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There were some critical questions facing the Bulls since their worst trip to Oklahoma since scouting JamesOn Curry. Did they have anything in reserve? And could anyone spell Porzingis?

The Bulls did have plenty in reserve with 61 points off the bench led by Garrett Temple’s 21, his most in more than a year. And then there was the sweetest sight in the world for Lauri Markkanen since losing his pair of reindeer gloves, Kristaps Porzingis. Talk about Who’s Your Daddy!

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Markkanen scored 29 points, his season high and second most since the opening game of the 2019-20 season. Zach LaVine at mostly point guard had 10 assists and contributed to as-close-as-the-Bulls-will-get to a late game shut down of Luka Donicic, and the Bulls led almost the entire game in defeating the Dallas Mavericks 117-101.

Lauri Markkanen finished with 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting in the win over Dallas on Sunday.

LaVine scored a season low 10 points on one of eight shooting while Coby White was scoreless for just the second time in his NBA career, the usually high scoring duo combining to shoot one of 13 overall. But LaVine was sparkling with his most assists in a game since his rookie season, three steals, just two turnovers despite being the primary point guard and a starters’ best plus-11 rating.

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One afternoon, they come home from school with a detention slip for ditching the second half of the day and scoring a -22 on their math exam. Utter Disappointment. The next day, however, they’re found staying after school for extra help and scoring better than those smart-aleck kids in their biology class. So proud.

At the end of the 2019-20 season, the Bulls exited their angsty-as-hell phase, which means their learn-from-your-mistakes phase is next. Sure, they’re bound to make a handful of embarrassing blunders throughout the course of this season, but as long as they can prevent history from repeating itself, they should be on the right track.

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What if they can’t? I guess they’ll be living in Arturas Karnisovas basement … I think that is how that works.

• Lauri Markkanen trending in the right direction.

• I’m not ready to make the same “HE’S BACK!” declaration that the Bulls did last night, but I’m also not too far away from doing so either. Markkanen has looked 100 percent rejuvenated under new head coach Billy Donovan. The Finnisher is hitting his 3-pointers at a career-best rate and playing at the rim better than he has in years. He is constantly looking to drive to the hoop and using his elite size to either draw contact or finesse a finish over defenders. Good stuff, but now it is time to be consistent.

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• Markkanen’s big night came with only 10 points from Zach LaVine and 0 points from Coby White. Can he find a way to impact the game at this level while the other two are scoring as well? Also, this was his first double-double of the season, which is a mark he almost averaged during his second season in the league. Can he prove to be a more stable threat on the glass? Again, there is no question this is some of the best basketball we’ve seen from Markkanen in recent years, but he has always been a player that too often hits his strides in waves. The time is now – in a contract year – to show he can always keep the switch turned on.

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“I really thought he made great decisions and he played in my opinion a tremendous floor game where he was balanced, where he had assists, rebounding; he didn’t force anything,” said Bulls coach Billy Donovan. “Really played the right way. He got downhill (eight of eight free throws), he found his teammates. If Zach can keep evolving like that, that’s only going to help our team and make us better. Thad (Young) mentioned it to the guys after the game. He said ‘Coby and Zach, you guys didn’t score, but you played the game the right way that really enhanced and helped us win.’ Those guys are players that require a lot of attention, so it opens up things for other people and when they can play like that it’s just going to help us.”

Young equalled a season high with 15 points and both he and Otto Porter Jr. made seven of 10 shots. Ryan Arcidiacono in just his third game of the season played spirited defense to support the game changing energy of reserve center Daniel Gafford, whose first quarter play was pivotal in rousing a seemingly still suffering Bulls team following that 22-point blown lead overtime loss in Oklahoma City.

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Gafford’s defense with a pair of blocks and causing Dallas played to pause going to the basket midway through the first quarter turned a 16-9 Dallas start into a 27-23 Bulls first quarter lead. Driven by the reserves’ play against a decimated Dallas team with six regulars facing Covid restrictions, the Bulls reserves with a boost from Markkanen hung a 40-point second quarter on the Mavericks that this time led to a 15-point halftime lead the Bulls would not fumble.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle pointed to that first quarter defensive stretch and then Temple’s 15-point second quarter as the turning points for the Bulls victory.

Garrett Temple scored 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting in Chicago’s win over Dallas.

“The first game I played we got the bench together before the tip off and first game, I told the bench, ‘We can be the best bench in the league because of the experience, the talent we have coming off the bench,'” Temple recalled. “Our team is going to need the bench to play well because we have such a young unit and there’s going to be times where we have to help them out. So a game like today was great to show that. Zach and Coby didn’t have a great shooting night, but obviously Lauri played really well.”

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Yes, Markkanen, who perhaps is under more scrutiny than any Bulls player after his setbacks last season and failure to reach a contract extension. It was Markkanen’s second game back after his Covid quarantine issues and just sixth of the season and third scoring at least 20 points. He exceeded 20 points last season in 10 of 50 games.

“I love Lau,” said Temple. “I love the fact that he’s been so aggressive. That’s been surprising to me. Playing against him in the past, I haven’t seen as many duck ins, as many drives to the basket. He’s been really aggressive on the offensive boards as well. Just his offensive mentality, not just being a standstill, catch-and-shoot three-point guy and occasionally a driver. He’s really been aggressive offensively. And we need him to continue to do that for this team.”

Markkanen has had some of the best games of his career against the more celebrated Porzingis, who is returning unsteadily from yet another knee issue and missed all seven of his threes while scoring 20 points. Markkanen had his coming out party as a pro in his rookie season against Porzingis in New York with 33 points and eight threes in a Bulls win. Supposedly destined for stardom in the wake of performances like that, Markkanen then suffered through injuries, health scares and unsettling coaching decisions.

He started slowly in the first quarter as Donovan faces something of a dilemma with Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., the latter with 12 points, seven rebounds and a career high five steals. Neither is particularly emotional nor top rim protectors, two strengths of Gafford. It was his energetic play that seemed to ignite a somewhat ashen start. Though Donovan is charged perhaps primarily this season with analyzing and evaluating Carter and Markkanen. Win, sure, but make sure the franchise can make big decisions regarding the big guys.

Markkanen has been making much more effort to get to the basket, showing some of the fading bank shots that were once a fixture for him. He still flops around at times while taking contact and trying to finish, but he has been more successful this season as he also seems permitted to move from the perimeter.

“I figured they were running me off the line a little bit and I had the lane to drive,” Markkanen observed. “So it was just what the defense gave me and I just tried to be aggressive to get to the rim. And that’s what I was able to do.”

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CHICAGO (AP) — Zach LaVine scored 33 points, and the Chicago Bulls overcame a strong effort by Victor Oladipo in his Houston debut, beating the Rockets 125-120 on Monday night.

LaVine scored nine points in the closing minutes of the third to help send Chicago to the final quarter with a 93-86 lead.

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The Bulls made enough shots down the stretch to win for the second time in as many days after losing four straight by four points or fewer.

Lauri Markkanen finished with 18 points. The 7-footer from Finland nailed a 3-pointer in the closing minute to make it a six-point game, helping Chicago squeeze out a tight win after an easy victory at Dallas.

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Oladipo looked good in his first game for Houston, pouring in 32 points. The two-time All-Star was acquired from Indiana as part of the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn last week after he said the Rockets weren’t “good enough.”

Christian Wood scored 30 and grabbed nine rebounds. Eric Gordon added 21 points after missing back-to-back games because of tightness in his lower left leg. The Rockets lost for the fourth time in five games.

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The Bulls led most of the game, but Houston hung in until the end.

Oladipo nailed a 3 to cut it to 114-111 with 1:50 remaining. LaVine answered with a finger roll layup for Chicago.

Wood then made a pair of free throws for Houston with just over a minute remaining. But Markkanen hit a 3 from the wing to make it 119-113 with 46.9 seconds left.

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Zach LaVine scored a game-high 33 points, Lauri Markkanen added 18 points and five different players swished at least three 3-pointers to boost the host Chicago Bulls to a 125-120 victory against the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

Making his team debut after being acquired from Indiana as part of last week’s blockbuster trade that sent former Houston star James Harden to Brooklyn, Victor Oladipo paced the Rockets with 32 points.

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Houston trailed by as many as 17 in the second quarter before cutting the deficit to three several times down the stretch, the last on a pair of Christian Wood free throws with 1:03 left. The Rockets would come no closer while losing their second straight.

After losing four games in a row by four points or less, the Bulls won for the second time in as many days. Chicago overcame 17 turnovers by shooting 46.7 percent, including 44.4 percent (20-for-45) from long range.

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Seven players scored in double figures for the Bulls, as Denzel Valentine (13 points, eight rebounds), Thaddeus Young (12 points, nine rebounds) and Wendell Carter Jr. (10 points, eight rebounds) each flirted with double-doubles.

Garrett Temple scored 13 points and Coby White chipped in 10 for Chicago, while LaVine had seven assists.

Wood had 30 points and nine rebounds for the Rockets. Eric Gordon scored 21 points, with Jae’Sean Tate (11 points) and Mason Jones (10) also finishing in double figures.

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Oladipo added nine assists in another solid game at United Center this season. He drilled all five attempts from deep while scoring 22 points for Indiana in a Dec. 26 win against Chicago.

Chicago shot 50 percent in the first half, including 9-for-22 from long range, and took a 64-52 lead into the break. LaVine, who had just one field goal in Sunday’s victory at Dallas, had four field goals in the first half en route to scoring a team-high 13 points.

John Wall (left knee soreness) and Sterling Brown (right lower leg soreness) were out for Houston, while Patrick Williams (right hip contusion) and Otto Porter Jr. (lower back strain) missed the game for Chicago.

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On the night of Jan. 15, the Chicago Bulls are set to take part in their first game action this week, after a long break since their last outing. In their last game, the Bulls fell short in a tough three-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and the superstar forward duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, on the road back on Jan. 10.

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That loss to the Clippers saw the Bulls and first-year head coach Billy Donovan round out their four-game west coast road trip on a three-game losing streak. Their other two losses in that span came at the hands of the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers and the rising Sacramento Kings.

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And on Jan. 15, the Bulls did hit the road once again to face a set of Western Conference foes. This time around, they start off the weekend by taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Coming into this game, the Bulls sported a record of 4-7. Meanwhile, the Thunder hold a record of 5-6. Once again, the Thunder look to be better than originally anticipated coming into the season.

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It’s an early tip-off time for the Chicago Bulls today as they have an afternoon clash against another Western Conference foe. This will be the seven straight game Chicago has faced off against a team from the West and also marks the end of a long road trip which started 12 days ago in Portland. However, since that win over the Trail Blazers, it hasn’t been smoothing sailing at all for Chicago. They have dropped four games in a row and despite Chicago having a chance to win it late in all of them, they couldn’t get it done. It was an especially painful loss in their last game against Oklahoma City.

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Chicago blew a 16 point lead in the fourth quarter and due to some crucial late turnovers in regulation, ended up losing to the Thunder 127-125 in overtime. The loss now puts the Bulls at a record of 4-8, tied with the Toronto Raptors for third worst in the Eastern Conference. Only the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards have worse records.

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The Bulls will be facing off against the Dallas Mavericks today. These two teams met earlier this month with Chicago winning that one thanks to 39 points from Zach LaVine. Since then however, Dallas has been playing well. They’ve won three out of their last four and sit sixth in the Western Conference standings with a record of 6-5. Despite 28 points from Luka Doncic and 15 from Kristaps Porzingis in just his second game back, they weren’t able to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 112-109. Dallas had a chance to force overtime but Porzingis missed a three with 10 seconds left.

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This game will be very different from the one the two teams played two weeks ago. The biggest factor being the health of the Mavericks two best players. They didn’t have Doncic or Porzingis in that one but both should be ready to go today. Doncic will surely test the defensive prowess of Chicago’s backcourt while Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. and maybe Wendell Carter Jr. will have their hands full against Porzingis. With his three-point shooting, the Bulls big men will be forced to leave the paint and it may open up driving lanes for Doncic. Dallas had one of the best offenses in the league last season and they have an extremely talented offensive creator in Doncic. Stopping the Mavericks offense will surely be a tough task.

Injury report:

Chandler Hutchison and Tomas Satoransky remain out due to Health and Safety Protocols. Devon Dotson and Luke Kornet are not with the team at the moment as they are back in Chicago as described by Billy Donovan pre-game last Friday. Otto Porter Jr. and Garrett Temple are probable.

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Meanwhile for Dallas, they will be missing a handful of players due to health and safety protocols. Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleiber, Dwight Powell, and Josh Richardson are all out with that designation for Dallas. Meanwhile Tim Haradaway Jr. won’t be available in this one due to a strain in his left groin.

Game Time: 2PM CT

Odds: Dallas opened up as a 7.5 point favorite but the line has moved down slightly to the Mavericks being a 6.5 favorite. You can still find places that offer Dallas (+7.5) or even (+6). As for the O/U, a lot of places have it set at 227 but you can find 226.5 as well (all via the Action Network).

The Bulls did take care of business twice in facing the Thunder on the road during the preseason slate. But this is a different ball game now.

Good news for Donovan and the Bulls arrived in the fact that fourth-year power forward Lauri Markkanen returns to the starting five on this night, after missing the last seven games. Markkanen had missed a good portion of the season so far dealing with the combination of a lower-body injury and a violation of the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

With Markkanen back in the mix, along with small forward Otto Porter Jr. recently, the Bulls didn’t need to have center Luke Kornet and rookie point guard Devon Dotson on this short road trip. Apparently Kornet and Dotson are reportedly serving as sort of an in-shape “practice squad” for the Bulls as they hit the road for their next couple of games.

Donovan said #Bulls left Dotson and Kornet at home as sort of a practice squad type move to make sure they’re healthy and in shape if needed.

— Mike McGraw (@McGrawDHBulls) January 15, 2021

Dotson has only played in one game himself so far this season. In his one game played, Dotson registered four points and one rebound on 2-of-4 shooting from the field in 10 minutes on the floor. He hasn’t got much of a chance to shine in the spotlight so far this season.

NEXT: Markkanen will shake up the offense in a major way
Kornet has seen a dramatic dip in his playing time so far this season due to the increased depth in the Bulls frontcourt rotation. He’s only played in one game so far this season, registering two points and one rebound in seven minutes on the floor.