There will come a time when you’ll tell your grandkids about that one game. You know the one, where the Bulls famously ended a long-standing winning streak by a LeBron James led team.
It just wasn’t this game.
That was in 2013, when the Bulls played competitive basketball, even with inferior rosters and poor offenses.
Fast forward four years, the rebuilding Bulls had little chance in halting the streaking Cavaliers, who came into the game with 11 consecutive wins.
Former Bull Dwyane Wade ensured the Cavaliers remained in their winning ways, scoring one point for every million originally owed to him by the Bulls on his previous 2017-18 contract.
In uncompetitive games like this where neither team really tries, it’s hard to walk away with any positives, but here are some things that stood out to me:
Kris Dunn can accumulate numbers, and it’s becoming routine.
When his shot is on and his turnovers are low enough to justify keeping him on the floor, Dunn has shown an ability to fill out the box score.
His line: 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting, together with six rebounds and five assists (and three turnovers) in 31 minutes. A very good night for the ever-improving Dunn.
Notably, of the 18 games he’s featured in this season, it was the seventh game for Dunn with five or more rebounds and assists.
Sure, the turnovers are still a problem. And yes, blowing past a 36-year-old Jose Calderon —
who was never good defender during his prime — for uncontested makes at the rim isn’t necessarily anything to get excited about. But the flashes were there, and importantly, Dunn is slowly showing that he can consistently add value to games, even on nights where his own offensive output isn’t overly efficient.
Defenses have adapted to Lauri Markkanen, even if he’s still getting nice looks at the basket.
The Bulls are the worst offense in the league, which makes zoning in on their best offensive weapon that much easier. Whilst teams still have a tendency to leave Markkanen open at times (as Jae Crowder did on numerous occasions), teams are actively trying to limit Markkanen’s effect from outside the three-point line, forcing the rookie to work harder off the ball to get touches close to the basket.
That may like an obvious adjustment, but the result has led to expending more energy rid himself of defensive attention, which is adding pressure on Markkanen’s catch-and-shot game as his legs grow weary, finding himself out of rhythm more frequently.
For a first year player experiencing increased defensive pressure, all while the load of the NBA season becomes more apparent, Markkanen’s once gaudy shooting numbers continue to regress, falling below 40 percent from the field on the season.
This should be expected, and really, it’s no cause for long-term alarm, even if games have become more boring without Markkanen pouring in sweet jumpers. But it is something to watch moving forward.
How Markkanen counters as the season wears on may be the most important development of the season.
Justin Holiday taking bad shots is getting old, fast. And more importantly, coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. At least that’s what I’m assuming. Or he does have issues with Holiday’s shot selection, but nowhere near enough control over his veteran wing to curb out the frequency of contested jump shots.
Neither scenario paints Hoiberg in a positive light.
Holiday jacking shots isn’t new, and he only had 11 field goal attempts, so why harp on the issue now?
Simple: Because we’re 22 games into the season. Routines have been established, habits have been formed.
It was amusing at one point seeing Holiday curl off screens for a deep two-point jumpers. After all, someone has to take the shots on this insipid offense, right?
The team may be devoid of offensive talent, that is true enough. And yes, someone needs to take the shots. But that doesn’t excuse poor shot selection by player and coach. There are better shots available, even for the league’s worst offense. And if there aren’t, giving the ball to a younger player to make plays and lead the in team attempts is more advantageous to long-term goals than having a career role player rise up for forced jumpers.
Who is the bigger negative, Paul Zipser or Cristiano Felicio? I ask this question with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but it’s a legitimate one.
Neither have provided the Bulls with a level of play expected from rotational backups, and with his recent 4-year, $32-million contract, that was at least the minimum expectation for Felicio, who finished with six points in 12 minutes (but registered no other stat for the entire game).
Zipser wasn’t much better, finishing with a team-worst -20 plus/minus in only 15 minutes, and missing all four of his shots. Hey, at least he had two rebounds and an assist!
Similarly to the Holiday complaint, it’s become tiresome focusing on the disappointment of Zipser and Felicio. But in a game where the Cavaliers’ bench outscored the Bulls by 21 points, in a game decided by 22, their lack of production was stark.
Cameron Payne still exists, which is something, I guess.
C’mon someone, anyone??? pic.twitter.com/rdjCkdFG1q
— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) December 5, 2017
Take me back to a time when the Bulls actually could end a streak.