Bulls coach Jim Boylen was upset after the ugly loss to the Timberwolves on Wednesday, challenging his team to be tougher as he flails around in what should be his final days on the job. Apparently the message didn’t sink in all too well, as the Bulls responded by losing at home to a shorthanded Pacers team, 108-102. While Zach LaVine didn’t play again and Victor Oladipo returned from his nagging knee soreness, the Pacers were also without key rotation players in Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren and Doug McDermott.
The final score wasn’t all that indicative of how this game went. After the Bulls got off to a quick 10-2 start, the Pacers quickly turned the tide and took a four-point lead after one. Indy then opened up a 16-point lead at halftime before going up by as many as 23 points midway through the third quarter.
The game got close in the fourth quarter because Shaquille Harrison caught fire and the Pacers’ offense fell apart. It was a seven-point game with just under five minutes to play after a personal 8-0 run by Harrison, but then both teams stunk it up down the stretch and the margin never got under six points.
Harrison had a career game with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting and a shocking 5-of-6 on 3-pointers. He added four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in a legitimately strong all-around game. Coby White delivered another big outing with 26 points on 10-of-21 shooting to go along with six assists. That was the extent of the good offensively.
Lauri Markkanen really struggled in his second game back, managing just three points on 1-of-10 shooting in 22 minutes. Denzel Valentine was the only other Bull to score in double figures with 13 points, but he shot just 6-of-17 from the field. The Bulls lost despite getting 22 more shot attempts than the Pacers (17 offensive rebounds and 22 turnovers forced), thanks in large part to 9-of-38 3-point shooting. Bulls not named Shaq Harrison or Coby White shot 1-of-22 from deep.
Speaking of Valentine, he went on the record before the game to deliver some truly lukewarm “support” of Jimbo, which isn’t too surprising given how his season has played out. Some samples from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I mean, he has a voice. He’s been our coach all year, so, hey, whatever happens to him is what happens. But for now, he’s our coach. It is what it is.’’
“You may not agree with some of the things he’s saying, disagree with how he feels about certain things, but we’re here as players to try to be coachable,’’ Valentine said.
Valentine says it’s not the players’ “business” to speculate about Jimbo’s future, but Cowley notes that “several players have brought up Boylen’s status in the last week.” These guys obviously hear all the noise, so they know what’s going on here.
For what it’s worth, Wendell Carter Jr. was a good soldier after this latest loss:
Wendell Carter Jr. on Jim Boylen challenging Bulls: "I responded to it well. I told him he can tell me what it is. However you feel about a certain situation, we just have a conversation. With a coach like Jim, he's going to push us. We all respond pretty well when he pushes us."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 7, 2020
The Bulls are 21-42. Just 19 games left. Maybe go hire Kenny Atkinson?