The Bulls have taken care of business against bums this season while failing to rack up wins against good teams. This Pistons-Jazz back-to-back was just another example. After beating the Pistons by 14 in an ugly affair, the Bulls suffered a 120-95 loss to the Jazz in a game that was close for one quarter before turning into a rout.
The Bulls got off to a decent start attacking Rudy Gobert, with four different players scoring in the paint in the first few minutes. The Jazz had some issues putting the ball in the basket, especially inside the arc, and the home team actually held a 23-20 lead when Zach LaVine checked out of the game with about three minutes left in the first quarter.
The Jazz then went on a 19-0 run and never led by single digits the rest of the game.
Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles got things going for the Jazz, with Ingles’ deadly 3-point shooting proving to be a real thorn in the Bulls’ side (he went 5-of-6 for the game). Meanwhile, Chicago’s all-bench lineup to close the first quarter stunk it up, with Ryan Arcidiacono finishing the frame with consecutive airballs. Things didn’t get any better when Lauri Markkanen returned to the floor to start the second quarter alongside Luke Kornet as Billy Donovan tried to open up the court to draw Gobert out of the paint.
Markkanen couldn’t make anything, whether it was a 3-pointer or a layup (he had one disastrous sequence where he missed three shots in the paint on one possession), and nobody else could make anything either. Denzel Valentine was firing up bricks and Coby White was making a mess of things as part of an awful performance that saw him get blocked by Gobert a number of times on both ill-advised drives and jumpers. Markkanen finished the game with eight points on 3-of-12 shooting in only 19 minutes of action (he sat out a long stretch in the second half), while White had 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting and was a minus-23 in 23 minutes. About the only thing Markkanen did right was somehow muscling in one last shot over Gobert, who was chasing a triple-double with blocks in garbage time. The Frenchman wound up just short with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks as Markkanen denied that triple-double.
The Bulls were able to somewhat stabilize things once LaVine returned, but they were just never able to get enough stops to make a sustained run. It was a 14-point game at halftime, and that deficit quickly ballooned to 21 early in the third quarter. Even with Chicago scoring at a better pace in the third quarter, again, there were just not many stops. Daniel Gafford provided one final jolt of energy late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to help cut the deficit back down to 14, but then it just got out of hand again.
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists, but it was on 10-of-25 shooting overall as he had a rare off night inside the arc. That will happen with a Defensive Player of the Year anchoring the paint with a terrific team defense around him. The Bulls All-Star got very little help, with Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky and White the only other players in double figures. The Bulls shot 40.6% from the field and just 6-of-26 from 3-point land, with non-LaVine Bulls going 2-of-16.
Donovan Mitchell paced the Jazz with an easy 30 points, six rebounds and six assists as the Jazz did what they do. One of the NBA’s best 3-point shooting teams, Utah poured in 17 triples on 39 attempts, and that was despite Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic combining to go 1-of-13 from deep.
Chicago now sits at 19-23 with one game remaining before the trade deadline. It’s against a bum Cavs team on Wednesday night, so I just expect they’re going to win it. It’s pretty clear the Bulls are at least a respectable group when it comes to taking care of the trash, but they lack the talent to truly compete against real competition. They’re also very likely going to make the play-in tournament unless the bottom really falls out (the schedule does look tough on paper) given the state of the Eastern Conference, which just saw the 11th-place Raptors lose a ninth straight game by getting blown out by a Rockets team that had come in on a 20-game losing streak. The Bulls and Pacers are 2.5 games ahead of Toronto.
We’ll see what kind of rumors pop up in the next few days. Or perhaps there will be an actual move?!
To end this on a positive note, here’s Joakim Noah:
JOAKIM IN THE HOUSE ❤️— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) March 23, 2021
Fans would be going crazy at the UC right now pic.twitter.com/1xwl5RWBgc
We miss you.