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Bulls vs. the Mavericks played better in a loss than they did in their last win
'encouraging' is too strong because that implies sustained improvement
In what AK has explained repeatedly are his goals, his Bulls met them with a “tough out”, “competitive” loss in Dallas on Wednesday night.
I don’t have much to say but wanted to put something up for discussion.
The big story defensively was how the Bulls guarded Luka Doncic, giving him a ton of attention to limit the NBA points per game leader to a low productivity night and daring the other Mavs to beat them.
By NBA tracking, 44 of the 48 Mavs attempts were “open” or “wide open.” This clearly was influenced by Bulls defensive strategy, and the combination of Patrick Williams, Alex Caruso, Torrey Craig, Coby White, and Ayo Dosunmu did well to frustrate and limit Luka. I sure saw them on the ground A LOT.
But the problem was that unlike in Indiana, many more of these threes went in. As a team the Mavs shot 41%, from distance, and non-Luka Mavs shot 47%.
As Bleacher Nation pointed out, it’s the willingness to let it fly that separates the Bulls from these other teams, and that’s exemplified by former Bull Derrick Jones Jr.:
Derrick Jones Jr. took NINE 3s against the Chicago Bulls and six the game before that. FIVE attempts happened to be his season-high last year. Would anyone consider him an above-average shooter? No. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t shoot when open. This is why the whole “the Bulls shouldn’t shoot 3s because they aren’t good at it” narrative falls flat for me. At the end of the day, you can’t ignore where the league is at. Dallas knows that DJJ isn’t a particularly consistent shooter, but that isn’t going to stop them from telling him to fire away
Jones’s former team got up a mere 33 three point attempts in this game, and though that’s still a huge improvement over Indiana it’s not giving any indication this is the ‘new shot profile’ that AK (sounding begrudging) called for.
Patrick Williams got the memo, just didn’t connect on anything as he continues his horrible shooting start to the season.
Beyond Williams spotting up, there’s just an overall lack of initiative to generate threes, as much as Donovan was calling for it. Zach LaVine caught fire at one point in the first half, but they were all off his own dribble. If you wanted to speculate nefariously…his teammates didn’t take this hot hand as reason to pass it to him, but reason to suspect they'd never get the ball back if they did.
LaVine only had 5 points in the second half.
Despite that, and DeRozan also continuing to underwhelm (though he did generate a few 3 point looks for others), and the aforementioned PWill Tony Snell line, a lot of the team played quite well, including every bench contributor. And Nikola Vucevic, as long as they DO NOT get the ball to him in the post, had a good game with 5 offensive rebounds and 2 steals plus doing a good job helping on Doncic.
The Bulls were in position for a very good win but the better team - even without Kyrie Irving - closed out in the 4th.
Through three quarters, the Bulls were actually out-rebounding them. In the 4th quarter, Dallas put up an insane 42.9% offensive rebound rate and shot 9 FTs (2 as foul-to-get-ball-back) to the Bulls 2. If you’re doing that AND taking way fewer threes, you’re gonna lose.
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