Bulls can't shoot straight in loss to shorthanded Nets
On nights when the Bulls shoot poorly from 3-point range, there's no telling the lows they can reach.
On Saturday at the United Center, they lost 117-111 to a Brooklyn Nets team that was missing two of its top three scorers, Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and Caris LeVert (thumb).
The Bulls lost despite shooting a season-high 41 free throws, despite winning the rebounds 56-40, despite a 36-point night from Zach LaVine.
But they were awful from 3-point land and only reached 23.1 percent by the end of the game because LaVine and Lauri Markkanen knocked down three in a row in the final 30 seconds. Brooklyn (5-7) never missed a free throw, though, so the Bulls never had a possession with a chance to tie at the end.
"We have to have a consistency, either with our defense or getting to the free-throw line," LaVine said in the locker room. "When your shot's not falling, you have to find something that's a constant, I don't think we've found that yet. It just can't be, 'Oh, our shooting's off, so we're going to have a bad game.' We've got to have something that keeps us in the game."
So far this season, the Bulls have shot 40 percent or better from 3-point range four times and went 2-2 those nights. Saturday was the seventh time they've shot 31 percent or below from long range and they are 1-6 in those games, with the lone win at Memphis.
The Bulls (4-9) made the decision to emphasize the 3-point line this season. But they either don't have enough good shooters to make it work or need to find their confidence. Rookie Coby White continued his trend of hot and cold extremes, going 3-for-13 from the field for 7 points.
"I think we've got to stay the course," coach Jim Boylen said. "Listen, nobody likes losing games. There's no shame in losing an NBA game. Happens every day. What I'm disappointed in is our start. It's a Saturday night in Chicago, I didn't like the way we started. ... When you're having a tough shooting night, you can't get down."
The Bulls trailed 30-19 after making just 4 of 21 shots in the first quarter. But they won the second quarter 37-20 and led by as many as 11 points.
LaVine agreed that the Bulls shouldn't scrap the entire game plan, but did suggest some issues that could be addressed on the offensive end.
"I just see that we get stagnant a lot out there," LaVine said. "We'll run one action and everybody's staring at the person with the ball. We've got to get more fluid. I don't feel like a lot of people are in a rhythm."
LaVine said the Bulls' primary offense is a five-out, with everyone on the perimeter. They do seem to make a conscious effort to get the ball in the paint early, either via drives or passes. Both center Wendell Carter Jr. (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Lauri Markkanen (16 and 10) finished with double-doubles Saturday.
"Sometimes you get the ball and to me it feels like there's 12 eyes staring at you," LaVine said. "I try to call pick and roll most of the time when that happens. I'm not scared to take any shot. I'm not scared to miss a shot. I've taken all these shots before. If I'm the person to blame, I can take it."
There's a long way to go, but there's no question the Bulls expected to be better than 4-9 at this point.
"We should take offense to (the slow start)," LaVine said. "We've had a really easy schedule to start off. All of us were saying early, you've got to win the games your supposed to win and the rest of the schedule will take care of itself.
"We (squandered) a lot of games I think we should have won. (The Nets) have been on a losing streak. They wanted a win bad, just like we do. They just wanted it more than us. They made more plays."