Harrison and White shine, but Bulls still fall to Pacers
Months of hard work in the gym are paying off for Bulls guard Shaq Harrison. But too many of his teammates are out of sorts and unable to come along for the ride.
Harrison went off for a career-high night, piling up 25 points on Friday against Indiana at the United Center. A career 28-percent shooter from 3-point range, Harrison has knocked down 8 of 9 attempts from behind the arc in the past two games and the lone miss was a desperation heave from beyond half-court at the end of the first quarter.
Ultimately, though, the Bulls couldn't take advantage of Harrison's sharpshooting. The rest of the team combined to hit just 4 of 32 shots from long range and the Bulls lost to Indiana 108-102.
"I don't think we played well. I think we tried," coach Jim Boylen said. "Again, I think we're in this moment where we're working guys back in and getting used to playing with each other again and kind of fighting through it."
Several Bulls looked rusty and out of sync. Lauri Markkanen had a rough second game back from his pelvis injury, hitting 1 of 10 shots for 3 points. Otto Porter had 8 points in 19 minutes, while center Wendell Carter Jr. contributed just 8 points, 6 rebounds, 5 fouls and got a technical foul for arguing with the referee.
"You can try to do conditioning and stuff like that, but the game is always different," Markkanen said. "Of course we're doing a little bit shorter stints on the court. I play like 4 or 5 minutes at a time. So I think at this point it's good, but obviously game by game want to get my legs back on every drive and shot."
Being short-handed wasn't really a valid excuse for this game. Indiana (38-25) took the floor missing three starters, including point guard Malcolm Brogdon with a sore hip and leading scorer T.J. Warren with a leg injury. The Pacers lost shooting guard Jeremy Lamb to a season-ending knee injury a few weeks ago.
The Pacers took control in the second quarter when they outscored the Bulls 33-21. After trailing by as many as 23 points, the Bulls mounted a late rally, but the final margin was as close as it got.
Coby White didn't shoot well from long range (3 of 10), but stuck with it and produced 26 points and 6 assists. It was his seventh straight game with at least 19 points.
With the playoff goal long extinguished, the Bulls will turn to player development as the primary goal this season. White took a sudden turn for the better a couple weeks ago and now Harrison has followed. He scored 17 points in the loss at Minnesota on Wednesday.
"Zach LaVine, he's taught me a few pointers," Harrison said. "We have the same workout guy within the team, so (Thursday) we actually got our shots a little bit on our off day. I try to take pointers from him here and there."
Harrison has always been a defensive specialist, going back to his college years at Tulsa and beyond. His shot is still a little flat, but he doesn't think there's been any change in form or work ethic.
"I honestly think it's just all the work, because I had my same routine," he said. "I shoot it well when I'm working out and over the summer. So I think it's a slow grind to it and it's finally manifesting itself into an actual game."
Boylen challenged the Bulls to play more physical after they were outrebounded in Minnesota. There was some improvement Friday when they lost the rebound battle by just one.
"We had 17 offensive rebounds, we had 26 assists," Boylen said. "I thought we tried to play the right way."