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Lauri Markkanen made his 2018-2019 season debut in the Bulls last match against the Houston Rockets. Despite losing 105-121, the 2018 All-Rookie First Team member displayed a mixed bag of promise and rust after sitting out due to a high grade lateral elbow sprain since the end of September.
In 25 minutes against the Rockets, Markannen posted 10 points, 4 rebounds, a steal, and a block and was a -9 on 4-14 from the field and 2-6 from three. The numbers were solid for the 21-year old power forward and the conviction he had on his drives was promising. Despite that, his shooting touch was clearly not there and against a team in Houston that plays quite small the 7’0 forward failed to take advantage of smaller players in the post.
Against the Pacers Markkanen will not get a break. Matching up against mobile and talented frontcourt players like F Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, the Finn won’t get a break in the post or on the wing. It’s promising that Markkanen was able to log 25 minutes in his last match, but don’t be surprised if he struggles against the Pacers defence.
In a 110-111 loss to the Sacramento Kings, the Indiana Pacers scored a mere three points in the final five minutes of the game. Returning home from a West Coast trip will surely help the Pacers, but with the late-game scoring failure against the Kings many wonder who will be their primary scorer in late-game situations.
F Bojan Bogdanovic played starters minutes off the bench and contributed 20 points and 6 assists. Meanwhile G Darren Collison and F Domantas Sabonis provided the effort plays—12 assists and 7 rebounds respectively—however had a combined 13 turnovers for the game. The Pacers may look to G-F Tyreke Evans to fill the void of Oladipo. Evans is a tall guard with an excellent handle and can take advantage against almost any matchup on the floor.
The Pacers are currently 7-0 against opponents when Evans contributes more than 13 points in a match—8-4 when he scores more than 10. Having 25 turnovers in a game will always be a detriment to teams’ odds of success. However without a confident star outlet like Oladipo, the increased responsibility for role players has highlighted a lack of playmaking and ball security.
Fred Hoiberg is out of Chicago and Jim Boylen is in as the associate head coach for the remainder of the season. After a coaching career at Iowa State, Hoiberg was brought into Chicago in hopes that he could implement a fluid offensive style to contrast the defensive style of his predecessor Tom Thibodeau.
New head coach Jim Boylen will take the reigns and fans may see a return to the defensive style of play of Bulls teams past. In his years as an assistant head coach for the Bulls they ranked 6th, 20th, and 25th in terms of DefRtg. As the Bulls team had a significant player and age turnover, the drop is more a signal of player quality than failing defensive schemes.
Hoiberg had a contentious stay with Chicago and there’s hope that a new coach will breathe new life into the team. The Bulls seem to be taking the continuity route a la Toronto Raptors, promoting an assistant one seat over the take the coaching responsibilities. With a young but recently injury prone team, the Bulls will hope that Boylen can translate youth and enthusiasm into offensive and defensive efficiency.
As a sophomore, the NBA community was positively buzzing over Myles Turner’s potential in the NBA. At 6’11 with a 7’4 wingspan and athletic as they come, Turner seemed primed to be an All-Star the next season. With the introduction of Oladipo into the team, Turner’s total usage decreased and none of his major statistical categories have seen a rating as positive as his sophomore season.
With Oladipo out the Pacers will look to Turner for more production. He is yet to score 20 points this season and has reached double-figure rebounding numbers only three times. This is partially due to the improvement of Lithuanian legacy F Domantas Sabonis, but there’s also the wonder if Turner truly has the physicality to compete with the NBA’s best on the boards.
Turner is still rejecting the ball at a high rate (2.6 blocks per game) and shoots over 50% from inside the arc. It will take just a single run of productive matches for the NBA to recognize Turner’s potential again. If he can find his form in time for Oladipo’s return, the Pacers may have one of the most dynamic one-two punches in the NBA.
The Chicago Bulls’ poor performance saw the firing of Head Coach Fred Hoiberg. While Hoiberg had his controversies within the organization, the sheer lack of talent on the Bulls did not help his cause. The firing should signal to the team that the front office isn’t afraid of changes should improvement not be seen. The young Bulls should be coming out energetic, hoping to remind fans of their skill and potential.
The Indiana Pacers suffered a difficult and heartbreaking loss to the Sacramento Kings. While the Bulls are still an NBA team, they are not the cream of the crop sitting 14th in the East. The men in gold and blue will be looking for a redemption match to find their rhythm and range after what was a very winnable game out West.
Can the bench support the loss of Oladipo?
Will the Pacers’ Offence be enough?
How will the Bulls beat the Pacers’ impressive defence?
Is Antonio Blakeney for real?
The odds will be updated as soon as they’re made available.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
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