Bulls finish ugly, eventful road trip in fitting fashion
Bulls finish ugly, eventful road trip in fitting fashion
The Chicago Bulls went 0-5 on a West Coast road trip that was very eventful and very ugly.
Everybody knew the Chicago Bulls' five-game West Coast road trip was going to be tough, but it played out even worse than expected as they went 0-5 (1-3-1 against the spread) and got outscored by a whopping 94 points. The trip finished in fitting fashion with a 135-105 debacle in Denver, a game in which the Nuggets poured in 20 3-pointers and clowned the hapless Bulls' defense all night. The Bulls return to Chicago owners of a nine-game losing streak and a 10-35 record overall, the second-worst mark in the NBA. Going OVER 30 wins is [looking *real* bleak](https://www.betchicago.com/nba-midseason-win-total-update-bulls-falling-short-of-expectations), and they're even going to struggle to get OVER their opening win total of 27.5. What made this trip all the more disheartening was the lack of competitiveness. A few of the final scores wound up somewhat close, but here are the biggest fourth-quarter deficits faced in each game (spreads [via](https://www.covers.com/pageLoader/pageLoader.aspx?page=/data/nba/teams/pastresults/2018-2019/team404198.html) Covers.com): - Blazers, 19-point deficit, 124-112 final score, +9.5, no cover - Warriors, 43-point deficit, 146-109 final score, +15.5, no cover - Jazz, 13-point deficit, 110-102 final score, +12, cover - Lakers, 18-point deficit, 107-100 final score, +7, push - Nuggets, 40-point deficit, 135-105 final score, +14, no cover The Bulls were effectively blown off the floor in four of the five games, and the Jazz loss featured a huge scoring drought in the final frame that secured the defeat. Some garbage-time buckets helped a few of these defeats look a little closer than they were, and the Lakers game featured an [epic push](https://twitter.com/betchicago1/status/1085416464499257346?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.betchicago.com%2Fnba-scoring-increase-oddsmakers-keeping-pace). Besides the poor play on the court, there has also been drama off of it. Let's take a look at a few of the key storylines. ### A struggling core When Jim Boylen took over for Fred Hoiberg as head coach, the expectation was the Bulls [would start to play better](https://www.betchicago.com/bulls-jim-boylen-fred-hoiberg-firing) after a brutal 5-19 start, mostly because the injured core players were returning to the lineup. Namely, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, plus Bobby Portis to a lesser extent. But aside from a few exciting wins, the Bulls have been awful under Boylen, and their young core is struggling to find a rhythm. During this five-game road trip, the trio of Markkanen, Dunn and Zach LaVine got outscored by a whopping 36.5 points per 100 possessions in 104 minutes together, [per NBA.com](https://stats.nba.com/team/1610612741/lineups-advanced/?Season=2018-19&SeasonType=Regular%20Season&GroupQuantity=3&LastNGames=5). They managed just 89.5 points per 100 possessions and gave up a massive 126.0 points per 100 possessions. If you add Wendell Carter Jr. to that mix (Carter missed the Nuggets game), [it's a net rating of minus-41.0](https://stats.nba.com/team/1610612741/lineups-advanced/?Season=2018-19&SeasonType=Regular%20Season&GroupQuantity=4&LastNGames=5). The Bulls' youngsters have struggled on both ends, but the offensive issues are especially troubling given the supposed talent in place. LaVine looked [frustrated](https://chicago.suntimes.com/sports/bulls-guard-zach-lavine-hopes-to-have-some-say-with-the-front-office-this-summer/) for much of the road trip, while Dunn was much too tentative, [which even led to him addressing the team](https://twitter.com/KCJHoop/status/1085977735594307584) after one of the worst performances of his career against the Lakers. Unfortunately, things weren't any better in Denver. Markkanen broke out against the Nuggets, but he was mostly quiet before that on the trip. The Bulls haven't been able to gain any kind of consistency, and it shows with deliberate, disjointed possessions that often result in turnovers or tough shots at the end of the shot clock. Something has to give with this poor play: <a href="https://twitter.com/KCJHoop/status/1086124629599477760" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/KCJHoop/status/1086124629599477760</a> If you're looking for a positive, rookie Chandler Hutchison continues to get more comfortable on the offensive end, especially when it comes to cutting and finishing. ### Jim Boylen's raise All hell broke loose last weekend when it came out that Boylen [was getting a raise for the rest of this season and next season](https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonpatt/2019/01/13/bulls-give-head-coach-jim-boylen-a-raise-through-2019-20-season/#47e6bf063050). The news dropped right after the Bulls lost to the Warriors by 37 points, which made the optics of the move terrible. In reality, bumping Boylen up to a $1.6 million deal for this season had been in the works for a while, and he's also now getting $1 million guaranteed on a $1.6 million deal for next season. This move was to make sure Boylen was being paid more like a head coach rather than an associate head coach (about $800,000 salary). Of course, the Bulls must be willing to move on from Boylen this offseason if this ship continues to sink. The Bulls are also on the hook for Hoiberg's $5 million for next season unless he gets another gig, but that can't stop management from making another move if it's what's best for the future. The Bulls are now 5-16 under Boylen and showing little in terms of development. Eight of those 16 losses are by 17 points or more, and the defensive improvement on display early in his tenure has been erased. In fact, Chicago's defensive rating under Boylen is now worse than it was under Hoiberg, and the offense is about equally as terrible. If these trends continue, Boylen cannot be the head coach next season, as much as the front office may want him to be. ### Jabari Parker freed and Robin Lopez drama Parker has been freed from exile and has actually performed quite well, at least offensively. In the last three games of the road trip, the 23-year-old put up 14.7 points per game on 17-of-27 shooting. He appears to be in better shape and is showing more explosiveness. What does this mean? While it's too late for Parker to work himself back into the Bulls' future plans, perhaps these performances help find a trade. Parker's $20 million salary makes things difficult, especially if Chicago isn't willing to take back long-term salary, but the front office is going to continue working to find a deal. The Utah Jazz and New York Knicks have been reported as potential suitors, but nothing is imminent. Meanwhile, the Bulls are also trying to find a trade for Robin Lopez, who recently got into a scrap with Dunn at practice as his frustrations about playing time boiled over. Lopez [reportedly would like a buyout](https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonpatt/2019/01/15/bulls-are-correct-not-to-negotiate-buyout-with-robin-lopez-right-now/#b24a6b56b147) in order to join the Warriors, but Chicago is correctly holding firm and instead looking for a trade before the Feb. 7 deadline. Parker and Lopez may not wind up fetching anything of value on the trade market, and there's a chance they're both bought out if no trades go down. But, hilariously enough, both players helped their cause against the Nuggets by combining for 32 points on 13-of-17 shooting off the bench. ### A look ahead The schedule lightens up for the Bulls as they return home to face the Miami Heat on Saturday. Chicago also has multiple games coming up against the league-worst Cleveland Cavaliers, plus a home date with the Atlanta Hawks. While it's in the Bulls' best interest to lose a bunch of games and get the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, [they can still salvage something](https://www.betchicago.com/bulls-at-halfway-point-chicago-hoping-to-building-momentum-2019-2020) from this disaster if the young core shows positive development together. It has been ugly so far, but with the schedule softening up, it's time for more competent basketball and less embarrassment. __NBA Daily pick 5__: [Play for free, win cool merch](https://betchicago.chalkline.com/games/nba-pick-5)2019-01-18T15:16:29.897Z2019-01-18T10:16-05:00