As losses mount, Bulls can't get Dunn and LaVine clicking
As an organization, the Bulls have their eyes on the prize, which would be Duke's Zion Williamson, the likely first pick of the 2019 draft.
The players, meanwhile, are getting antsy to snap a 10-game losing streak. They'll get a chance Monday afternoon when the Bulls visit Cleveland in a battle of teams with the two worst records in the NBA.
Bulls game dayBulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, noon at Quicken Loans Arena
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Bulls are 2-0 against the Cavs this season, winning by 20 at Quicken Loans Area on Dec. 23. Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with 31 points that night. The Bulls also won 99-98 on Nov. 10 at the UC. ... These are the two worst teams in the NBA with Cleveland sitting at 9-38. The Cavs are returning from a 1-5 Western road trip, which included a win over the Lakers. ... SG Jordan Clarkson leads the Cavs with 16.9 ppg, followed by rookie PG Collin Sexton (14.5) and SF Rodney Hood (12.9). C Tristan Thompson missed the last two games with a foot injury. ... Ex-Bull Cameron Payne has averaged 8.7 points in seven games with Cleveland. Another ex-Bull, SF David Nwaba, hasn't played since the Dec. 23 game due to an ankle injury.
Next: Atlanta Hawks, 7 p.m. Wednesday at the United Center
-- Mike McGraw
Without question, the losing streak is the product of a young team facing a tough schedule. At the same time, the Bulls haven't come close to winning a game since going to overtime with Indiana on Jan. 4. The smallest margin of victory since then was 7 points against the Lakers, and frustration is building.
"Something's obviously wrong," Zach LaVine said after Saturday's loss to Miami. "We weren't losing by double digits earlier in the season. We might have been losing, (but) we didn't have a full roster. We're a better team now and we're getting blown out. It doesn't make a lot of sense.
"We go out there and play hard. You can't fault effort. It's not like we're going to go out there, 'Oh, we're going to lose today.'"
This week will bring chances to break the skid, with two games against Cleveland and a home date with Atlanta on Wednesday. The Bulls are 5-0 against the other four teams at the bottom of the standings -- Cavs, Hawks, Knicks and Suns. They have two victories over teams that currently sport a winning record -- Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
The Bulls have gotten some players back from injuries, but lost rookie center Wendell Carter Jr., who is expected to have surgery on his left thumb soon and may be out for the season. Coach Jim Boylen has been talking up the adjustment required when starting forward Justin Holiday was traded to Memphis on Jan. 3.
Short-handed or not, a lingering puzzle for the Bulls is how to get the starting backcourt of LaVine and Kris Dunn clicking. The guard duo shot 10-for-33 against Miami.
The Bulls have had some success the past two seasons when Dunn played and LaVine was injured. But they haven't done much with both players on the floor together.
Dunn is going through a rough stretch right now where he's averaged 6.8 points and 5 assists and shot just 28.6 percent from the field in the past five games.
"Definitely going though it," Dunn said. "It's part of the NBA. It's on me to find a way to get out of it. Offensively, I feel like I'm getting to my spots, just not knocking them down right now."
The Bulls played well in the first half against Miami and were tied late in the third quarter. Youth isn't a catch-all excuse. Miami's best player was shooting guard Josh Richardson, who's in his fourth season in the league, 25 years old and was originally a second-round draft pick. This also wasn't the first time Richardson has put away the Bulls at the United Center.
Why can't Dunn, LaVine, Lauri Markkanen or Bobby Portis do the same? That's what the Bulls need to figure out.
"At the end of the day, we're competitors," Dunn said. "It don't matter the age, you've got to go out there and compete. That's what we're trying to do.
"It's definitely frustrating when you lose. You get that one win, we'll be able to clear our heads and stop the madness."