The Chicago Bulls closed out its six-game road trip with two games in California, where the team fell to the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors 119-111 and lost to the Sacramento Kings 110-101. The Bulls finished the road trip 2-4 and are 9-14 to start the season, 12th in the Eastern Conference.

The slow start remains consistent with the downward spiral that was the second half of the 2021-22 season.

Since holding an Eastern-Conference leading 38-21 record at the 2021 All-Star Break, the Bulls have struggled, amassing an abysmal 17-29 record.

During the 2022 offseason, the Bulls made signing star shooting guard Zach LaVine to a max contract a priority, despite his lingering knee injury that caused him to miss the first two games of the season.

Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

LaVine hasn’t consistently played to his full potential this season, and his numbers have shown it. Through 19 games this season, LaVine’s only averaging 22 points per game, the lowest numbers since his first season in Chicago in the 2017-18 season. Additionally, his field goal percentage (.422) and 3-point percentage (.351) are the lowest since his first year in Chicago. On the other hand, LaVine has become more active on the defensive end, adding more steals (1.3) per game since the 2019-20 season.

On Sunday, LaVine had his best game of the 2022 season, scoring a season-high 41 points on nearly 60 percent from the field.

LaVine helped lead a third-quarter comeback that ultimately fell short, scoring 15 points in the period. LaVine had season highs in both steals (4) and rebounds (8) in the nine-point loss to the Kings

If LaVine can build momentum off his 41-point performance, the Bulls will be in a good position to get back in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.

Last January, guard Lonzo Ball injured his left knee, and it was initially revealed he’d be sidelined 6-8 weeks after the initial surgery.

Nearly a year later, the injury has caused Ball to get a second surgery, and is still a huge question mark for the Bulls. In 35 appearances with the Bulls in 2021, Ball was having one of his best seasons, while being the floor general the Bulls needed. His fifth-year jump was represented by his drastic improvement from deep, where he was connecting on an efficient 42.3 percent of his shots. The already elite perimeter defender in Ball was averaging a career-best 1.8 steals, which led to numerous transition baskets for the Bulls’ star scorers in DeMar DeRozan and LaVine. 

Ball’s passing abilities opened up DeRozan to have his best scoring season of his career, and Ball’s shooting took stress off both DeRozan and LaVine, as he was one of four starters averaging double-digit points.

The Bulls have missed his perimeter defense and shooting dearly since his absence from the lineup.

During the 2021-22 season, the Bulls were the fourth-most efficient team from deep in the NBA.

In the disappointing start to the new season, the Bulls sit 15th in three-point efficiency, while allowing the 10th-most threes to opponents

The Bulls have a chance to turn it around over the next five-game stretch – four of them at home. The Bulls continue play Dec. 7 against the Washington Wizards at the UC, then play the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and finish it with back-to-back home games against the New York Knicks

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