The Bulls competed hard and hung with the Trail Blazers on their home floor, but fell just short in a 107-103 loss. Observations from a game that pushed the Bulls' current losing streak to three games:
Boylen pushes all the buttons
Coming in, we knew we were in for some rotation experimenting from Jim Boylen. He delivered.
By the 10:45 mark in the second quarter, 11 of 13 active Bulls had seen game action. That includes Max Strus - though not, suspiciously, Luke Kornet or Shaq Harrison. The Bulls rushed out to a 28-22 lead in the first 11:45 of the game behind a combined 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting from Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr, but the more the deck shuffled, the more stagnant the offense grew. Between a Coby White bucket with 15.4 seconds remaining in the first and the 5:42 mark of the second, the Blazers ripped off a 15-4 run, and led 53-47 at the half.
With Chandler Hutchison out with a right shoulder contusion, Boylen elected to start Kris Dunn and roll with three-guard lineups for much of this one. Dunn finished with nine points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and closed the game.
When all was said and done, the Bulls' minutes distribution did have a more traditional shape than usual. LaVine, Markkanen, Carter and Satoransky all played over 30 minutes, Dunn played 29. In a more concentrated capacity, the bench performed admirably, outscoring the Blazers' backups 25-9.
The faces of the franchise find their stride, if only for a moment
Two quarters in, Markkanen appeared in for another disappointing performance. And in the grand scheme, the Bulls want more than 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting from their franchise cornerstone.
But he showed definitive positive progress in the third quarter. After having a floater swatted by Hassan Whiteside and bricking a three on his first two shot attempts of the period (both on plays drawn up for him), Markkanen went on to tally eight points on 3-for-6 shooting (1-for-3 from three) over the remainder of the quarter. LaVine chipped in six and White caught fire for a stretch to draw the Bulls - at one point down 12 in the quarter - within 81-78 entering the fourth.
Just warning you all that Coby's heating up pic.twitter.com/0pDMRAX7Mh
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 30, 2019
LaVine finished with 28 and had a couple big buckets down the stretch. Markkanen hit a crucial (at the time) three to cut the Blazers' lead to one with just under six minutes remaining in the game. Carter didn't have his best shooting night (7-for-16), but had six points and three rebounds (two offensive) in the fourth.
The efficiency wasn't there en masse (the team missed eight free throws and shot 38.3% from the field), but the starters scrapped, competed and very nearly pulled this one out.
Blazers too much down the stretch
The Blazers are a better, more talented team than their 8-12 record, and tonight's fourth quarter proved it. The Bulls put forth an overall encouraging performance on both ends and hung around until the closing seconds, but just didn't have the dudes to hang with the Blazers down the stretch.
In the fourth, Damian Lillard has 10 points and shot 2-for-4 from three (one of those directly answering the aforementioned Markkanen triple). Carmelo Anthony had nine in the final frame. Lillard (28), McCollum (20), Anthony (23) and Hood (19) all finished with 19 or more points, and Anthony chipped in 11 rebounds, to boot. The Blazers shot 4-for-7 from three in the fourth after entering the period 6-for-23.
As back-breaking a defeat as it feels, there's no shame in getting outexecuted down the stretch against a team of this talent-level.
Update Hassan Whiteside's Wikipedia page - he officially owns the Bulls
Whiteside shot only 4-for-11 from the field, but asserted his dominance against the Bulls once again.
He finished the game with eight points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocks, just missing his second points-rebounds-blocks triple-double against the Bulls. The Bulls did nearly match the Blazers in points in the paint (42-40 Blazers) and on the boards (49-47 Blazers), but Whiteside's presence loomed all night. He put the cherry on top of his second big-time performance against the Bulls of the week with a tip-in of a Lillard miss to put Portland up four with 8.8 seconds remaining.
It felt poetic.