The Chicago Bulls have answered a season-high, six-game skid by trading wins and losses over their past eight contests.
The Bulls aim to get back on the winning track Saturday when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have lost six in a row and 11 of their past 13 games.
Chicago didn't farewell in its first game without Lauri Markkanen, with the team mustering just 12 points in the fourth quarter of a 98-81 setback to the visiting Sacramento Kings on Friday. Markkanen is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks after an MRI on his right hip revealed an early stress reaction of his right pelvis.
"This is not something that we are gonna have him fight through," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said of the 22-year-old Finn, who is averaging 15 points and 6.5 rebounds this season.
"He wants to play. He's disappointed that he's not playing, and we hope we get him back as soon as possible."
Zach LaVine scored 21 points Friday to lead Chicago in scoring for the 10th straight game.
LaVine recorded 21 of his 42 points in fourth quarter on Jan. 18 as the Bulls overcame a late 15-point deficit in a 118-116 victory over the Cavaliers.
While Chicago is dealing with a pronounced injury, Kevin Love wasn't pointing the finger in that direction after seeing his team drop a 106-86 decision to the New York Knicks on Monday and a 124-112 setback to the Washington Wizards three nights later.
"I think we start taking steps forward and then we just a take a step back here and there," Love said, per Cleveland.com. "Definitely tough. Obviously, we have had injuries, we're coming off a long road trip and now we have to find ways to get better in less than 10 games before the All-Star break.
"We have to start trending in the right direction again because we felt like we were playing good basketball, even in a couple of the losses we had, and these are uncharacteristic -- losing by double digits to these two teams. Nothing against them, we just feel like similar records and these are teams we can compete with, especially on our home floor, and we should have a chance to really win."
Love, who scored 21 points on Thursday, erupted for 29 in the most recent loss to the Bulls. The 31-year-old collected 17 points and 20 rebounds in Cleveland's 117-111 victory over visiting Chicago on Oct. 30.
Larry Nance Jr. had 22 points on Thursday, but the season-high scoring output did little to lift his spirits given the team's considerable troubles.
"A loss is a loss, so anything in that L column hurts," Nance said, per Cleveland.com. "But this team (the Wizards), the Knicks, our last game in Chicago, these are all games we should be very competitive in. The fact that we haven't been, other than Chicago, especially on our home court, is a little bit disheartening.
"Go back to the drawing board. It's not like anybody feels sorry for us, so we can't for ourselves."
Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, who averages a team-best 19.3 points, scored 18 in the first meeting with the Bulls before making 10 of 17 shots to finish with 26 points on Jan. 18.
--Field Level Media