Over the weekend, the Bulls returned to the court for the first time in nine months, taking on the Rockets in two preseason games to kick off their 2020-21 campaign. A strong fourth quarter by the Bulls against the Rockets’ scrubs gave them a 104-91 victory on Sunday after a humiliating 125-104 loss on Friday.
While the Bulls were six points down at the end of the third quarter, they were at least more competitive throughout Sunday’s game. On Sunday, the Bulls had 19 turnovers, stronger closeouts, and a more motivated effort overall, despite the Rockets’ 12-of-47 3-point shooting.
Despite the absence of James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Christian Wood, the Rockets blitzed the Bulls with 24 3-pointers despite the absence of those three players, leading to a 14-2 first-quarter deficit.
It was a particularly sloppy performance by the Bulls’ offence on Friday, as Houston scored 35 points off of 21 Bull errors. They weren’t much better on Sunday when they shot just under 40% and committed a season-high 18 turnovers.
There were a few bright spots for Zach LaVine and Coby White (23 and 20 points, respectively, on 8-of-14 shooting, with three 3-pointers each), but the offence was still sluggish. It would have been 30 assists if Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter Jr. could have made a shot for the Bulls, who had 26 assists on 37 points (combined 4-of-21, but Carter did finally hit a 3-pointer).
Following his impressive performance on Friday, the Bulls’ second unit lacked Tomas Satoransky in Sunday’s game. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Bulls were missing Thaddeus Young, Garrett Temple, Denzel Valentine, Luke Kornet, Noah Vonleh, Adam Mokoka and Devon Dotson on Sunday.
There was nothing wrong with White’s 15 points and six assists in 23 minutes on Friday, but he was outplayed by Wall and the Bulls’ offence was an all-around disaster. However, as Billy Donovan previously stated, White should be judged on how well he can run the offence rather than how many points he can score. The guard blew several opportunities, including this one:
These are the reads Coby needs to learn this season. Lauri WIDE open in the corner pic.twitter.com/IX2ddIPosb
— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) December 12, 2020
Though he did hit Markkanen with a nice crosscourt pass just moments later:
Here’s a good example of what I was talking about earlier. Nice patience/cross court vision here from Coby pic.twitter.com/45W7rCPREZ
— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) December 12, 2020
White had a stronger outing on Sunday. Despite Wall’s 21 points, White irritated him with great on-ball defence and even took repeated charges, causing him to lose his cool. Some ugly turnovers from the inexperienced point guard were mixed in with some nice pick-and-roll readings, like this one:
There we go Coby. Nice patience, nice pass pic.twitter.com/HzrvCJwHYj
— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) December 14, 2020
For now, White is a work in progress and we shouldn’t expect him to consistently make high-level passes. It’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever be able to achieve it. For the time being, the Bulls’ offence ran more smoothly with White on the court Sunday than it did without him (near-109 offensive rating).
For now, White is a work in progress and we shouldn’t expect him to consistently make high-quality passes. Uncertainty surrounds his ability to accomplish this. On Sunday’s game, the Bulls’ offence was more efficient with White on the court because of it (near-109 offensive rating).
Williams had three steals and many deflections on defence on Sunday. He did a great job breaking down Williams’ debut game and pointing out the good work he did on team defence and switches while facing up against Wall. The youngster is still developing, as evidenced by his overzealous biting on repeated pump fakes on Sunday, but he appears ready to contribute.
The Starting Frontcourt
This season, Carter appears to be more comfortable with the jumper. All that remains is for you to create them. After going 0-of-5 in the first game and 1-of-4 on Sunday, he’s now 1-of-9 on 3-pointers.
This is a significant improvement over the 61 3-pointers he made in his first two seasons. He needs to keep taking those open shots because teams are going to give him a chance. A knockdown shooter is highly unlikely for him, but if he can reach league average with this kind of volume, it would be a plus.
Carter needs to improve his rim-to-rim defence as well. After making just three of nine two-pointers in the preseason, he missed a few open ones around the basket on Sunday.
The plus side of this is that passes like this from the elbow are exactly what we want to see more of:
Markkanen scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 3-of-5 from outside the arc on Friday. He went 1-of-10 on Sunday, missed all five of his threes, and had several costly turnovers. He had a minus-27 on Friday and a minus-12 on Sunday in the preseason, which is practically meaningless.
A good impact is worth highlighting, but his participation in one of the night’s most memorable moments should not be overlooked.
Cristiano Felicio’s Beard
Eight Bulls logged at least 20 minutes on Sunday, including starters Ryan Arcidiacono, Patrick Williams, and Chandler Hutchison; Gafford also appeared in the Bulls’ early rotation and had two good blocks.
When Vonleh and Kornet were ruled out of Sunday’s game, Felicio was called into the starting lineup. Felicio does appear to have lost some weight. His beard, on the other hand, is…
— Stadium (@Stadium) December 14, 2020