Bulls focus on driving the ball as road trip opens with loss

This probably does not come as a surprise, but the Bulls rank last in the NBA in 3-point shot attempts since Jim Boylen became head coach on Dec. 3.

The Bulls are averaging 22.9 shots per game from behind the arc. There are several teams in the Bulls' neighborhood, but most of the best teams in the league shoot a high volume of 3s.

The top four teams in 3-point attempts since Dec. 3 — Houston, Milwaukee, Boston and Golden State — have all played at a .700 winning percentage during that time frame.

“Sometimes you don't have the personnel to become a team that's in the top 10 in 3-point attempts and makes and percentage,” Boylen told reporters at Wednesday's shootaround in Portland. “I think we can take more, but certain guys have to hunt them. I think we've been doing a good job of getting to the paint. We have to get some more foul calls and drive the ball.”

That was the message as the Bulls opened a five-game road trip by losing to the Blazers 124-112 on Wednesday at the Moda Center.

The Bulls were within 82-78 with 3:10 left in the third quarter after a Bobby Portis 3-pointer. Then Portland (25-17) finished the quarter with 6 free throws and 5 second-chance points to lead by 10. The Bulls got frustrated and lost discipline in the fourth quarter as the deficit grew to as many as 19 points.

Rookie center Wendell Carter Jr. led the Bulls with 22 points, followed by Zach LaVine with 18, then Kris Dunn and Portis with 15 each. Guard C.J. McCollum paced Portland with 24 points.

The Bulls (10-31) were competitive, but finished on the short end of 3-pointers made, free throws and rebounds. LaVine has been trying to get to the basket, but his trips to the foul line have become less frequent. LaVine's free-throw attempts have dropped every month, from 7.5 in October to 6.6 to 4.2 to 3.3 so far in January.

“I don't know. It's not like I'm changing anything,” LaVine said Wednesday. “It's got to be (a respect thing). First 20 games I was top 10 NBA in free throws. I haven't changed my approach or any moves I am doing.

“So I think it's just got to be respect, but every game is different and it's going be respect when you get to that level when you are known as one of those dudes who gets to the line and creates fouls. I think I've done a good job still finishing through the contact. It gets frustrating, but it is part of the game.”

One interesting part of LaVine's stat line is his 3-point percentage has gone up while he's been launching fewer attempts under the new coach.

LaVine shot 30.7 percent from 3-point range before Dec. 3, on 5.5 attempts per game. Since Boylen took over and de-emphasized the 3, LaVine is shooting 48.8 percent on 3.9 attempts per game.

“I know I can take and shoot more 3s,” LaVine said. “I know I'm a really good 3-point shooter. I think he (Boylen) just wants us to be aggressive going to the hoop. I think it's in the game plan to go to the hoop.

“Trust me, I'll shoot some 3s now. It depends on how they play you.”

At the morning shootaround, Boylen sat on the sideline watching laptop video with Jabari Parker. Boylen said he was showing Parker some things the Bulls have added on offense. Parker, who played in just one of the previous 12 games, did not play in the first half against the Blazers.

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