One would think watching The Bachelor immediately after watching the Bulls lose to the Celtics would be a good mindless palate-cleanser … but no. I woke up this morning with way too many thoughts on both topics – so much so that things got jumbled in my mind. Wait was Katie the one who had six turnovers? Why is Lauri still talking trash about Wendell when he isn’t even on the court anymore? Despite the loss, Abigail continues to shoot lights out. No way Matt picks Denzel.
• While I didn’t necessarily expect the Bulls to beat the Celtics – especially with Jayson Tatum back on the floor – I did at least think we would get a significantly more positive performance. The team has competed against clear-cut playoff teams well numerous times this season, and one would think a blowout loss to the Lakers would motivate this roster, even more, to come out with something to prove. Instead, they carried over their sorrow and continued to look all out of sorts. Before I pick apart some of the annoying things from last night, however, I do want to say that I’m not ready to sound the alarm. The Lakers and Celtics are two Finals contenders in their respective conference. We know the Bulls talent level isn’t comparable, and we know they are bound to have tough nights against squads like these. It’s part of the (annoying) process.
• At the same time, it’s not wrong to want a more competitive effort. While Zach LaVine scored his normal 30 points, the rest of the Bulls starters really struggled to carry their weight. Coby White was thrown off by the Celtics defense, finishing with only 5 points and 1 assist in his 24 minutes of action. Meanwhile, rookie Patrick Williams looked as shaky as ever on the offensive end, going 1-4 from the field with 2 points and zero rebounds. Lauri Markkanen did manage to have a solid 7-12 shooting night with 18 points, but I was also quite disappointed by his all-around performance.
• I really thought this would have been a prime opportunity for Markkanen to take the keys to the offense, especially with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart guarding the Bulls backcourt. However, there seemed to be no emphasis by Markkanen nor Donovan to make that happen. Daniel Theis and Tristian Thompson are no scrubs, but the seven-foot Markkanen has the athleticism and size to take both players off the dribble and give them problems at the rim. Honestly, this is kind of the first time I scratch my head at the coaching. I know he likes to let players dictate the flow of a game, but I would have loved to see him draw up more action for Markkanen as he realized the game was falling out of control. And the same can be said about pushing this team to get to the free-throw line. He said in his postgame press conference that he was disappointed with how few freebies the team shot (a season-low), but did he challenge them enough to try to draw more fouls during the game?
LIVE: Head Coach Billy Donovan takes questions from the media after tonight's loss to the Celtics https://t.co/ghXVd40X3v
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 26, 2021
• Are the cries for Daniel Gafford to start finally dead? Good. They should be. The second-year player has now had two games to prove what he can do in the starting lineup, and he responded with a combined 4 points and 4 rebounds. I know he played some challenging competition, but he struggled so much that Donovan had to (1) let Cristiano Felicio clock minutes against the Lakers and (2) only play him 11 minutes against the Celtics. Do the Bulls win either game with Carter Jr. on the court? Eh, probably not, but I do think these last two games showed us how important he is on both ends of the floor. He is not only clearly the team’s best rim-protector and defensive rebounder, but he also helps open up the floor on the offensive end. Carter Jr. sets stronger screens, and he can actually be trusted to touch the ball along the perimeter. The Bulls truly looked scared to give Gafford the ball even at the free-throw line over these past two games, which I guess isn’t all that surprising when we remember he lacks any kind of jumper. Again, let me be clear, I am a Gafford fan. I always have been. I just also believe it’s clear that Carter Jr. is the Bulls best option at center for the time being.
• The Bulls gave up 35 stinkin’ points off turnovers last night. THIRTY-FIVE!!! I have no idea what Donovan can do to teach these young players to take better care of the basketball, but he better figure something out.
• Patrick Williams has looked a lot less confident over these past couple of games, and Thaddeus Young gave him some words of wisdom:
Patrick Williams was "upset" with his own play tonight, Thad Young says.
Young told Williams that "shit happens" and "don't try to be perfect."
Williams had 2 points on 1-4 FGs and 2 turnovers in 10 minutes.
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) January 26, 2021
• Speaking of Thaddeus Young, he finished with 16 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds last night. The guy is playing some of his best all-around basketball in a while, and I’m very curious to see what the Bulls do with that fact as the trade deadline inches closer.
Thad Young is up to 8 charges drawn, tied with Blake Griffin for 2nd-most in league behind Kyle Lowry (of course) and Montrezl Harrell, who each have 9.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 26, 2021