Friday, March 31Welcome

4 lessons from the Bulls’ inconsistent first quarter of the season

SAN FRANCISCO — After 21 games, the Chicago Bulls sit outside the Eastern Conference play-in picture and are on pace to finish 35-47.

According to multiple advanced metrics, they’re facing the toughest schedule in the NBA so far, with the rest of the schedule being the third-easiest, given that they’re hoping Lonzo Ball will come back. , the record could certainly be improved.

That’s what the Bulls will have to do if they want to meet Arturas Carnisovas’ professed goal of improving on last year’s first-round loss to the playoffs.

With two wins over the Boston Celtics, one win over the Milwaukee Bucks, and one win in the season opener in Miami, the Bulls have proven time and time again that if you work hard, you can beat anyone. Disturbingly, they more often prove the opposite.

Here are four rough takeaways from the first quarter of the season.

Zach LaVine is not himself

The story of the Bulls hitting the ceiling all begins and ends with a two-time All-Star guard taking back the game.

The NBA is a star-driven league. The Bulls signed Lavigne to a maximum five-year, $215 million extension this offseason, at which point LaVine will continue to improve his shotmaking and defensive attention in the elite for a season and a half. was showing.

It’s been well documented how LaVine’s arthroscopic knee surgery and limited offseason training affected his lifts, bursts, rhythm and timing. While LaVine displays elite scoring prowess, he admits he’s consistently “getting there” when it comes to finding his perfect rhythm.

LaVine has achieved 40.7%, the second lowest of his career. After breaking his vaunted 60% true shooting mark in the last two seasons, he’s at 53.1% this season. This is his third lowest grade in his career.

To make matters worse, Lavigne sometimes resorted to shot-hunting in an attempt to find her rhythm. This was most dramatically demonstrated in his 14-1 game against the Orlando Magic, where coach Billy Donovan slapped him in the final minutes in favor of second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu. was placed on the bench.

Simply put, LaVine needs to play better if the Bulls want to be a playoff team.

Bulls keep out shots from the 3-point line

Indeed, Lavigne was 34.8%, almost 4% below his career average of 38.4%, and Ball’s continued absence hasn’t helped in the division.

Nonetheless, the discrepancy is sometimes shocking, especially since the Bulls limped out of the playoff series against the Bucks when adding shooting was talked about and written about as an offseason priority. .

Through 21 games, the Bulls rank 28th in 3-pointers made and last in tries. Opponents shot 95 more of his 3-pointers, plus he had 51 conversions. With 12 losses, the Bulls are 108 points ahead of his line by three points.

Sure, it’s not all about the 3-point shot. DeMar DeRozan, for example, is still a midrange assassin, and the Bulls wanted to emphasize more paint touches to make him less dependent on isolation.

“A lot of our games aren’t about shooting threes. It’s not the MO Guys who have to take shots. Obviously, they have to shoot better and make more threes. But, We have to do what we’re good at,” Lavigne said. “If you don’t take or make a lot of threes, you have to get rid of them. There’s no such thing as a 10-to-1 difference.”

That’s the problem. The Bulls are tied for 29th in that opponents can shoot 37.9% of his 3-pointers from his range. So, not only is it beneficial to do more, but it is also essential to stop doing more.

defense does it

Most notably in Milwaukee, the Bulls have demonstrated the ability to play playoff-level defense. In that game, Coby White continued to dive on the floor for loose his ball, DeRozan took the charge from Giannis his Antetokounmpo, and Patrick Williams made his two-time NBA Most Valuable Player at the rim. blocked him twice.

This is when the Bulls are at their best. Force a turnover and start the transition. They rank fifth in deflection, seventh in defensive loose ball recovery, and second in percentage of points from turnovers.

Unsurprisingly, Alex Caruso is at the center of it all. For the Bulls, he’s plus 6.2 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court and minus 8.18 points per 100 possessions when he’s off.

Overall, the Bulls have a defensive rating of 11th. But the discrepancy between games in which the Bulls are active and fixed and games in which they are not is jarring.

This is where the cloud of Ball’s absence continues to hang over this franchise. In fact, if healthy, the three-pointer can handle most of the aforementioned needs, such as shooting and his defensive identity. The ball could even help Lavigne progress given his ability to push the ball in transition to make room on the floor.

But there is no timetable for Ball’s return.

clutching in clutch

The Bulls have the league’s worst 2-8 record in “clutch” games this season, defined by as a five-minute or less game with a five-point margin.

The Bulls sit in the middle of the pack in terms of time spent in such conditions, tied for 15th with the Washington Wizards on 43.

It’s a big difference from last season. At that time, the Bulls went 25-16 in the “clutch” game, netting him a positive 15.3 rating, putting him in third place.

Many factors come into play here. But many of them boil down to the team’s inconsistent ways. Offensively, the Bulls typically stagnate in stride. Defensively, they tended to give up one big play, including a failed boxout and a slow rotation.

Late Wednesday in Phoenix, coach Billy Donovan said the Bulls’ ideal offensive identity would be to finish the game with five to seven players in double figures and 25-30 assists. rice field. The Bulls are 6-2 when that happens, including both a win over the Celtics and a win over the Bucks.

Donovan is not wrong. The Bulls make it happen.

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