The defense rests for the Bulls, and so did Lauri Markkanen after the first half

SHARE The defense rests for the Bulls, and so did Lauri Markkanen after the first half

TORONTO — Tuesday was not the night to judge coach Jim Boylen’s defense.

There have been enough moments to do that, but not with Kris Dunn (back), Otto Porter Jr. (shoulder) and Zach LaVine (right knee/patellar tendinitis) in street clothes in the 112-103 loss to the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena. Then Lauri Markkanen was unable to play the second half because of fatigue.

Forget undermanned. It was basically a ghost ship sailing through and allowing the Raptors to get away with going through the motions most of the game.

But Boylen knows there will soon come a time when questions about his defense will have to be answered.

They were asked when he was an assistant, and they will go into the offseason being asked now that he’s in the big seat.

“I think there’s a willingness and togetherness that need to happen at the defensive end,’’ Boylen said. “From a player standpoint, from a coaching standpoint — and we always have to evaluate, ‘Are we in the best defensive schemes for the personnel we have and their strengths, who they are?’ I know one thing: We’re going to spend a lot of time on our individual defense in the post and on the perimeter next year. I want us to get better individually now.

“That being said, some of that is talent, size, versatility, but, overall, that has been a point of emphasis and something we’ve been talking about in our last couple of practices. Just improving our individual defense, the capability of playing the post one-on-one, not have to double all the time, guard your matchup, guard your man, so we’ve talked about that. From a coaching standpoint, I can always do a better job, and I’ll try.’’

The Bulls have lost some of their better defenders to injury or trade this season. Rookie Wendell Carter Jr. was a valuable rim protector, and fellow rookie Chandler Hutchison was showing some signs as a wing defender in the making.

Bobby Portis was a good communicator on the defensive end, but he was traded to the Wizards. So there has been a lack of personnel to carry out Boylen’s defense.

But the numbers are still the numbers.


• Remember me? Bulls guard Denzel Valentine has a huge summer ahead

• Forward Lauri Markkanen is last man standing for suddenly short-handed Bulls

Before Fred Hoiberg was fired Dec. 3, the Bulls ranked 20th in defensive-efficiency rating. They surged when Boylen initially took over, but that didn’t last long, and the Bulls entered the game tied for 26th since the coaching change.

That’s not a good look, especially because Boylen wants his team to maintain a defensive identity from game to game.

And while Boylen added more switching to the defensive package last summer, he admittedly is still trying to tap into a base defense that is sustainable throughout a full NBA season with the personnel the Bulls have.

“I think [a switching defense is a] weapon for us that has a time and place,’’ Boylen said.

Short-handed against the Raptors was not that time or place.

Even with Markkanen playing the first half, the Bulls were down 56-41 at halftime. He struggled with 10 points and was 2-for-10 from the field.

Boylen said Markkanen was suffering from fatigue, and he had no idea if he would be available for the game Wednesday against the Trail Blazers.

His absence was more than felt.

“That’s rough, man,’’ center Robin Lopez said. “Obviously, Lauri is a huge part of what we do. We definitely want him out there, no question. I love playing with Lauri.’’

The Latest
The Cubs were leading the Brewers in the eighth inning when the Marlins’ game ended.
Athanasiou, who didn’t travel — along with most of the Hawks’ top players — for the Hawks-Wild preseason game Saturday, had played each of the last three seasons on one-year deals.
Police said he was shot in the head in the 4900 block of West Madison Street.
What he has learned and how it will dictate change is something he is holding close to the vest.
Notes: Left-hander Jordan Wicks had a rare short start in his final game of the regular season.