The Bulls promotion Friday was Star Wars night, which several NBA teams are featuring for the latest movie in the series. But as the Bulls and Charlotte Hornets sought some sort of force during an 83-73 Hornets victory, you got the feeling you understood the dark side.
As Han Solo said, "I have a bad feeling about this."
The Bulls coming off a season-high scoring win over the Atlanta Hawks seemed like they might have some momentum to turn around this disappointing season. Instead in scoring an NBA season low 73 points, the Bulls recreated the Stars Wars cantina scene. There were all these curious aliens apparently wearing the face masks of NBA players.
"We couldn't make a shot," said Zach LaVine, whose 12 points matched Ryan Arcidiacono for team high. "You've got to be able to put points on the board; it was rough."
Bulls vs. Hornets game recap
There were alien characters from that famous scene who resembled a praying mantis, the abominable snowman a bat and the devil. They seemed soulful compared to many of the shots attempted by both teams, the Bulls actually the more accurate team from three-point range at 20.6 percent. The Bulls looked like they were shooting with those big bug eyes, 30 percent overall with LaVine four of 19 and Lauri Markkanen four of 12 for 10 points.
There was one notable stretch in the third quarter when neither team scored for more than three minutes with the Bulls in the midst of 10 consecutive empty possessions and the Hornets just six. The Bulls had just 50 points through three quarters, which seems almost inconceivable in an era in which teams, including the Bulls, emphasize a faster pace and three-point shooting for higher scoring. Though when you've missed 20 of 25 threes through three quarters, as the Bulls had, perhaps it's time to try something else.
"Obviously offensively we struggled," noticed Bulls coach Jim Boylen. "The consistency at the offensive end has not been there and it needs to be there."
Or as Yoda said, "Do or do not, there is no try."
The Bulls actually had been good to start recently, but not so Friday missing their first seven shots and trailing 24-15 after the first quarter. The Bulls were only trailing by 15 points late in the second quarter when LaVine with a steal, some free throws and a runout dunk led an 11-0 close to the half. A few minutes into the second half the Bulls had tied the game at 44, and you hope for Michael Jordan's health he doesn't watch the way his guards pass the ball. The Bulls even contributed to some of the Hornets' 21 turnovers.
Rookie Daniel Gafford blocks the ball against the Charlotte Hornets
Daniel Gafford had six blocks, but again the Bulls were out of position to rebound with their trapping defense that often had them scrambling for position. Charlotte had a 15-rebound edge, and they started Bismack Biyombo. Wendell Carter Jr did have 11 rebounds.
Just as the Bulls tied the game at 44 early in the third quarter, they went on to miss their next 10 shots with a pair of turnovers. The Hornets went ahead 59-50 after three in a rollicking 15-10 Hornets third quarter.
As Yoda might have said, "So certain were those Bulls. Go back and closer they must look."
And so Arcidiacono became the closer. And he almost pulled it off. The frisky Bull who always said he could dunk on Yoda fired up his pod racer and it suddenly was just 66-64 Hornets midway through the fourth quarter. This being a point where the Hornets had missed their last 17 threes. Then Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham, one of 12 combined on threes at the time, made back to back threes.
Inside the Locker Room with Ryan Arcidiacono
Just like they planned it.
The Hornets grabbed an 81-70 lead in that stretch and finally held off the instant offense of Arcidiacono, who had just one three left in him. Hey, if Arch can't save them...
It was that kind of game in which the Bulls' pesky R2-D2 ignited the run that got the Bulls within two that last time. Arcidiacono made a fading jumper and then stole a lazy inbounds pass from among a core of Hornets guards. As Charles Barkley would say, it probably had Michael rolling over in his grave with the crazy passes they were making. Arcidiacono added a pair of free throws and a second three, and the Bulls amazingly were in position to steal a game that basically had been declared a lost cause.
Neither team looked like a winner, though the Hornets were successful.
The Bulls dropped to 9-18 and then host the Clippers Saturday in the United Center. The Hornets are 12-16 and would be 3-0 over the Bulls if not for LaVine's record 13 of 17 threes and game winner last month. They weren't letting that happen again, though LaVine was second to Carter with eight rebounds.
"Obviously, shots didn't fall, but I'm sure there was a lot of things that we didn't do," said Markkanen. "We can't put our heads down. The good thing about the NBA is we've got another chance tomorrow, so we need everybody ready to go."
Markkanen was ready despite a slow start to the game, but he ended up sitting much of the second half. Maybe it was coincidence, but it came after Thaddeus Young complained following the Atlanta game he doesn't play enough. He played the second most minutes to LaVine Friday.
"Obviously Thad (10 points) played well and that's coach's decision and I think it was obvious for me that I know I can play much better," said Markkanen, typically unfazed. "I didn't play at the level that we need to play and I played a lot in the first half, too. I'm sure that played a reason."
Though the circumstances raised questions because Markkanen finally seemed to have broken out of his slump with four games scoring at least 20 points in the last six. And then sitting almost 15 consecutive minutes until late in the fourth quarter.
"I played him more in the first half," Boylen explained. "I played him almost the whole first quarter. I looked at him and I thought he was breathing pretty hard in that first quarter, so I gave him a break and then I got him back in there. You ride with some guys, you see how it goes, you bring them back. It's just basketball. I think he understands I am going to ride with guys who are playing well. The guys who make the run just like I have with him. I overplayed him in the first half. The second half wasn't the same rotation; that's just part of the game. I have a scripted rotation, but it is not (set) in stone."
Coaches do that; it's not unusual in the NBA when a team is playing poorly.
Perhaps it was just a way for everyone to avoid talking about that game.
Actually the mistake I thought Boylen made was saying the positive in the game was how well the Bulls played defensively. I remember the way Cotton Fitzsimmons would handle a game like this when he was coach of the Phoenix Suns. He'd walk everyone into the rest room and flush the toilets. There goes that game, he'd say, and then only talk about the next game.
As Yoda explained, "The greatest teacher, failure is."