Three takeaways from the Chicago Bulls loss to the Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 19: Jerian Grant
PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 19: Jerian Grant /

The Chicago Bulls lost their road trip opener to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night 113-105. There were promising signs, but some ugly habits reared their heads again.

Even though the Chicago Bulls fell Sunday night, we’ll all it a win because the Phoenix Suns figure to be competing with the Bulls for a top draft pick.

Defense, outside of Kris Dunn‘s efforts, was mostly optional in a game featuring two of the worst teams in the league. But fittingly, both teams missed a bevy of open shots, especially from the 3-point line.

This wasn’t the most eye pleasing game largely due to those bricks, but Chicago’s young guns in Dunn and Lauri Markkanen gave fans a reason to tune in and watch the whole game.

Lauri’s return to Arizona – albeit a little over an hour and a half from the University of Arizona – was successful as he scored a career high 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Robin Lopez and T.J. Warren got into it and RoLo has seemingly been apart of a number of skirmishes during the beginning of this season. Will he throw another punch, and if so, will the next one land?

After all, it is the anniversary of the Malice at the Palace.

Now, let’s get into these takeaways.

Lauri may as well be invisible in the post

The Bulls have a serious issue finding our Lauri in the post when he has a favorable match-up. This has been an issue running throughout the season and almost all of it falls squarely on the shoulders of the guards.

While Lauri does prefer to play outside the paint and face up and doesn’t always work his tail off to establish tremendous position against smaller guys, I’d bet he’d be even more willing if he thought there was a sliver of a chance he’d get the ball.

Jerian Grant is by far the worst offender. At times he seems literally physically incapable of making a simple entry pass to Lauri. He’ll recognize the mismatch, ponder throwing the ball to Lauri, then say screw it and drive aimlessly with his weird half-run half-jog motion.

I mean look., When Lauri has Tyler freaking Ulis on him you take the “chance” and throw the ball up in the air for Lauri to grab. Stacey King was about to lose his mind announcing the game with all the times the Bulls missed Markkanen.

Even worse, Grant doesn’t even seem to recognize the mismatch at times. Grant doesn’t have great, or even good, point guard instincts. One of the most common themes of this season to me is Grant missing a wide open Markannen popping open for a 3.

Good riddance. Similar to what King said in the game, Grant just gets into too much of a rush and freaks himself out from taking the time to get the ball to Lauri. This is another reason we need more Kris Dunn: we need to find out if he can consistently make this pass.

Dunn passes it here to RoLo in an attempt to work it into Lauri, who has practically parked Mike James underneath the basket. RoLo can make this pass from time to time, but he’s not exactly reliable.

This is where Fred Hoiberg and the coaching staff need to be preaching to swing the ball back to Dunn and have Lauri re-position for an entry pass.

Lauri still gets his without post advantage

Perhaps why it was so particularly frustrating to watch the Bulls inability to get Lauri the ball in the post tonight (other than it seemingly happened every other minute) was because Lauri was cooking.

Markkanen finished with 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting. He converted four of his nine 3-point attempts and scored in just about every way possible.

The rookie got off to a hot start, scoring Chicago’s first five points. He splashed a 3-pointer, then made a nice drive and finish over Greg Monroe.

Later in the quarter he took matters into his own hands and dribbled into the post, backing down Marquese Chriss.

Lauri dribbled into Chriss, stopped, and faded away with a silky smooth stroke for two more points. Now imagine how much easier that would be against someone a full foot shorter.

Lauri Bird also hit Chriss with a nice fake after a Lopez off-ball screen got him open.

Markkanen does a great job recognizing that Chriss is completely out of control in closing out to him and ball fakes, getting Chriss to jump and taking him out of the play. Two purposeful dribbles later and he’s pulling up for two more easy points.

Markkanen’s off the bounce game has been a revelation thus far. I did not expect him to be this confident and smooth handling the ball or to be such a solid shooter off the dribble. The only thing I want Lauri to do more is shoot. Nobody enjoys seeing Justin Holiday hoist up more shots than Lauri.

Justin Holiday keep chucking

As I’ve said before, Justin Holiday is here for all the shots. He’s averaging 15 attempts per 36 minutes, two more attempts per 36 than his previous career high.

He’s a shameless chucker and sure, the Bulls need someone to take shots, but Sunday was a grating experience. When I say I wish I had as much confidence as Justin Holiday does, I really, really mean it.

Stacey King even jokingly said “Kobe” after a shot Holiday took towards the end of the game.

Holiday finished this game 5-of-20 and if that sounds bad, it gets worse. He spends a lot of time on the floor with Lauri, so those are shots that could be redistributed to someone who has a hot hand.

But what’s even more aggravating are some of the shots he takes. Everyone has an off night where the ball is just not going through the hoop. When that happens the recourse is typically to drive the basket and try to get some easy baskets or get to the foul line.

Next: Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen had a big time game

Holiday averages just four drives per game, according to the NBA’s official website. He doesn’t attack the hoop, so he just keeps belching up the same ugly 3s and contested pull up twos.

Holiday already had eight attempts when the first quarter ended, and he was 3-for-8 at that point. He went 2-for-12 the rest of the game and took some of worst, non Denzel Valentine corner 3 off the side of the backboard, shots I’ve seen from Chicago this year.

There was a moment late in the second quarter that stood out to me. He rushed down the floor in semi-transition, but it was just him and RoLo against three or four Suns defenders.

Holiday was at the top of the key and went behind the back to get space and dribbled left, then proceeded to pull up from about 14 feet away with a hand right in his face.


RoLo had no shot at getting an offensive rebound and like that the Suns were out on the break.

Get back soon, Zach LaVine.