CHICAGO – For once this year, the standings were meaningless to those at the United Center.
No matter what the Bulls did on Saturday night, their hopes for the best lottery odds weren’t going to change. The Cavaliers loss to the Warriors on Friday means the Bulls are locked into the fourth-worst record in the NBA for the 2018-2019 season, leaving their chances for the No. 1 pick at 12.5 percent.
So there was no need to “tank” anymore for the squad as they approached their third-to-last game of the season on Saturday night. Not that they needed help doing so since the continued absence of most of their regular starters made a win against the playoff-bound Sixers less likely.
But as it has the last week-and-a-half, the new lineup gave a chance for Bulls fans to become familiar with a new face that’s been developing with their G-League team during most of the season. Not that it helped the hopes for a victory, which didn’t come in a 116-96 loss the Philadelphia, but people did get to see the best of JaKarr Sampson so far this season.
Coming off the bench to play a team-high 35 minutes, the forward scored a game-high 29 points, hitting 11-of-17 shots from the floor while also tying for the team-best eight rebounds on the night. The points are the most in his 172 game NBA career, which had parts of two seasons with the Sixers in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.
But this was only Sampson’s 25th game since the end of that last season which came with the Denver Nuggets, and just the second for the Bulls this year after spending most of this years with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League. There he led the team with 21.1 points per game and helped them to their first playoff berth in team history before getting called up to the Bulls on April 1st.
He scored 22 points with seven rebounds in that game, then had 18 points and nine boards in the win over Washington on Wednesday. His 29 points effort brings his average in the three games to 20 points and eight rebounds, and while that was far from enough from three-straight victories, it at least gets his some recognition as his first Bulls’ season comes to a close.