By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (670 The Score) — With a 110-96 setback to the Bucks at the United Center on Sunday afternoon, the Bulls fell to 1-4 in this most recent stretch without starting point guard Kris Dunn, who remains in the league’s concussion protocol.
To understand just how much the Bulls miss Dunn only takes a few minutes. In the case of Sunday, it was immediately evident, as Chicago started 3-of-11 from the field and committed six turnovers in the first eight minutes.
“We miss him, there’s no doubt about that,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We’re a much better team when we get the ball up the floor quickly, and Kris Dunn is our best pace guard.”
By the eye test standards, the Bulls (18-32) appear to be getting more and more lost without Dunn, who suffered his head injury on a nasty face-first fall on a dunk late in a loss to the Warriors on Jan. 17. Chicago won its first game without him, breezing past the hapless Atlanta Hawks. They then played well for most of a wild double-overtime loss to the Pelicans last Monday.
Since then, the Bulls have been lifeless for far too long in losses to the 76ers, Lakers and Bucks, a three-game stretch in which they’ve shot a combined 39.1 percent. Not as dynamic of a creator as Dunn, Jerian Grant has spent too much time overdribbling in initiating an offense that stagnates around him.
Hoiberg pointed out that Dunn is Chicago “best player out of flow” — meaning he could get the team seamlessly rolling into a half-court action upon the initial pushing of the ball up the court.
“We just got to try to find a way to get our flow back, our aggression back offensively,” Justin Holiday said. “A swagger, I guess, in a sense.”
Dunn’s absence has had a trickle-down effect, with others being asked to do more or put in some uncomfortable positions. Guard Zach LaVine has struggled mightily in the past two games, shooting a combined 5-of-28 from the field. On Sunday, LaVine missed his first nine shots before getting on the scoreboard. He finished with six points on 2-of-11 shooting with five assists and two turnovers in 26-plus minutes in his eighth game back since his recovery from ACL surgery.
“I’m not going to react to it in a negative way either way,” LaVine said. “I’m going to go out there and play my game. If it doesn’t work out, I have all the confidence in the world that I’ve worked hard to get to this point, and it’s going to eventually come. It’s frustrating, but it’s just the way it is. You can’t hang your head about that.”
LaVine planned to return to the gym later Sunday evening, explaining that he’s going to “shoot my way out of it.”
The Bulls really need him to do just that, because there’s still no timetable for Dunn’s return. He continues to experience concussion symptoms and hasn’t done much physical activity at all, let alone start undergoing the tests to exit the concussion protocol, Hoiberg said.
There’s a “good chance” Dunn travels with the team for a three-game West Coast road trip, but that doesn’t mean a return is imminent. What is imminent is a tough three-game stretch for Chicago that includes games at Portland on Wednesday and at the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
“We’re going to have a hell of a practice tomorrow,” Hoiberg said after Sunday’s setback. “We’re going to have a training camp-type practice tomorrow. We got to get our competitive edge back. We’ve got to get our spirit back.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.