Boylen hopes Bulls' defense catches up to offense

 
 
Updated 2/11/2019 8:30 PM
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It's not inaccurate to say the Bulls had been the NBA's best offensive team over the past five games.

In the category of offensive rating, which is number of points scored per 100 possessions, the Bulls did rank first in the league over the five games leading up to Monday's matchup with Milwaukee, according to nba.com, just ahead of Houston.

Of course, the Bulls also ranked 25th in defense during that stretch, and that's something coach Jim Boylen wants to change.

"I don't want us to be 30 in one thing and 1 in the other," Boylen said before Monday's game. "We can score all the points we want, but if you don't become a defensive team, it's hard to win, and we all know that's true. I believe that as much as anybody. But I'm thankful for the growth offensively, I really am."

Boylen provided a rundown of defensive shortcomings, which included not reacting well to turnovers, poor communication and overall lack of toughness. He gave an interesting take on ideal defensive communication.

"The five (center) sees everything coming at him usually. The one (point guard) has his back to the rest of the team," Boylen said. "So that right there is your first line. You've got to have a lot of communication about what's going on and what we're in.

"(Injured rookie Wendell) Carter was great at that. For a 19-year-old guy, his communication, his early talk, his understanding of what's coming at us was huge for 44 games."

Robin Lopez doesn't move his feet as well as Carter, and Boylen said they're trying to use Lauri Markkanen at center more often, so he's learning the role.

"Again, this is a work in progress, there are moving parts. Those aren't excuses, those are facts," Boylen said. "But our effort and our toughness and our competitiveness needs to be more consistent on the defensive end."

Niko returns again:

Ex-Bull Nikola Mirotic was back at the United Center and not playing for the second time in less than a week. He was here with New Orleans last Wednesday, then got traded to Milwaukee in a three-way deal that sent Stanley Johnson to the Pelicans. Mirotic remained out of action Monday due to a calf injury.

"We're just taking Niko kind of day-by-day," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game. "Beyond excited that he's here. Feel like there's just a lot of things he's going to add. Talk about his basketball IQ, he's just a really smart player on both ends of the court, not just offensively.

"His shooting is obviously something we really value. The more shooting we can put out there, the better we feel we're going to be. But he's more than a shooter, he's a guy who can put it on the floor, make plays for himself, make plays for others."

Two-way players switch:

The Bulls kept two-way player Brandon Sampson in uniform on Saturday against Washington, and he even scored 7 points late in the game. They sent Rawle Alkins and Antonio Blakeney to play for the Windy City Bulls that night.

On Monday, they flipped the two-way guys. Alkins suited up for the Bulls, as did Blakeney, while Sampson was inactive.

"We flopped those guys because we thought that was the thing to do," coach Jim Boylen explained. "I thought Brandon did a really good job with us, I got a feel for who he is and I wanted to see Rawle again. That's all that is.

"Rawle brings a different style of basketball than Brandon. Rawle's more of a physical, kind of tough guy. Brandon's kind of a smooth, offensive scorer type of guy. Both good kids and I'm thankful for them."

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