by Richard Kagan
How many wins the Chicago Bulls will earn this season is anyone’s guess. But the team got its first win of the season in defeating the Atlanta Hawks, 91-86, in a close game that wasn’t decided until the final minute.
Rookie F Lauri Markkanen made his mark by hitting a big trey with less than a minute remaining to give the Bulls a 90-86 lead. They held on from there to ice the W.
The Bulls (1-3) out-rebounded the Hawks, 62-40 and grabbed 18 offensive boards en route to the win. Robin Lopez scored 16 points and had 9 rebounds. Reserve David Nwaba scored 15 and grabbed 11 rebounds. Markkanen scored 14 points with 12 boards, and guard Justin Holiday had 13 points with 11 rebounds.
Reserve guard Denzel Valentine added 11 points and 8 rebounds. Chicago won on the strength of its’ hustle and effort. The effort showed up on the boards to off-set a lackluster shooting night, where the Bulls managed only to hit 36% from the field.
This is a young team that may get even younger with stories coming out of Chicago that say F Nikola Mirotic may seek a trade from the Bulls in light of his fight with Bobby Portis Jr. Mirotic is recovering from a concussion and he also needs to mend from two facial fractures incurred when Portis hit him with a punch to the face, just before season started. No one really knows how this will all play out, but a decision may come soon as the Bulls need to lock down Portis on his contract by Oct 31st.
Meanwhile G Kris Dunn is nearing a date to make his season debut. He dislocated his finger in pre-season.
Credit Chicago for playing with effort. The Bulls will need to continue to play hard to off-set a lack of experience and talent on the court. Markkanen is making a name for himself in the early going of the season. He impressed LeBron James with his play in the recent Cavs game. Tonight the rookie Finn made 2 of 8 three-point attempts.
Marco Bellinelli led the Hawks with 23 points. Kent Bazemore scored 16 and Mike Muscala scored 14 with 10 rebounds.