UNITED CENTER - I'll be the first to tell you that I've spent the better part of the last three Bulls seasons a very disgruntled member of Bulls Nation.
Trying to get through a game without ending up unreasonably pissed off was a rarity and hope for the future was appearing, to put it nicely, bleak.
I'll also be the first to tell you though, that through the first 19 games of this NBA season, the Bulls have started to turn the tide. No one will try to make the case that this squad is anything more than a young, up and coming team in the league but for anybody that's had the displeasure of trying to muster up the energy to root for the See Red crew over the last few years, even baby steps in the right direction are a welcomed site.
However, its important to not turn this inch into a mile.
Not only are they a sub .500 team in the big picture of things(8-11 coming into tonight) but some of their biggest questions surrounding the growth of this team still remain. Can this young team learn how to win close games? Can they find some consistency? All questions that need answers...and not to mention the search for a legitimate point guard rages on. But with the Bulls coming into Wednesday night fresh off of snapping a 3 game skid with a 110-102 W in the first of a two game mini-series over the Knicks at the crib, they were in position to address some of the issues at hand.
Unfortunately, the Bulls looked more like the Bulls of old in their second matchup in three days versus the New York Knicks.
Flat out ice cold shooting(6-36 from 3), non-existent defense and turnovers kept the Bulls from their 9th win of the year in a 107-103 L. The final score was closer than the game indicated, with Zach(team leading 24pts) shouldering the load by his lonesome for most of the evening.
Where was his help? That's the question of the night. With Lauri spitting hot fire from 2 straight 30 point games leading into tonight. he was missing in action failing to knock down any of his 4 attempts from three-point land with a forgettable 9 point game. Even with the uphill climb the Bulls were engaged in most of the night, the Knicks weren't anywhere close to impressive and found themselves in position to let victory slip through their fingers but a handful of late Bulls turnovers sealed the win for the Knicks.
Let's take a quick look at 3 of the biggest takeaway's from tonight's game.
Will The Real Lauri Markkanen please stand up?
Lauri Markkanen has come back from his most recent injury looking like a changed man. After shooting the lights out for two games on the way to two 30pt performances, he had a night to forget vs the Knicks Wednesday and the question remains, who is the real Lauri?... for the Bulls sake, the version we all saw tonight cannot be the answer. A cold night was going to happen at some point for the 7 footer from Finland but its about what he's able to do on nights when his shot is off that matters on night's like this. Can he create for others? Crash the paint and grab boards? Bottom line is he can't be a one trick pony on this team.
Milk Carton Coby
If anybody has seen Coby White, please inform him that he needs to return to the Bulls immediately.
When the shots aren't falling...
Coach Billy Donovan had my favorite quote from the post game referring to his teams ice cold shooting night. Its refreshing to have a coach that won't front like you were watching two different games that night. "I thought our guys competed hard and raised their energy especially in the 2nd half. I'm hoping that tonight is a learning experience. We shot the ball terribly tonight. When that happens we need to find other ways to put ourselves in position to win."
An honest assessment of a bad loss. When the shots weren't falling, the Bulls struggled to impact the game in any other ways and allowed the Knicks to out-tough them in crucial moments during the game.
The Bulls landed a few jabs as they battled back but didn't have a haymaker in their arsenal.
They needed one tonight.
Game Ball goes to...
Thaddeus Young. The team needed every bit of his 19pts on 9-11 shooting tonight.