An Acceptable Loss, Zach LaVine's Defense, Bring Back Gafford, and Other Bulls Bullets

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An Acceptable Loss, Zach LaVine’s Defense, Bring Back Gafford, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

The ESPN Bulls are fun, but when the hell are we going to get the TNT Bulls back in our lives? GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.

•   The Bulls shot 40-95 from the field and 7-32 from downtown last night. They were out-rebounded 53-42, sent the 76ers to line for 29 free-throw attempts, and allowed Joel Embiid to score a career-high 50 points. On most nights, those numbers coincide with a pretty ghastly performance … but last night wasn’t most nights. Despite barely edging out the East’s worst team, the Detroit Pistons, two nights prior, the Bulls legitimately gave the first-place Philadelphia 76ers a run for their money. And unlike in a typical “good game” for the Bulls, they didn’t rely on their scoring, but rather their situational awareness, hustle, and defensive effort.

•   From the jump, this team came out playing a physical and aggressive brand of basketball. It was a style of play that we saw against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, but one that came and went in their contest against the Pistons. Wendell Carter Jr. got involved early, scoring the team’s first 8 points. Zach LaVine picked up where he left off in the 3rd quarter of Wednesday’s game, attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line five times in the opening frame. By halftime, the Bulls had also forced the 76ers into 9 turnovers. This same energy carried throughout the entirety of the game, and it likely played a major role in why this team felt as positively as they did despite the loss. No, they weren’t taking moral victories, but they seemed to understand that they just proved something on a pretty big-time stage.

•   Replicating the narrative of the game, Zach LaVine struggled to do what he does best (9-28 FG), but still found a way to stay alive. He fought for easy buckets and went a perfect 10-10 from the free-throw line. He also made up for his surprising lack of offensive efficiency with a promising defensive performance. Don’t believe me? Just watch:

•   I hope it’s obvious, but Stephen Noh is being sarcastic in his commentary (watch the videos and you’ll see). LaVine isn’t all of a sudden going to become an above-average league defender on a nightly basis, but to say he has not made strides toward becoming at least an average one is just ignoring the film.

•   Speaking of defense …

•   NBA coaches should listen to their All-Star starter:

•   Are we done with this whole Luke Kornet thing? Because we should be. Head coach Billy Donovan has not made many moves thus far that have left me scratching my head, but his continued commitment to Kornet over the past several games is one. I totally understand why he gave it go against the Pelicans, Clippers, and Pacers. Kornet is supposedly a solid shooter from long-range, so he was able to bring the opposing big men out along the perimeter to better space the floor. Also, Daniel Gafford had been struggling mightily to fill the center role adequately while Carter Jr. was sidelined. Fine. With that said, if Kornet isn’t knocking down his shots, he is easily the bigger liability. He may not be great, but Gafford is far more reliable as a rim protector. He is also just a more physically imposing presence and a better shot-blocker. Moving forward, I expect to see him ahead of Kornet in the rotation. Simple as that.

•   Last night almost became the “Arcidiacono game.” He finished the night with a very helpful 10 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal.

•   Thaddeus Young’s value just keeps going up. The Bulls swiss army knife got to show a national audience just how helpful he can be, playing some solid defense on Embiid and finishing with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block. Most importantly, however, was his SIX offensive rebounds, four of which helped keep key possessions alive in the second half. Deciding whether or not to seek out a trade at the deadline is becoming that much more difficult for the Bulls front office.

•   Holy dunk.

•   I can skate just about as well as I can dance (aka not well), but I would probably still buy those.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.