With Jabari Parker flying around for 20 points, six assists and a half dozen dunks and Bobby Portis with 10 points, 12 rebounds and a pair of blocks, a flex and a scream at the opponent bench, the Bulls...
Wait, oh right... the Washington Wizards Saturday behind 31 points from Bradley Beal and the play of Parker and Portis defeated the Bulls 134-125.
"Chasson Randle makes four threes, good for him; Trevor Ariza makes three threes in the first," noted Bulls coach Jim Boylen. "Those guys make seven threes and as much as you want to talk about Bobby and Jabari, I think the other guys were the difference makers."
Perhaps, but in an evening of wonderful theater in the United Center, if not equally appealing result for the Bulls, it was the return of the players who were Bulls just four days ago, an emotional first quarter video tribute and then a high level, intensely contested offensive show that eventually went to the 24-32 Wizards. The Bulls record dropped to 13-43.
"Offensively, I think we looked good at times," said Zach LaVine, who led the Bulls with 26 points. "Still getting to know each other; we scored enough points. Our trouble all year has been on the defensive end and we have to do a better job with that. We've got some funky lineups out there right now, but we have to fight through it. I don't think scoring is going to be the issue; it's chemistry, we are going to get that down. The game is a lot more open. I think we have a little more firepower and we have to just get it done."
The Bulls made a run at it after their appealing Friday win in Brooklyn that Boylen called the best the team has played in the four years he's been with the Bulls. The Bulls Saturday shot 50.5 percent, out rebounded the Wizards 45-39 and had a staggering 78 points in the paint.
So the narrative would be defense, the Wizards shooting 57.9 percent with the unheralded Randle adding a career-high 20 points.
But the Bulls have also increased their pace of play, which the Wizards matched with Parker playing a point forward role for them, that it was less defensive breakdowns than just not enough in a track meet. If the Bulls could match three point shooting, as they did against the Nets, they might turn around their record.
Markkanen had 20 points and 11 rebounds even though he wasn't sharp, Robin Lopez had 18 and Otto Porter and Wayne Selden added 17 each, the spacing better opened the inside for Lopez and the outside for the driving lanes that yielded so many inside points. The aesthetics continued to improve for the Bulls.
But the Bulls were just six of 24 on threes to 12 of 27 for the Wizards, and those six fewer made threes proved fatal again.
"I think that was the biggest thing; they were pushing it right back at us and we weren't getting matched up," said LaVine. "I think Jabari got like three or four dunks in transition, us not being in the right position. Him being at the four and being that fast and quick and strong, it's tough to stay in front of the dude. I think that's where they hurt us, transition.
"I missed all three of mine," LaVine added about the three pointers. "I have to do a better job of making them. I don't think scoring was the issue. They scored more than us, but we scored enough to win. We have to do a better job of stopping people."
That should begin to come with the 6-8 Porter settling in at small forward.
Though the story line on this night was the return of the two former Bulls so quickly after the trade.
Portis is generally the more emotional, and he did have a late first quarter breakaway saving block in which he turned enthusiastically to the Bulls bench for some words, fierce and friendly.
It was the usually terse Parker, unusually verbose in pregame interviews and explicit in his play. He had a gasp-inducing dunk over Markkanen in the second quarter that brought Wizards players to their feet with one mimicking CPR to a fallen Beal. Earlier, Markkanen had dunked violently and flexed like Portis would.
"He (Parker) looked energized and I feel like they put him in the position to be successful," said LaVine, who was close with Parker. "It's weird. I just went through the same thing with Andrew Wiggins and Karl (Anthony-Towns) and Tyus (Jones) and all those guys. You spend so much time with them, you're on the plane with them, in practice with them. You know all their tendencies and how they play; it's a lot of emotions, but I am happy for them. I see how passionate they are, how they are using them over there, too. It's really nice. You saw the game by Jabari and the game by Bobby the other day. They got two really, really good pieces. I'm not saying (we didn't); we got a really good piece in Otto, too. They got two good guys."
It looked good for the Bulls guys to start, a 10-2 lead with Lopez operating early again. But first quarter threes by Ariza and Randle stunned the Bulls, the Wizards with six in the first quarter matching the Bulls game total.
"I felt in the first quarter six threes kind of set the tone for the game," said Boylen.
The Wizards led 34-32 after one quarter with the Bulls on the way to an 18th consecutive game scoring at least 100 points and 120 or more for the third straight game for just the second time in franchise history. There is something there.
Parker was dunking every chance he got, and loudly, picking up a loose ball and slamming it, on the run over Markkanen, even diving on the floor for a loose ball. Yes, where was that as a Bull? Well, things did not go well, as we came to understand.
Nor for the Bulls in a deadly sequence late in the second quarter when the Bulls committed six turnovers in 11 possessions, eight in the quarter as Washington rolled ahead 76-61 at halftime. Turnovers leading to easy baskets is bad offense that looks like bad defense in a box score. It was the kind of drought that has drowned the Bulls so often this season.
"I thought we started the game locked in," said Boylen. "But sustaining it is an issue for us, sustaining at home is an issue for us. We had it to six with a layup to cut it to four and we didn't make enough plays in that moment."
The Bulls started to peel away the deficit after halftime, Lopez beating Thomas Bryant down court for a layup, Markkanen with his own angry dunk, LaVine flying in for some spectacular finishes with the Finnisher quietly seething in his own way.
The Bulls got back within 106-96 after three quarters and got on a run to open the fourth with Cristiano Felicio, Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaquille Harrison. The Bulls were within 108-102 with 11 minutes left when Harrison missed on a wild dunk attempt from about eight feet out. And after a Wizards miss, Wayne Selden and Arcidiacono missed threes. The moment was gone.
"We got it to six and had a play at the rim and it didn't go in and maybe that changes things for us," said Boylen.
From there with Wizards coach Scott Brooks riding Portis and Parker to the end, the Wizards got up by 16 with six minutes left and weren't much bothered thereafter.
"You are looking at two guys coming back," Boylen said. "We are looking for consistency on this team. I thought we played as good a game last night as we have played since I've been a Bull against a playoff team that was full strength; tonight we didn't play as well. I don't want to make it about those two guys coming back; it's more about us and us being more consistent and playing together better and learning each other more."
Though it was quite the show those two former Bulls helped deliver.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.