Chicago Bulls struggle to stay in Eastern Conference playoff

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GUARD ZACH LA VINE finishes at the rim with a two-handed dunk in the Bulls 116-81 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in the team’s final game of 2019 at the United Center. (Photo by www.nba.com)

By Joseph Phillips
Sports Writer, Chicago Crusader

The Chicago Bulls are 1-4 in their last five games and closed out the month of December with a win against the Atlanta Hawks, followed by four straight losses to the Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, and the Dallas Mavericks.

On Saturday, December 28, the Bulls displayed one of their best offensive performances of the year, in a 116-81 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center.

Guard Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen combined for 44 points on 15 of 29 shooting from the field.

“I thought Lauri was aggressive,” said Jim Boylen, head coach of the Chicago Bulls about Markkanen’s performance. “I thought he came out really focused.”

According to head coach Jim Boylen, Markkanen made great offensive strides throughout the game after struggling offensively months prior, he finished with a team high 25 points against the Hawks.

Following their win against the Hawks, the Bulls suffered a blowout loss against the NBA’s Eastern Conference number one team the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks defeated the Bulls 123-102 at the United Center and were led by last year’s league Most Valuable Player forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammate guard Khris Middleton, who combined for 58 points.

The Bucks overcame the Bulls with a strong second half, out- scoring Chicago 40-25 in the third quarter and 28-25 in the fourth quarter. Zach LaVine’s 19 points and four three pointers was not enough in the Bulls 21st loss of the season.

After suffering their 21st loss to close out the year for 2019, the Bulls opened the month of January with losses against the Jazz, the Celtics, and the Mavericks.

In their loss against the Jazz on Thursday, January 2, the Bulls bench play was sub-par at best and was outscored by the Jazz 36-23 over four quarters of play.

Zach LaVine’s 26 points was overshadowed by the Bulls inability to capitalize down the stretch. The team’s loss to the Jazz was their 22nd of the season.

The Celtics came into Chicago on Saturday January 4, with one of the top records in the Eastern Conference at 24-9. The Celtics offense gave the Bulls defense problems throughout the night at the United Center and were led by the hot shooting of star forward Jason Tatum.

Tatum finished the night with a team high 28 points on 12-15 shooting from the field. This included a huge shot over Bulls guard Kris Dunn from behind the three-point arc with a minute left to play regulation.

Tatum’s shot gave the Celtics a seven point lead and the victory.

Bulls guard Zach LaVine finished with a game high 35 points.

After falling to the Celtics on Saturday night, the Bulls would lose their fourth straight game of the new year in a 118-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on the road on Monday, January 6.

The Bulls were overwhelmed by the star play of the 2019 Rookie of The Year ‘Luka Duncic.’

Duncic posted his 19th triple double of the season against the Bulls with a game high 38 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

This also included a 21 point third quarter by the young star. The European phenom brought the Mavericks crowd to their feet with countless big three pointers from beyond the arc and several big plays off the dribble.

The Mavericks outscored the Bulls 30-28 to close out the game. Forward Lauri Markkanen finished with a team high 26 points.

The Bulls next few games on the schedule featured match-ups against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, January 8, on the road. They will return home to play the Indiana Pacers on Friday, January 10.

Joseph Phillips is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 15 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago. He can be reached at sports@chicagocrusader.com.

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