CHICAGO – As difficult as it might be, and it certainly is after a few lean years of rebuilding, seeking positives in defeats can be a path for finding progress during the start of this Bulls’ season.
After falling to 4-10 in the first month of the season following a 115-101 loss to the Bucks Monday at the United Center, that’s the case for many fans as they look at as they dealt with another poor finish. Outscored 31-20 in the fourth quarter, Jim Boylen’s team once again missed a chance to pick up a victory against Milwaukee for the second time in five days.
But a major bright spot, yet again, comes from a rookie off the bench. A week ago it was Coby White’s seven-three pointer fourth quarter that left an impression on everyone on the west side, and now it was Daniel Gafford’s time to do so.
The forward out of Arkansas used a collection of dunks along with a strong presence in the paint to deliver easily the best performance of his young career. In just 20 minutes he led the team win scoring with 21 points – all of them his first in the NBA – while also picking up five rebounds and a pair of blocks along the way. It came after he was called up from the G-League’s Windy City Bulls Monday afternoon after Luke Kornet was ruled out after undergoing surgery on his nose from a previous injury.
Gafford was in the rotation for Monday’s game with the Bucks after seeing little action in four other games this season, getting just 13 minutes of total playing time with no points and one rebound.
It would be a much different scenario on Monday as Gafford check int midway through the first quarter and got his first NBA points with a dunk at the 4:01 mark. He’d add two more before the end of the quarter as he started the contest with eight points and was rolling from there, finishing the game six slams, which ties for the most in the NBA this season.
Once considered a lottery pick before falling to the Bulls in the second round of June’s draft, Gafford was the leader of a strong bench push against the Bucks in which the group scored 63 points on the evening. Coby White (13) and Ryan Arcidiacono (12) added to the effort that kept the Bulls in striking distance into the fourth quarter, but like Thursday night, it wasn’t enough.
Following White’s three-pointer with 6:23 left, the Bulls wouldn’t score another bucket as the Bucks used another big effort from Giannis Antetokounmpo (33 points) to deny the Bulls for the second time in a week.
But on the bright side, Gafford put on quite a show, showing his best on the NBA stage early in what looks like another rebuilding season.