Our Pledge To You

Bulls

Despite coach Jim Boylen’s denials, Bulls look very tanky in loss to Jazz

If it looks like a tank and quacks like a tank?

It must be a tank, right? Well, don’t bring that up around Bulls coach Jim Boylen or vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.

The Bulls’ 114-83 loss Saturday to the Jazz at the United Center appeared to signal an awakening, the organization finally recognizing the top-heavy nature of the upcoming draft and shooting for some last-ditch lottery repositioning.

But Paxson and Boylen dismissed that idea.

“Because that’s not what we think is going to help this franchise the most,’’ Boylen said. “We’re trying to build a competitive spirit, a team that’s going to honor that Bulls across their chest and play for the city. We don’t feel shutting people down is a way to build that.

“I understand the fans; I understand that part of it. I was in Houston when we got Yao [Ming with a No. 1 pick], so I get it. But we feel for this group of guys. We’re going to keep pushing us to compete and play for each other and honor the principles we’re trying to establish. So that’s it. I know that’s disappointing to some, but that’s what we’re doing.’’

They’re just doing it in a very short-handed way.

Paxson announced that Wendell Carter Jr. (left thumb) and Chandler Hutchison (right foot) were officially shut down for the last eight games of the season, but he also made it seem as though Otto Porter Jr. (bruised right shoulder) and possibly Zach LaVine (bruised right thigh, right patellar tendinitis) could be heading down that same path.

“Otto has so many little things going on that we won’t push him,’’ Paxson said. “We may run out of time with him, too. For Zach, I think it’s important for him to try to fight through some of these little things. Last year, we shut him down toward the end. It’s a case-by-case basis. If Zach’s patellar tendinitis doesn’t get appreciably better in the next week, then you start looking at the reality of it, and it doesn’t make any sense. But we’re not there yet.’’

Neither was LaVine.

“I missed enough games the last few years,’’ LaVine said. “[The tendinitis is] just a basketball play that happens. I feel bad for running backs. I don’t know how they deal with that.’’

Even Kris Dunn was banged up against the Jazz (43-30) with a mild back sprain. He did his best to play through it, but there wasn’t much to play through.

RELATED
• Bulls VP of basketball operations John Paxson makes rookie shutdown official
• Bulls coach Jim Boylen says people upset with Tom Izzo are overly sensitive

With a starting lineup of Shaquille Harrison, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez, Antonio Blakeney and Dunn, the Bulls (21-53) were dismantled by the Jazz right from the tip. They outscored the Bulls 33-18 in the first quarter.

The second unit didn’t offer up much resistance, either, and the Bulls were down 70-36 at the half. They shot 15-for-48 (31.2 percent) from the field in the first half.

Markkanen finally woke up after halftime, scoring 12 points in the third quarter, but the damage was irreparable, and the Bulls watched a meaningless two-game winning streak come to an end.

In finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Markkanen became the second Bull in the last five seasons with 20 or more double-doubles. He didn’t seem too interested in that achievement after the loss.

“When you dig a 36-point hole or whatever it was, it’s pretty hard to come back,’’ Markkanen said.

As far as their draft-lottery position, the Bulls are still in that fourth spot, 1½ games behind the Cavaliers for No. 3.

The Cavs play in Milwaukee on Sunday.