Chicago Bulls hit all-star break with a whimper, lose badly to Toronto
What is in store for the Chicago Bulls after the all-star break? Will it be "Tankapalooza," a promising push for the future or something in between?
Wednesday night's game at the United Center didn't prove much, except the Bulls aren't ready to compete with the hottest team in the Eastern Conference. First-place Toronto pushed its winning streak to seven in a row with a thorough 122-98 victory over the Bulls.
The Raptors (41-16) pulled away in the second quarter and were never threatened. Bobby Portis led the Bulls with 18 points off the bench, while Lauri Markkanen scored 14.
This game featured the return of point guard Kris Dunn after he missed 11 games with a concussion. Dunn played just under 20 minutes and showed flashes of the player he was before the layoff. he finished with 8 points, 3 assists and no turnovers, hitting 3 of 9 shots from the field.
"I was a little tired, my legs started to get a little bit heavy, but overall I think I felt pretty good," said Dunn, who claimed he has gotten past any concussion symptoms. "I'm going to try to work on my conditioning (during all-star break) and hopefully when I get back I won't be on a minute restriction."
Dunn was able to take a positive view of the final 25 games of the season, seeing it as a chance for him, Markkanen and Zach LaVine to finally start playing together. After coming back from knee surgery, LaVine made his Bulls debut on Jan. 13, less than a week before Dunn suffered the concussion.
"We both like to get it up the floor as quickly as possible," Dunn said. "We like to attack the basket, we like to shoot mid-ranges. It's going to be fun.
"When you have pieces like that, Lauri he's going to get open shots. Lauri's going to create open shots for Zach. Zach's going to create open shots for me. It's good for everybody else on the team because it's going to make things a lot easier."
Markkanen talked about his own layoff issues, even though he missed just three games recently due to the birth of his son.
"I feel like just getting my rhythm back after I had that week-and-a-half where I didn't play," Markkanen said. "So just getting back to my normal self again. It feels better all the time."
Markkanen and Dunn are the Bulls' two all-star weekend representatives. They'll play against each other in the Rising Stars game, then Markkanen will compete in the Skills Challenge on Saturday in Los Angeles.
Before leaving for their weekend vacation, a couple of other Bulls chimed in on what they'd like to see in the final 25 games.
"Hopefully, some energy, some grit, a little bit of life and us excited to play this game," Justin Holiday said. "Hopefully we can play like the young team we are."
Denzel Valentine admitted being worn down by the long NBA season.
"This is my first real NBA season," he said. "Last year I played a little bit, but this year is my first actual full season and it definitely wears on you mentally. This is a good break, perfect time to hit the reset button and finish these last 25 games strong."
Toronto presented a nice template of what the Bulls would like to become.
The Raptors moved the ball well among their three stars and piled up 60 points in the paint. Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 20 points each, while the bench was just as strong, led by Pascal Siakam's 17 points.
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