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The Chicago Bulls can't make a layup

Will Gottlieb Avatar
November 14, 2023

As the Chicago Bulls continue to sputter into the start of their season, the losses are starting to pile up. Heading into Milwaukee on the second night of a back-to-back is always a tough challenge, but the Bulls were not up to the task, falling to the Bucks 118-109.

Again, the Bulls got off to a slow start, going scoreless on their first eight possessions. It was not until the second unit came in and kicked the energy into high gear that they started to close the gap.

Down nine at the start of the fourth quarter, the Bulls lack of energy bled into their execution on both ends. They had moments of success on both sides, but didn’t take the game seriously enough for the first 42 minutes to truly give themselves a chance.

The Bulls got no help from their stars, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, who halfway through the fourth quarter, combined for just 16 points on 3-of-23 shooting. LaVine got it going late, scoring eight points on three shots in the final 3:02, at which point the game was all but decided. He finished with 20 points on 5-of-19 shooting. DeRozan chipped in 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting.

Nikola Vucevic was the only one of the big three who provided efficient offense — he scored 26 points on 11-of-24 shooting, with 12 rebounds as he wrestled for post position and cleaned up a ton of missed layups.

Why can’t the Bulls finish at the rim?

Coming into the game, the Bulls were shooting 61.9 percent at the rim, 25th overall and 3.5 percent worse than average.

Against the Bucks, they took 26 shots at the rim and made only 13. Coby White, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan each had a reel of lowlights. LaVine was 0-of-5 at the rim. DeRozan was 0-of-4. White was 2-of-5.

Perhaps it could be explained by a higher percentage of shooting fouls drawn at the rim? They’re down in free throw attempt rate from 20.3 last year (20th) to 17.9 percent this year (23rd).

Finishing last season right in the middle of the pack, one would expect the percentage to bump back up. But for now, it’s just a bit strange they are struggling so much in this area.

Turnover differential

The Bulls have been the best team in the league this year at taking care of the basketball. By far. They average only 11.4 turnovers per game.

The Bulls have been a top-ten turnover team since DeRozan’s arrival, but they’ve been even more judicious with the ball this year, and that’s been keeping them alive in many of these games amid slow starts or opponent droughts.

Meanwhile, they are forcing opponents into 17.2 turnovers per game, which is the third best rank in the league.

Part of this is the brilliance of the second unit. Even without Caruso, lineups with Ayo Dosunmu, Jevon Carter and Andre Drummond are forcing opponents into a 21.7 percent turnover rate, which ranks in the 100th percentile.

Considering the Bulls haven’t followed through on their commitment to closing the three-point gap nor juicing their offense with additional free throws, the turnover swing has been a huge one for the Bulls.

They’re scoring 21.8 points off turnovers per game, second in the league and allowing only 12.9 to their opponents, the best in the league.

Other notes:

  • DeRozan threw one of the craziest passes you will ever see, a spiraling assist to White for a corner three
  • Patrick Williams had a solid game with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting with three threes, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. He closed the half and the fourth quarter with the starting group and had an incredible defensive sequence that kept the game within reach.

Up Next: Bulls face the Magic on Wednesday and Friday. Both games at home. Friday game is their second In-Season Tournament game.

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