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Bulls Broke the Celtics, the Historic Comeback, Donovan’s Savvy Switch, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls used to be the broken team.

Now, they are the ones doing the breaking.

•   After last night’s 128-114 victory over the Boston Celtics, the boys in green had some trouble behind the scenes. Not only did Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown refuse to speak with the media, but Marcus Smart said a little too much. The recently-extended guard had quite the yikes-inducing comments after the game about his All-Star teammates, calling them out for not passing the ball or getting their teammates involved.

•   Beating the Celtics is satisfying. Beating the Celtics so bad they don’t even want to talk about it is like popping bubble wrap while breaking a fresh loaf of hot bread in a massage chair (aka, ultra-satisfying). And, hey, I can’t even necessarily blame the Celtics for responding the way they did after the game. A remarkable comeback for the Bulls meant a historic collapse for the Celtics. According to ESPN Stats, this was the first time in the shot clock era that a team lost by 14 or more points after leading by 14 or more points entering the 4th quarter. Chicago handled Boston like the Hulk handled Loki at the end of The Avengers. It was truly a 4th quarter pummeling of epic proportions, as Chicago closed out the final frame with a 39-11 advantage.

•   To put that further in perspective, the Bulls missed just three shots in the 4th quarter, while the Celtics shot a dismal 5-23. Chicago was so locked in that Boston failed to record a single defensive rebound over the final 12 minutes of action. Meanwhile, LaVine and DeMar DeRozan continued to rise up the list of “dynamic duos” with a combined 23 points on 8-9 shooting to close things out. DeRozan finished with a Bulls career-high 37 points on the night and LaVine added 26 points and 7 assists (22 of those points came in the 2nd half, by the way).

•   The game served as yet another early-season reminder of how much talent has been shoved onto this roster. Likewise, it served as a great example of what can happen when the team sticks to the identity head coach Billy Donovan built for them. The team let four straight 3s to open the game, and a 53.3 percent clip in the first half, steer them too heavily in one direction. The offense quickly became perimeter-oriented while the defense looked like an afterthought. Chicago coughed up 11 turnovers in the first two quarters and handed Boston 16 points off those turnovers. They were only able to force one turnover of their own, which proved to be a stark difference from the team’s first six games of the season, where they averaged the 2nd-fewest TOVs per game and forced the 3rd-most.

“We tried to correct our defense with our offense,” Donovan said after the game. “Then, we got into ISO, holding the ball, there was really very very little movement, no one was in continuity. And then I thought we settled down and started to play closer to how we need to play.

•   After the Celtics ballooned their lead to as large as 19 in the 3rd quarter, the Bulls tapped back into the identity that got them off to this hot start. They scored 12 points off eight Celtics turnovers and started to reclaim the flow of the game. We also saw numerous Bulls put their head down and prioritize the rim. Chicago went 14-15 from the free-throw line in the second half after going just 3-3 in the first two quarters. This was the balanced and athletic Bulls team that took down the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, and this is the Bulls team they need to be on a consistent basis.

•   I have to give a big fat juicy kiss on the forehead to head coach Billy Donovan. After Zach LaVine started the game 2-10 from the field, Donovan made an adjustment to his rotation that ultimately won the Bulls the ballgame. In practically every game this season, Donovan has subbed LaVine out in favor of DeMar DeRozan at roughly the two-minute mark in the 3rd quarter. DeRozan has then been the bonafide leader of the second unit, getting the green light to score at will, while also being asked to use his veteran savvy to help play-make for a rather inexperienced group. This time around, however, Donovan tagged LaVine as the second unit maestro, and it eventually sparked an electric 19-2 run that gave the Bulls the lead.

•   The lineup of LaVine-Caruso-Dosunmu-Jones-Bradley was easily one of the team’s most athletic groups. The five-man unit not only got ahead of the Celtics defense time and again in transition, but it also included zero defensive liabilities. So as important as it was for Donovan to try to get his best player going against some of the Celtics bench players, it was also important to ensure that the less-skillful defender in DeRozan was not in a position to give up key buckets at a pivotal point of the game.

•   A superstar in the making.

•   SECOND. ROUND. STEAL.

•   Let’s hope they get better.

•   THE BLACKHAWKS WON. I REPEAT: THE BLACKHAWKS WON.



Author: Elias Schuster

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