With Kris Dunn sidelined by a concussion, Lauri Markkanen away from the team and Nikola Mirotic making his New Orleans Pelicans debut Saturday, the Chicago Bulls are back to making a strong push for a high draft pick.
The Bulls were somewhat competitive Saturday afternoon against the Los Angeles Clippers, but their losing streak hit six with the 113-103 defeat at the Staples Center.
One question now is if the Bulls can get back to playing well or if the slide will continue indefinitely.
Markkanen, who took a break for the birth of his first child, is expected to be back with the team when the Bulls finish their Western road trip Monday in Sacramento.
Dunn is in concussion protocol after his nasty fall in the Jan. 17 loss to Golden State. Monday will mark his eighth missed game and his return remains uncertain.
"He's still on the concussion protocol," coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters Saturday. "As he continues to feel better, hopefully he can cross off the steps to get out of it. Then he'll need a couple of practices before he's cleared."
During the next few days, there will be questions about whether the Bulls will make another trade before Thursday's deadline.
Mirotic made his debut with the Pelicans on Saturday night. Coincidentally, it came in Minnesota against his former coach Tom Thibodeau and ex-Bulls teammates Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson.
Two players the Bulls acquired from New Orleans, center Omer Asik and guard Jameer Nelson, arrived in Los Angeles but did not suit up Saturday.
The third player in that trade, Chicago native Tony Allen, has been out for a couple of months with a leg injury. He will be traded or waived by the end of the week, so he won't bother meeting with the Bulls.
With players missing, a few forgotten Bulls got a chance for playing time. Forward Paul Zipser took advantage, scoring 16 points against the Clippers, hitting 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range.
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 21 points and 9 rebounds. After a scoreless first quarter, LaVine got going and hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to bring the Bulls within 57-52 at halftime.
The Bulls (18-34) got as close as 3 points early in the third quarter, but the Clippers eventually pulled out to a 15-point lead, the largest of the game.
"He's still trying to find his rhythm," Hoiberg said of LaVine, who hit 6 of 18 shots. "I think he's turning down some pretty darned good looks and turning them into tough shots and tough contested midrange shots, and that was an issue for us.
"It was good to see Paul get it going a little bit and hopefully we'll get Lauri back in the next game. Keep battling, keep grinding, and we're going have a game were we make some shots and get back in the winning column."
Two players the Clippers added from Detroit in the Blake Griffin trade made their debuts in this game. Forward Tobias Harris scored 24 points, matching Danilo Gallinari for team high. Guard Avery Bradley, another former Piston, started and scored 8 points.
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