The Chicago Bulls earned their second win in six road games with a 114-107 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
The Bulls improved to 9-11, retaining their 11th place finish in the Eastern Conference with the win. The team travels to Phoenix to face the Suns on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the West Coast trip.
Here are six takeaways from the game.
1. After clutch game losses, the Bulls got it in the second narrow win of the trip.
The Bulls are starting to turn the tide in close games with their second clutch win last week. Heading into that six-game road trip, the Bulls were 0-7 in clutch play situations, which are defined as games with a five-point margin with five minutes remaining.
After winning a clutch game in Milwaukee last Wednesday and then losing in overtime to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, the Bulls earned a decisive win after the Jazz cut the deficit to 102-99 with 5:26 remaining. .
The Bulls succeeded by not allowing victory to rest on the final game decision. Five different players scored in clutch time, and the Bulls forced two turnovers and four offensive rebounds in the final five minutes of play.
2. Lauri Markkanen scored 32 points against his former team.
Former Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen gave his former team a taste of what they might miss, scoring 32 points for the Jazz.
The Bulls acquired Markkanen as part of the 2017 draft night trade that brought Zach LaVine from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Markkanen became No. 7 overall in the draft, creating high expectations for Bulls fans who hoped the lanky young forward would usher in a new era.
But this dream never materialized. Markkanen faced former coach Jim Boylen while struggling to fit into the offense, averaging 13.6 points per game in his final season with the Bulls before asking for a trade in 2021. Although his first time with the Cleveland Cavaliers repeated familiar struggles, Markkanen thrived. after his trade with Utah, where he averaged 22.2 points per game.
Markkanen scored the first eight points for the Jazz, missing just one shot in the first half to score 24 points on a 5-on-6 shot from behind the arc. He calmed down in the second half, scoring just two points in the fourth quarter.
3. The Bulls roared in the third quarter after a slow start to the first half.
The Bulls erased a 10-point halftime deficit with a dominating third quarter led by 12 points from DeMar DeRozan. The team went on a 14-6 streak to take an 80-76 lead, finishing the quarter with an 86-80 margin. The Bulls shot 55% from the field during the quarter, forcing four turnovers to disrupt the Jazz’s offense.
The comeback was bolstered by containment from Markkanen, who went 2-for-5 off the field in the third after dropping five 3-pointers in the first half.
“He got a lot of three-shots,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “We weren’t strong enough. There were drives where our rotations were slow. He didn’t necessarily need to do much, to be honest with you. We did a better job of cleaning up in the second half.
4. Utah’s turnovers provided the Bulls with opportunities to capitalize offensively.
The Bulls continue to define themselves with a disruptive defense. The Jazz spat the ball 14 times and the Bulls capitalized on those mistakes, scoring 23 points on turnovers.
The fourth quarter opened with three straight Jazz turnovers that gave the Bulls six points. The streak reflected the importance of perimeter defense to the Bulls, which kept the Jazz from targeting stars like Markkanen or Kelly Olynyk by pouncing on passes.
Creating an offense through turnovers paves the way for this Bulls team, allowing them to make bigger teams like the Jazz uncomfortable through coast-to-coast workouts. Continuing that trend will be key, especially on a long road trip to face three other West Coast teams.
5. Andre Drummond led the Bulls secondary unit to eclipse the Jazz bench.
Andre Drummond came off the bench for the most effective performance of the night, totaling 10 points, 10 rebounds and a steal in 14:26 total minutes on the court. Drummond continues to be an explosive addition for the Bulls, including leading the field to the Euros around a defender for a rare big-man transition bucket in the fourth quarter.
Drummond led the Bulls bench in beating the Jazz bench 39-18 as the secondary unit continued to cement wins. Coby White added 15 points off the bench and closed the game with another 3-point dagger. Goran Dragić added seven points, including his first 3-pointer since sustaining a neck injury against the Boston Celtics.
6. Despite the win, the Bulls’ lack of 3-point shooting is still a concern.
The 3-point line remains a weak point for the Bulls, who were outscored 19-6 from behind the arc in the loss. The Jazz shot a 38.8 percent clip from 3-point range, scorching the Bulls who continue to be one of the last 5 defenses from the 3-point line. The Bulls allow opponents to average 37.5 percent 3-point efficiency while attempting a minimum of 29.1 shots per game from behind the arc.
While the Bulls can dominate games with rotational points and mid-range shooting, their lack of a 3-point offense raises serious questions in a league dominated by long-range shooting.