SAY IT (tweet it?) LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK, TROY!
3 in a row 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾
— Troy Brown Jr (@Troy_Brown33) April 9, 2021
• The Chicago Bulls haven’t won four straight games since December of 2017. So, yeah, tonight is kind of be a big deal. The Atlanta Hawks sit 4th in the East and have won four of their last five games. Since their mid-season coaching change to Nate McMillian, they have been one of the hottest teams in the league, going an outstanding 13-5. The good news for the Bulls, however, is that they’re catching this squad at the right time. The Hawks will officially be without John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Kris Dunn (hey, I know that guy), and Cam Reddish tonight. Meanwhile, both Clint Capela and Danilo Gallinari are listed as questionable with various injuries. If those two do end up missing the game, the Hawks will be without four of their five leading scorers *activate evil laugh.*
• Regardless, tonight is a matchup where the Bulls don’t have time to fall complacent. Trae Young can take over a game in a heartbeat, and the Hawks also happen to be one of the better free-throw shooting and offensive rebounding teams (though, a Capela absence would hurt them greatly in this category). In other words, they can gain control of the pace and flow of the game rather easily, so the Bulls will not only need to continue their increased physicality but also play another clean game on the defensive end.
• Anyway, forget tonight, let’s drool over last night’s awesomeness!
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 9, 2021
• Head coach Billy Donovan has shortened his rotation over the past couple of games to roughly nine guys. Last night, he relied heavily on the normal starters + Theis, White, and Markkanen. Troy Brown Jr. was the 9th man and received a swift 14 minutes. In my opinion, this pretty clearly shows that Donovan knows he’s in the midst of a winnable stretch. He has started to treat these games similar to a playoff series, and he’s playing his top talent extended minutes to ensure the W. Obviously, there is a balance to find here because there are still have 22 games between now and the end of the regular season. But if the Bulls want to lock in a playoff spot, this is do-or-die time.
• And, fortunately, I think Zach LaVine has no problem clocking 38 minutes on the front end of a back-to-back. The argument that the first-time All-Star doesn’t have the capability to be a winning player has to have been thrown out the window and run over by an 18-wheeler at this point. His performance last night demonstrated exactly why this front office went out to get him help. Without having to carry the scoring load, LaVine dished a Bulls career-high 13 assists and picked up three steals with one block. The guy came out aggressive, got the Bulls a lead, took a backseat, comfortably ran the offense, and then came in fresh to seal the deal. Honestly, it was beautiful stuff.
Zach LaVine: “I just did what the game told me to do. I started aggressive and then they started doubling me and using a box-and-one.”
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 9, 2021
• I think there has always been room to debate exactly what the next step would be for LaVine. Obviously, he could make strides on the defensive end, but is there anywhere else for his already elite offensive game to go? Well, I think last night’s passing performance gave us an answer. All season long he has shown positive signs as a playmaker, but last night was arguably the best performance we’ve ever seen from him. He tossed up lobs and dished out perfectly timed passes over and over. Sure, a lot of this is likely tied to Vucevic’s presence, but LaVine still has to successful advantage of the opportunities he helps create. This game showed us he can do that at a high level.
• Good signs: Bulls 3-point shooting is trending back in the right direction. The team as a whole has stunk it up recently, shooting only 27.7 percent from behind the arc in the seven games before this winning streak. Now, the team has shot 41.3 percent over the last two games. Let’s hope the slump is over.
• Shoutout to White, Markkanen, and Theis! The new bench mob outscored the Raps bench (who, to their defense, was shorthanded), by 27. Theis also recorded his first Bulls double-double. Expect to see plenty of the big man moving forward, especially after Vooch struggled to guard the interior against more athletic, lengthy guys like Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher.
• Also, shoutout to TBJ for another strong defensive showing. He didn’t record a single bucket, but he finished with a +12 in his 14 minutes on the court.
Troy Brown Jr. is disgusting on defense pic.twitter.com/c1Gau4jeYQ
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) April 9, 2021