The Chicago Bulls late-night victory last night was basically the same thing as chugging four cups of coffee, two Red Bulls, and 10 Pixy Sticks. I was typing and tweeting like a maniac until basically 2 a.m., so to say I’m feeling a bit crashed today would be an understatement. Good thing the Bulls play at a totally reasonable time tonight (*he types with sarcasm*)!
• All Zach LaVine needed to say was one word to ensure Bulls fans that times have changed in Chicago.
"Do the Bulls win this game last year?"
Zach LaVine: "No."
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 6, 2021
• The dagger-hitting bucket-getter is right. The Bulls do not win this game last season, and that is exactly why this franchise experienced an organization overhaul this past summer. Now, look, he could have meant that in more of a “we were not experienced enough” kind of way, but even that speaks to the importance of all this change. The Chicago Bulls needed someone who could help them learn from those past experiences. Someone who could actually show the development on the court rather than just talking about it in the postgame press conference afterward. Billy Donovan is that someone, and while he has a long season ahead of him, he has already left quite the impression on this Bulls team.
• He has also left quite the impression on me. I know the players deserve the biggest round of applause for executing the gameplan last night, but I can’t help but get so damn excited about the clear buy-in that Donovan has garnered in just eight regular-season games. I mean, the Bulls erased a 20-point deficit last night. In fact, they are now the only team this season to erase that deficit and walk away with the win (h/t Tim Bontemps). Despite the personnel looking vastly similar, the Bulls were not capable of that one year ago – at least, not against a playoff-caliber team like the Trail Blazers. Actually, let me rephrase that, the Bulls might have been capable of that last season, they just didn’t believe they were. Donovan has gotten guys to believe in a system and believe each other. We’ve seen that on full display over these first eight games, as the Bulls have shown nothing but growth from their opening blowout loss to their 3-point W last night.
Billy Donovan thought tonight taught his #Bulls about the swings of the game and how they can be just fine if they weather them.
Donovan: "If you just stay the course and keep battling, you can make some plays and get back in the game."
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) January 6, 2021
• All right, and it also sure doesn’t hurt to have a chip-on-his-shoulder Zach LaVine:
• LaVine played one of the best all-around games I’ve ever seen from him. He dished out 9 assists with 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks. His playmaking was at an entirely new level, and it only further demonstrated the devotion to becoming a winning player that we’ve seen this season. Whether it be feeding a cutting Otto Porter, blocking Russell Westbrook, or hitting the dagger last night in Portland, LaVine has been doing a little bit of everything when the game is on the line. I’m not saying he is All-Star bound this season, but that is the type of play we’ll need to continue to see from him if he wants an even more legitimate chance at finally getting a nod.
• For the third time this season, the Bulls finished a game with seven players in double figures. The team’s 27 assists were surely to thank for that, as Coby White (5), Wendell Carter Jr. (5), and Thaddeus Young (4) all joined LaVine in holding up their end of the ball movement duties. The fact that this team managed to do this yet again without Lauri Markkanen or Tomas Satoransky in the fold is truly impressive. Young and Garrett Temple both deserve a lot of credit for the way this team has played over the past few games. Both have been exactly what this Bulls team needs off the bench, adding versatility and leadership.
• Speaking of which, add Young’s strong start to Otto Porter’s outstanding play and I bet Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley are having a high-five party right now. Let me first write, these two players are helping the Bulls win some games and thus helping develop these young players. We shouldn’t look past that. At the same time, they’re also improving their trade value, and we can’t look ignore that. Young and Porter are easily the most likely to be traded at some point this season, as both are starting-caliber veterans who could do wonders for contending teams in the playoffs. The better they play to start this season, the higher the asking price can be. It’s just business.
• STREAK BREAKERS!
The Bulls have snapped a 7-game losing streak against the Blazers.
It was Portland's fourth 7-game winning streak against the Bulls, but they've never been able to make it 8 straight.
— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) January 6, 2021
• How legit was the Bulls win last night? Well, it got the national folks talking.
I love Chicago's blend of youth and veterans. Thad Young and Temple are such stabilizers off the bench. LaVine focusing on playmaking vs. Portland was cool. That's the next step of his game to develop. Patrick Williams, Coby White both impressive. Lots to like about the Bulls.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 6, 2021
This young Chicago Bulls team is fun to watch…they play agenda free basketball and defensively they are not afraid to junk things up!!! Carry on…
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 6, 2021
• Coby telling it like it is.
"Zach was being Zach: cold blooded." pic.twitter.com/kOd0znVfsO
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 6, 2021