Coming into Tuesday nights contest in Cleveland, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is 7-1 versus Lebron James and company, 4-0 last season. Pretty impressive.
The Bulls, who have yet to win a game this season, showed up and gave the Cavilers a game tonight. In the end, the Cavilers talent closed out the game and avoiding losing to the lowly Bulls.
The Bulls came out firing in the first quarter, outscoring the Cavs 38-28. Rookie Lauri Markkanen was 3-4 from three point land and ended his first quarter performance with 11 points. The first round pick has been pretty impressive in his first three games of his NBA career. He is not just settling for jump shots, but taking the ball to the rim.
Markkanen added two more three pointers in the second quarter. His range is why he was a top-10 pick and is a bright spot for the Bulls so far. Can you only imagine what he is capable of once a true scorer in Zach LaVine returns? It should be a nice pick and pop duo come late November when LaVine is expected to return.
The Cavilers would be without point guard Derrick Rose after suffering an sprained ankle last week.
It is so weird to have Rose and Cavilers in the same sentence.
Due to being shorthanded, Lebron James would handle the point guard duties. James finished with 34 points and 13 assists. There is no one on the Bulls roster, outside of LaVine, who is able to guard James. He controlled the game, especially down the stretch to close it out.
And it will not be just James the Bulls will struggle against this season. Hoiberg’s crew is going to have a real tough time in containing superstars with no defensive specialist to shut them down.
Justin Holiday, Jerian Grant, and Kay Felder were others along with Markkanen who had solid performances in the 119-112 loss. Holiday, who was brought back this offseason after being dealt in the Rose deal to New York, finished with 25 points, 4-9 from downtown. Holiday is playing with extremely high confidence and is not afraid to shoot the ball.
The undrafted forward in 2011 has played overseas, the G-league, and is on his third NBA team. Being one of the oldest players on the Bulls. Holiday brings some leadership and experience to a young squad. I am a fan of Holiday’s game and so far he is shooting with confidence and with that, he can be a totally different player than we have seen during his time in the league.
Jerian Grant is the starter for now with Kris Dunn out with a finger injury. Grant, who struggled to play with consistency last season, scored 12 points while adding 10 assists Tuesday night in 37 minutes.
During a rebuild, you must be all about giving young players heavy minutes and adding “flyers.” The Bulls signed Kay Felder off waivers before the season stared, which was a really good move by the Bulls front office. Felder appeared in 42 games for the Cavilers last season and while he did not see a big role, but the potential was there.
I was surprised the Cavilers let the Oakland University star go. Felder proved he can be a scorer along with a facilitator, averaging 24.4 points per game and 9.3 assists his final year of school.
The Bulls may have found something in Felder. Already taking the backup point guard minutes, Felder brings a change-of-pace play and outside shooting to the Bulls second unit, just how Hoiberg wants to play.
Felder finished 13 points and four assists Tuesday night, one point shy of tying his career high. Upon the debut of Dunn, Felder could become a solid player leading the second unit. It is unclear what the Bulls will do with Cameron Payne when he returns from injury, but do not be surprised if he is nothing but a Windy City Bulls player or the Bulls move on from their failed experiment.
Oh, and do not forget about last years first round pick Denzel Valentine, who finished with 13 points shooting 3-4 from three. The Michigan State product’s rookie season did not go as he or many hoped. He had his share of injuries and even saw time in the developmental league. Though in year two, Valentine will have a more defined role and if he continues to knock down shots consistently, he should see some time in the startling lineup.
The Bulls may have lost, but you could call this a moral victory. They came out and knocked down shots and held in there with the best team in the Eastern Conference. Even if the wins do not stack up, it will be encouraging to see the young guys compete and give it all they got every night.
The Bulls will host the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday at the United Center.
Remember, everyday is one day closer to the return of Zach LaVine. Hang in there.