10 observations: LaVine breakout wasted in loss to Kings


The Chicago Bulls closed a rather grueling early-season six-game road swing with a 110-101 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.

The Bulls went 2-4 on the aforementioned trip to drop their record on the season to 9-14.

Here are 10 observations from the contest:

1. The Kings, which entered play with the NBA's third-highest offensive rating, are a bad matchup with this Bulls team because of the volume and efficiency with which they shoot 3-pointers. Sacramento entered play seventh in the NBA in 3-point percentage and percentage of points scored from behind the 3-point line, while the Bulls have dwelled at the bottom of the league in 3-point volume all season.

That disparity bore out early in this one.

The Kings started the game cold from long range, shooting 4-for-15 in the first quarter, but still leading 29-27 (a bad omen in the moment). But by halftime, even though they were shooting 33.3 percent from distance, they had still made (10) nearly as many 3-pointers as the Bulls attempted (11).

By game's end, the Kings held only a 12-point advantage from 3-point range, shooting 13-for-43 (30.2 percent) to the Bulls' 9-for-25 (36 percent). But that felt more fortunate than a product of consistently sharp perimeter defense. And the Bulls shooting 6-for-23 from midrange (26.1 percent) to the Kings' 6-for-11 — while getting so sizably out-attempted from 3-point land — illustrates the fundamental flaw in this roster's preferred shot profile.

2. Because the Bulls are not built to compete with the NBA's highest-octane offenses in a jump-shooting contest, they must compensate in other ways. Usually, that formula involves winning the possession battle — by forcing turnovers while taking care of the ball themselves — and free-throw line.

Neither of those factors came to fruition Sunday. Although the Bulls forced 19 Kings turnovers, they committed 16 of their own — and Sacramento was better at converting those chances with 23 points off turnovers and 24 fastbreak points compared to the Bulls scoring 14 in each of those categories. From the charity stripe, the teams were level with 19 attempts apiece, with the Bulls making 16 to the Kings' 17.

3. The game got away from the Bulls in a second quarter the Kings won 33-20, stretching a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter to 15 at the half.

The Bulls' greatest deficiency in those 12 minutes was ball security. After committing just one turnover in the first quarter, the Bulls coughed up 11 in the second, off which the Kings scored 13 points. The most emblematic was De'Aaron Fox picking DeMar DeRozan's pocket on the first play out of a timeout and sprinting the other way for a dunk:

More transition opportunities also exposed the Bulls' at times disorganized fastbreak defense and allowed Sacramento to get rolling offensively. They shot 6-for-15 (40 percent) from 3-point range in the second quarter, and at halftime, were also 13-for-14 from inside the arc.

4. But, as is typical for these Bulls, a comeback was in order in a third quarter they won 31-20, trimming a 15-point halftime deficit to four entering the fourth. Zach LaVine dialed up 15 points in the period, beginning by draining three consecutive 3-pointers and closing with a few authoritative finishes at the rim. And the Bulls' defense dialed up their intensity a few notches, holding Sacramento to 7-for-23 shooting and forcing five turnovers.

5. Although the Bulls got the deficit down to one point early in the fourth, this will not qualify as a "clutch" game, as the Bulls never drew within five points within the final five minutes. But, similar to the clutch games in which they are 2-9 this season, this was an example of being out-executed down the stretch.

After an and-one sequence by Patrick Williams made the score 88-87, Sacramento launched into a 22-10 run to effectively close the game before a few last-second Bulls scores.

6. If it is any consolation, Zach LaVine submitted his best all-around performance of the season, posting 41 points, eight rebounds, four steals and two assists with an efficient shooting line of 16-for-28 from the field. He began the game with a pair of strong takes to the rim — a trend that permeated as he shot 10-for-10 in the restricted area, often playing through hard contact — heated up from 3-point range in the third quarter, and all the while was an active presence defensively and on the glass, even pulling down an offensive rebound for a layup as the game threatened to slip away from the Bulls late.

Still, there were moments where LaVine appeared to force his own offense — he finished 4-for-12 from the field after starting 12-for-16, after all. But at least he got himself rolling before doing so, and he played with noticeable pop at both ends for four quarters. A notable sign of progress as he acclimates from a disjointed offseason that featured knee surgery.

7. DeRozan followed a 4-for-15 shooting night in Friday's loss at the Golden State Warriors with another off night, scoring 18 points on 6-for-18 shooting in Sacramento. Worse, he missed four of his five shot attempts in the fourth quarter, typically his time to shine.

8. The Bulls got 20 points from their bench — or, in other words, as many points as Malik Monk mustered on his own. The Kings' sixth man was a massive problem in this one, drilling difficult contested 3-pointers and even adding five assists and two steals. His most impactful stretch was a five-point spurt early in the fourth that pushed the Kings' lead to 93-87 after the Bulls made it 88-87. But this slam was his most resounding highlight:

Sacramento also got dogged defense from Davion Mitchell (three steals, one block) and a handful of rim runs from Chimezie Metu (10 points, 5-for-5 shooting) from their reserve group.

9. For the second game in a row, backup center Andre Drummond played single-digit minutes, only the second and third times that has happened this season. He logged 5:32 against the Kings after 5:28 against the Warriors on Friday.

After playing Drummond his typical first half rotation run in this one, Donovan, likely in search of defensive activity, turned to Derrick Jones Jr. at backup center in the second half. Jones, after struggling with three turnovers in the first half, did contribute a 3-pointer as the Bulls made their early fourth quarter run to go with four rebounds and a steal.

10. The Bulls finished a crucial six-game road trip — with stops in Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Utah, Phoenix, San Francisco and Sacramento — 2-4 to fall to 9-14 on the season. The bright side is four of their next five games are at home, where they own a 5-5 record this season. And in the Wizards, Mavericks and Knicks (twice), all four of those games are against teams with .500 or worse records.

Next up for the Bulls: Back home to host the Wizards on Wednesday.

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