Bulls News: Thaddeus Young Talks Challenges of Playing Without LaVine, VucevicMay 3, 2021
The Chicago Bulls are already fighting for their playoff lives. That mission has become that much harder without their top two stars.
Zach LaVine has missed each of the last 10 games in health and safety protocols. K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reported the All-Star guard was upgraded from out to doubtful ahead of Monday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers. But Johnson also noted LaVine is all but guaranteed to miss the contest.
Chicago is also without center Nikola Vucevic. The high-profile trade-deadline acquisition missed Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks with an adductor issue and could be a game-time decision Monday against the Sixers. He was listed as questionable on Sunday evening's NBA Injury Report.
The Bulls got off to a fast start Saturday against the Hawks despite missing their top scorers. Chicago scored 63 points in the first half, using a 37-point second quarter to build a lead heading into the break. But the Bulls offense came to a grinding halt in the third. They scored just 12 points, with Atlanta finishing things off in the final period.
Chicago forward Thaddeus Young said it is difficult for the Bulls to find steady scoring options without LaVine or Vucevic on the floor.
"I think the challenge is sustainability," Young said, via ESPN. "It's hard to sustain without your two best scorers in the lineup. That's a total of almost 50 points between the two of them. When you have guys like [that] and you have to try to make up 40 to 45 points for, that's difficult. That has to come from somewhere, and we have to do it as a collective group. That's the hardest part."
Things will likely be that much more difficult for Chicago if their All-Stars are forced to sit against the Sixers. Philly ranked second in defensive rating heading into Sunday's game against the San Antonio Spurs. Ben Simmons hounds ball-handlers on the perimeter, with Joel Embiid locking down the paint.
A loss to Philly could be as good as a death sentence for Chicago if the Washington Wizards defeat the Indiana Pacers. A Wizards win would give Washington a four-game lead over the Bulls for the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference and the last spot in a play-in tournament.
Who will step up and fill the scoring void? Young was terrific against the Hawks, scoring 20 points and dishing out nine assists. But he can't do it all for the Bulls. A more aggressive Patrick Williams (19 points against Atlanta) would likely be beneficial to Chicago. Billy Donovan's squad could also stand to get more production from Coby White and Lauri Markkanen. The two combined to shoot 8-of-26 against the Hawks.
Regardless, the Bulls need guys to step up and provide scoring options. Failure to find more consistent offense will likely result in Chicago's season essentially coming to an end.
All stats obtained via Basketball Reference, unless otherwise noted.