Late run salvages little respect in Bulls' loss to Miami
It's Year 3 and the state of the Bulls' rebuild is not looking so good.
They were pounded in the first half by Jimmy Butler's Miami Heat on Friday at the United Center. A group of reserves finished the game on a 27-13 run to make the final score a more respectable 116-108, but this was still a rough loss.
Bulls fans don't need a reminder about how the rebuild began when they traded Butler to Minnesota on draft night of 2017. The Bulls' former all-star led Miami with 27 points, while Chicago native Kendrick Nunn added 21.
What does he think about the state of his old team?
"It makes no difference. I'm not here. They're not my team," Butler said. "I wish them all the best though."
While Miami raced to a 15-0 at the start, Bulls coach Jim Boylen made his first substitution of the game by pulling top scorer Zach LaVine at the 8:33 mark. Asked about the move later, Boylen confirmed it was because of defensive errors.
"He had three egregious defensive mistakes that I've talked to him about," Boylen said. "I thought he needed a break. I thought he needed to come in and think about it. I put a lot of pressure on him to improve and be a two-way player. We're still in those learning moments.
"Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen and our starters have to play better for us to become what we can become."
Inside the Bulls locker room, LaVine was asked if he felt singled out by the early substitution.
"If you just pull me, yeah," he said.
It wasn't clear what the mistakes were. There were plenty of them, considering the Bulls trailed 13-0 when LaVine went to the bench.
"I guess I was to blame for it," LaVine said. "I've got pulled early before by him. I guess that's just his thing to do. I have to take it in stride. What did he say I got pulled for?"
Told it was three egregious defensive mistakes, LaVine wanted more information.
"I don't remember seeing three egregious mistakes," he said. "I think I was supposed to show on one and I didn't. I told him because Jimmy doesn't usually set screens, he slips out of them. I didn't want to show and have him cut right to the basket. The other two, I don't know."
Well, the Bulls will have time to study the game film on the flight to Charlotte late Friday night. They'll play the second leg of a back-to-back Saturday against the Hornets.
LaVine led the Bulls with 15 points, but it's safe to say none of the starters played very well. Shaq Harrison got his second straight start in place of Chandler Hutchison, who is out with shin splints.
Nunn, who played at Simeon and Illinois, scored 7 points in the early run, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Harrison was part of the group that made the late comeback, along with Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Gafford, Max Strus and Denzel Valentine.
Strus scored his first NBA basket off an assist from Valentine. Then Valentine, who has rarely played this season, knocked down a couple of 3-pointers. The second 3 brought the Bulls within 108-101 with 1:19 left. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called time out and sent Butler back in to settle things down.
A few seconds later, Butler drew a foul at midcourt from Arcidiacono. Boylen challenged the call, asking for a charge. He lost the challenge, Butler hit 2 free throws and that was about it.
"It's not the finish that we'd like, not the start we'd like, but we went out there in the second half and competed and battled and not into moral victories at all," Arcidiacono said. "So it's disappointing. Hopefully we can get one tomorrow."
Bulls game dayBulls vs. Charlotte Hornets, Saturday 6 p.m. at the Spectrum Center
TV: NBCSCH; Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Bulls are going back to where it all started. They lost at Charlotte 126-125 on opening night after building a 10-point lead with six minutes left. ... The Hornets have been better than expected, with a 6-9 record heading into Friday's game at Washington. Former second-round pick Devonte Graham has been a breakout star at point guard, averaging 18.2 points and 6.9 assists. Former Celtics PG Terry Rozier is the second-leading scorer with 16.5 points. Rookie PF P.J. Washington, who lit up the Bulls for 27 points on 7 of 11 shooting from 3-point range, is averaging 12.0 points. ... Lauri Markkanen had his best game of the season against the Hornets, producing 35 points and 17 rebounds. ... The Bulls have lost four straight in Charlotte.
Next: Portland Trail Blazers on Monday 7 p.m. at the United Center
-- Mike McGraw