What to Watch for Against Philly, LaVine's Decision-Making, Lauri's Big Night, and Other Bulls Bullets

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What to Watch for Against Philly, LaVine’s Decision-Making, Lauri’s Big Night, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Joel Embiid knows his perfect record against Chicago is no match for this fierce and mighty Bulls team that is 6-1 against the East’s top-3 teams.

What a scaredy cat! Stop trying to keep the streak alive!

  • In all seriousness, the Bulls will catch a pretty big break tonight with Embiid missing his second-straight game. He has averaged a ridiculous 29.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in the 12 games played against this franchise during his career. In two of his last three matchups with the Bulls, he has scored at least 40 points and shot 60 percent from the field. He has truly been the basketball version of Aaron Rodgers, and any opportunity the Bulls can get to dodge him is an opportunity they must take advantage of.
  • The 76ers have won six of their nine games without Embiid this season. So while no Embiid certainly makes tonight a much more winnable game for the Bulls, it’s not like the Bulls can walk into this game any differently. The 76ers still possess one of the deeper rosters in the league and hold the NBA’s 6th-best net rating. Their defense, in particular, has been consistently strong. Philly has forced opponents into nearly 16 TOVs per game (5th-best in the league) and has held them to the second-fewest points per game this season. A big reason for that has been the plus play of wing defenders like De’Anthony Melton, P.J. Tucker, Matisse Thybulle, and Tobias Harris. With those guys healthy and in the rotation tonight, they have more than enough bodies to throw at scorers like Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.
  • The Bulls would love to see Javonte Green and Alex Caruso upgraded from “questionable” to active ASAP. While this could be wishful thinking with a game also scheduled tomorrow night, I sincerely think the presence of both players could be the difference between winning and losing tonight. With no Embiid to worry about, the backcourt tandem of James Harden and Tyrese Maxey will likely have carte blanche. The Bulls did a great job holding Harden to just 2-13 shooting and Maexy to a 5-14 performance back in November, and a big reason for that was the perimeter attack that both Caruso and Green spearheaded. If those two can play tonight AND Embiid is stuck on the sideline, I don’t hate the Bulls’ chances at a second-straight win.
  • ICYMI: I wrote a little about the recent Zach LaVine reports and why I can understand some of the frustration about his current role. I’ll drop that link here and below. One thing I’ve wanted to stress since writing that is I believe this whole thing is a two-way street. While I do believe the Bulls can stand to find him more on and off-ball opportunities, LaVine also needs to be willing to adapt to the ongoing situation. In other words, we can talk all we want about finding him more catch-and-shoot 3s and more hard cuts to the rim, but he needs to then prioritize moving with purpose off the ball. He also needs to stop some of the silly shot selection.

  • For example, it’s not great when you come across tweets like this:

  • To be fair, I don’t think this is the worst shot for someone with LaVine’s proven 3-point stroke. But that doesn’t mean I think he should have taken it. An early shot-clock, pull-up 3 in a close game is rarely going to be the wise decision. He needs to understand that as a max player.
  • This defense can work … but everyone has to be hitting their mark:

  • First of all, I’m sure the Bulls are furious that they couldn’t get a deal done for the legendary Cash Considerations. Secondly, why is Boston opening up a roster spot? Hmmmm.

  • It’s official: Lauri Markkanen is that dude now.

  • The Bulls will see an All-Star-bound Markkanen at the United Center tomorrow night. They already let The Finnisher dropped 32 points in his first meeting with Chicago back in late November, so to say I’m a bit scared of what a Markkanen that is averaging 30.5 points over his last 11 games can do on Saturday is an understatement.

  • The 36-year-old Chicago native is back with the Windy City!


  • How about Cubs …

Author: Elias Schuster

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