Shorthanded Chicago Bulls barely show up against Utah
As the Chicago Bulls' second rebuilding season winds down, they've played 13 games with Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen on the floor together, and none with rookie Wendell Carter Jr. rounding out the Future 4.
So what can we learn from this Bulls season, which will almost certainly be less successful than last year's 27-win campaign?
For starters, they need either better depth or better players. Without LaVine and Porter on Saturday, the Bulls barely showed up against a Utah team battling for playoff seeding in the West. The Jazz led by 38 points in the second quarter and coasted to a 114-83 victory at the United Center.
"You've got to compete every night, no matter who you're playing against, and I don't think we did that in the first half and that's pretty much the storyline here tonight," said Lauri Markkanen, who led the Bulls with 18 points and 10 rebounds. "I think we can beat anybody when we play the full 48 minutes well. We haven't done that too many times this year."
Porter missed his third straight game with a right-shoulder strain, while LaVine missed his second game with a right-thigh contusion. The Bulls are hoping both players will return to play again during the final eight games of the regular season.
Before the game, coach Jim Boylen provided some insight when asked what he will take into the summer from this uneven season.
"I think we have identified some real positive things on how we're going to play," Boylen said. "I think the multiple ballhandler system has been good for us. I feel like driving the ball, I think we're second in the league in paint touches since I got the job. That was a point of emphasis from Day 1.
"I would like us to take good 3s. If it ends up being more 3s, great. Defensively, we've been real good some nights and really poor some nights. I'd like us to be more consistent there. I'd like to see some more toughness at that end of the floor."
Boylen talked about how much the Bulls miss injured center Wendell Carter Jr. as the defensive anchor. The vision of Carter joining the other three key pieces can't be realized until next fall at the earliest.
It's debatable whether the Bulls even need any promising signs right now. There weren't too many Saturday as Utah (43-30) jumped on the chance to get a relatively easy win. Jazz center Rudy Gobert was dominant with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks in just 26 minutes.
"We were pretty good at getting into the paint the last two games," Boylen said. "I thought Gobert and their defense shut down the paint."
When the Bulls beat Washington on Wednesday, Kris Dunn had a big game. Dunn played Saturday but clearly wasn't himself due to a back injury. He scored 4 points.
"I want to give Kris Dunn credit for playing," Boylen said. "He had more kinesio tape on him than a dang mummy. I love the fact that he tried it. I love the fact that he just said, 'Coach I'm going to give you everything I have. I'll do the best I can.' "
The Bulls have two days off before facing a tough back-to-back with a road game in Toronto, followed by a home date with Portland.
"I just tried to go out there and give it my all for my team," Dunn said. "I couldn't be as aggressive as I wanted to be. I couldn't move very well, I couldn't fight through screens as I normally do."
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