Boy, Did the Bulls Need Nikola Vucevic (And Other Bulls Bullets)

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Boy, Did the Bulls Need Nikola Vucevic (And Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

When the boys are happy, I’m happy.

•   I’m not sure the Chicago Bulls could have asked for a better start to this favorable 10-game stretch. While the Pacers were missing two of their key players (Brogdon and Sabonis), the Bulls sure didn’t play like it. All season long, we watched as the team battled fierce competition only to show the opposite effort against lesser or depleted teams. After competitive performances against the Suns, Jazz, and Nets, there was certainly a concern that we could see that familiar storyline play out over this next week. But the Bulls showed no signs of complacency, and they appeared to treat this depleted Pacers squad just the way they did the Western and Eastern Conference elites. I’m sure that’s one of the many switches this organization hopped to flip at the trade deadline.

•   Nikola Vucevic is not single-handedly responsible for the Bulls increased consistency, but there is no doubt he is a motivating factor. He is not only executing at his normal All-Star level on the offensive end, but he is making almost everything easier for this Bulls team on both ends of the floor. Don’t believe me? Just watch …

•   Head coach Billy Donovan commented on Vucevic’s impact in his postgame press conference: “He’s been very unselfish. I think the guys on the team have a great deal of respect for his abilities on both ends of the floor. He generally really makes the right decision, the right play. He plays unselfishly. He plays the right way. He does a good job of reading post-defense when he can kick the ball out and get guys shot. I think when you have a player that plays the right way, and to his caliber that plays the right way, it becomes contagious.”

•   I think I tweeted it out the other day, but Vooch plays like he’s drinking a beer in a recliner. There is something about his game that is so soothing, and I think that stems from this ability to “play the right way.” The guy is an ultra-talented beast, but he never really tries to do too much. All things considered, that’s exactly the presence this team needed. No matter if the pressure is on or a blowout is in full effect, Vucevic seems to carry himself all the same. And, as Donovan notes, I certainly think that is a contagious trait, especially when it comes from a player that is as skillful as the big man.

•   An example of this came in the 3rd quarter. The Bulls were up 62-49 with nearly all the momentum on their side. In games past, we’ve seen the Bulls step off the pedal and turn away from their identity, thus allowing opponents to creep back in. Vucevic didn’t let anything of the sort happen. If anything, it seems like he didn’t even know the score. Vooch scored or assisted on 12 of the team’s first 14 points in the quarter, and he finished the frame with 14 points on 6-8 shooting from the field and 2-2 from downtown (he also dished out 2 assists). The Bulls finished the quarter up 23 points.

•   Not too shabby.

•   EVEN LESS SHABBY.

•   Both Lauri Markkanen and Coby White looked comfortable in their new roles on Tuesday night, each flashing some of the skillsets that made them such intriguing prospects in the first place. Here is what Donovan had to say on their performance after the game: “I think with those guys, it just makes good basketball plays. It’s got to be, I think a situation for both those two guys where they’re getting it, offensively, off of what we’re doing. And I think tonight they were able to do that. The ball found Lauri a couple of times off some cuts, we found him at the 3-point line, we posted him one time. He had a couple of good rim protection. Coby got out in transition, he came off pick and roll, he made a couple of threes. The ball found him in a couple of situations. He had some good drive downhill, but I thought they played in the framework of what we were trying to do, and I think that’s the evolvement or growth of those two guys.”

•   It’s simple, really: White and Markkanen finally let the game come to them. We didn’t see White go full tunnel-vision mode with his sights set on a big night, and we didn’t see Markkanen overthink his spot on the floor. Instead, each player moved off the ball for their teammates and played situational basketball. White got out into transition and used the PnR for some easy looks, and Markkanen cut to the basket or faded out to the dunker spot to be there for his teammate. Oh, and White also finished with 6 assists, his most since February 24th. If both can continue to accept and fill their role like this, it’s going to be great news for this playoff-hungry team.

•   GIVE ME ALL OF THE BOARDS!



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.