A Huge Win, Keep Playing Through the Frontcourt, Second-Half Coby, and Other Bulls Bullets

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A Huge Win, Keep Playing Through the Frontcourt, Second-Half Coby, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Take it away, Kevin.

•   Any win is a good win, but only some wins are great wins. Considering the circumstances, last night lands on the cusp of that category. Without Zach LaVine on the brink of falling 2.0 games out of the 10th seed and just 48 hours removed from a loss to the same squad, the Bulls beat the Miami Heat 110-102. While the win itself kept the Bulls play-in hopes alive at the beginning of a VERY tough week (Knicks, Bucks, Hawks up next), it was the way this team won that felt so encouraging. I’m not going to get my hopes up too much after all the inconsistencies we’ve seen from this squad, but the way they made an effort to utilize their clear advantage in the frontcourt last night could provide a lasting impact throughout the rest of this week.

•   The Knicks (Randle/Noel), Bucks (Antetokounmpo/Lopez), and Hawks (Collins/Capela) will all present their own imposing frontcourt challenges over the next three games. Vucevic and Theis will have to play a similar physical and versatile game on both ends of the floor to make life harder on these combos, and the Bulls supporting cast will have to continue to do their part of getting them involved. The team did a solid job reading the Heat defense and moving the ball along the perimeter to eventually set up the inside feed. Then, the Bulls bigs were able to do the bulk of the decision-making and it helped lead to a combined 47 points and 7 assists between Vucevic and Theis. Thaddeus Young also looked back to his facilitating self. The trade deadline acquisition of Vucevic and the move back to the bench recently has taken away some of his playmaking opportunities, but the Bulls prioritized again last night with the smaller Trevor Ariza on him, and it led to an 8-assist performance. The Bulls’ best talent is inside the arc, and they need to remember that as the matchups ramp up.

•   The Bulls outscored Miami 34-20 in the 4th quarter in one of their better closeout efforts of the season. The team shot 63.2 percent from the field in the final frame, with Vooch and Theis going a combined 7-9. Coby White also – once again – made several winning plays down the stretch. The second-year guard went 3-4 from the free-throw line and drilled two 3-pointers. Overall, in the second half, he finished with 15 of his 17 points.

•   White continues to impress the hell out of me. Unlike in the past when early misses or turnovers seemed to set the tone for his entire night, White has found a way to play with a shorter memory and a more refined pace. Since rejoining the starting lineup seven games ago, White has scored the NBA’s 6th-most points in the second half (51 FG%, 43.5 3PT%), and he’s also dished the 12th-most second-half assists. Arguably the best stat to see, however, is that he’s knocked down 24 of 25 free throws. He has averaged 4.4 free throw attempts per game over the last seven games after averaging just 1.9 through the first 51 games of the season. At the end of the day, this is all a small sample size, but the Bulls simply wouldn’t be 4-3 since LaVine was placed into NBA Protocol if it wasn’t for White’s more impactful play.

•   These drives to the hoop by White are big time. We’ve been waiting to see him settle for fewer jumpers and fight his way to the rim. The more he does this, the more his game will open up and the more trips he should take to the line.

•   As much as I dislike the three-big lineup that head coach Billy Donovan continues to use … I’ll give him credit for sticking with it last night. Markkanen was a +13 in the 4th quarter, and he hit a huge corner 3 after Miami cut the Bulls’ lead to just 2 points with 2:53 to go. Again, I don’t see a world where this lineup is more effective than not moving forward, but the size did catch the Heat a bit off guard at the end of last night’s game.

•   Kris Dunn played in his first game since January 31st, 2020 on Monday. He clocked 13 minutes with an 0-5 showing from the field in a 14-point loss to the Hawks. All things considered, I’m glad to see him healthy and back on the floor. But I do hope he posts a similar stat line against the Bulls later this week.

•   Kevin Love is salty.

•   The art of the mid-range is back!

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.