Remember when we thought the Chicago Bulls were entering an easy stretch of their schedule?
One five-game losing streak later and the Bulls are in a really bad place right now. Friday night, they fell 126-115 at the hands of Memphis Grizzlies. They also have losses to the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves in this stretch. They have now lost nine of their last 12 games since trading for Nikola Vucevic, dropping to 22-33 on the season and a three-way tie with the Raptors and Wizards for the No. 10 seed. Toronto technically is the No. 10 seed right now because of percentage points, but, hey, at least the Bulls have the tiebreaker between these teams.
With Zach LaVine out of the lineup because of COVID-19 protocols, we knew this Bulls team could enter a new stratosphere of ugly. This game wasn’t as ugly as some of the other losses given the Grizzlies are a decent team, but giving up 126 points to an average offense is a tough look. After it was 57-57 at halftime, Memphis scored 69 points and shot over 63% in the second half. Dillon Brooks went off for 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting, with 22 of those points coming in the second half. The Grizzlies also outscored the Bulls 26-3 in fast-break points for the game.
With LaVine and also Tomas Satoransky out, Billy Donovan went with a starting lineup of Coby White, Garrett Temple, Patrick Williams, Daniel Theis and Nikola Vucevic. If there was any good news from this game, it was that White looked better. As the lead ball handler with LaVine sitting out, the North Carolina product dropped 27 points and seven assists, and he shot an efficient 8-of-17 overall, 4-of-8 from 3-point range and 7-of-7 from the line. Maybe most importantly, he turned the ball over just once in 33 minutes of playing time. So there’s that at least.
Vucevic continues to be rock solid offensively since joining the Bulls. He had another double-double with 24 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but he was also a team-low minus-15. Theis wasn’t all that productive starting in place of Thaddeus Young, who put up 17 points, six rebounds and four assists off the bench.
There was likely some hope moving Young to the bench would help get Lauri Markkanen out of his funk after they showed some chemistry earlier this season, but Markkanen had just three points on 1-of-7 shooting. At least he had a season-high four assists? In all seriousness, Markkanen fading like this is just brutal as he approaches his free agency. He has nine points total in his last three games and has reached double figures just twice in April.
I would say the schedule gets easier with a matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night. But at this point, there really isn’t an easy game for your Chicago Bulls, who are actually only two games up on the Cavs in the standings.