Another Bulls loss — and another disappearing act for Lauri Markkanen
The third-year forward scored 12 points in the first half, giving the Bulls the lead going into the locker room. But he went scoreless in the second half, taking only two shots as the Bulls were overwhelmed in Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA — With a 100-89 loss to the undermanned 76ers on Friday night, the Bulls are now 1-17 against teams .500 or better this season — a record they almost certainly wish they could forget.
Forgetting it might be easier than actually improving it.
Coach Jim Boylen can talk about “growth plates” and building an identity, but the bottom line is that winning still eludes the Bulls, who fell to 15-28 with the loss.
“All the wins are important, but obviously we don’t have many of those [against winning teams],” forward Lauri Markkanen said. “I think . . . is the Clippers one the only one that we have?”
Yes, it is, Lauri, and that came with the Clippers sitting Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams.
Markkanen admitted he and his teammates try to stay away from talking about their lack of success against winning teams.
“We know that, but we don’t [discuss it],” he said. “But we acknowledge that it’s there. I think it’s good motivation for players going forward.”
The problems is that days are dropping off the calendar quickly, and the Feb. 6 trade deadline is now in sight. If the Bulls feel they can’t compete for a playoff spot — even in the shaky Eastern Conference — then Thaddeus Young, Denzel Valentine and possibly even Kris Dunn could be trade candidates.
“We know that our schedule the second half of the season is a lot more difficult than it was in the first half,” forward Chandler Hutchison said. “So it’s going to be that much more of a challenge to stay locked in and try and go out there.”
Case in point: The second half against the 76ers (27-16). Even with their third-string center, Luke Kornet, in a starting spot, the Bulls checked all the boxes of their game plan in the first quarter, grabbing a 24-21 lead. They took a one-point lead into halftime, thanks to 12 points from Markkanen.
Then Markkanen didn’t score in the entire second half — only taking two shots. Bye-bye, lead, and hello to another third-quarter letdown.
“Yeah, I probably have to be [more selfish],” he said. “I’ve just got to get the ball and get to those spots where I can take those 20 shots. I’m a team-first guy, so I’m going to do whatever we need, but obviously a big part of it is me playing at my own level.
“I know I can probably attack the rim a little more often and more aggressive. Obviously I was trying to look for my spots, but I didn’t feel I had the opportunities.”
Boylen said it was up to him to get Markkanen taking advantage of the opportunities.
“We do have to get him going more,” Boylen said. “Some [is on him], some of it is on me. I just want him to be aggressive. I just think it’s a learning thing, a growing thing. Sometimes guys have to help themselves, and sometimes you have to help them. That’s the nature of the game.”