive rating this season, but when going up against one of the league’s best offenses and players in the Mavericks’s Luka Doncic, they struggled. Chicago gave up 118 points on a true shooting percentage of 63.9. It was sustained throughout the game, where Dallas scored no less than 27 points in all quarters. And then in the 4th the Bulls couldn’t get back into the game as they couldn’t get the necessary stops.
Doncic was all over the court tonight for the Mavericks, accumulating another triple double with 38 points, 10 assists, and 11 rebounds, shooting 14 of 24 (58.3%) from the field.
Doncic did most of his scoring damage in the third quarter with 21 points and with Shaq Harrison being his primary defender. Doncic showed his deadly array of shotmaking: off the dribble, stepbacks, eurosteps...whatever Chicago threw at him he had a counter for.
Above, Harrison picks up Doncic at midcourt, knowing that giving him any space could lead to any easy basket. Maxi Kleiber is at the top of the three-point line and the play looks to be for Doncic to get a pick then go immediately downhill into the paint. Lauri Markkanen anticipates this and shows to the left of Kleiber, anticipating to cut off Doncic. Problem is Doncic never used the screen. He crosses over at the edge of the Mavericks logo and goes left instead. Now he’s aided with ample space to work with. He uses one hard dribble inside, which forces Harrison back, and then leaps backwards. Harrison is already too far away to properly contest and Doncic splashes the three-pointer.
Doncic’s passing was also deadly, coming into the game 3rd in the league in assists per game. There were times throughout the game where the Bulls sent a second defender over even though he was still on the perimeter. While the double team did its job in getting the ball out of the hands of the Mavericks most dangerous player, it gave the rest of the team a numbers advantage.
Above, with the Bulls down 10 and with 2:30 left to play, they desperately need a good defensive possession. As Doncic looks to drive into the paint, Tomas Satoransky comes over from the near wing to double him. This isn’t just Satoransky showing and then leaving. He sticks with Doncic along with Kris Dunn when he steps back. They succeed in forcing the ball out of Doncic’s hands but it goes straight to the player Satoransky left open. It was nothing but net for Delon Wright.
It’s been two and a half seasons since the Jimmy Butler trade and Chicago is still looking for a future superstar. Watching Doncic light up the Bulls was a stark reminder of how far behind Chicago’s rebuild truly is.