A 111-107 performance in Brooklyn gave the Chicago Bulls their second win of the season over the East’s top team. The victory not only clinched the season series for Billy Donovan and Co., but it moved Chicago only .5 game back from a swap at the top of the totem pole.
Go ahead. Hop in a time machine (oh, you don’t have one yet?) and go back just two months. Imagine telling yourself the Bulls would be in a true battle for the East’s top seed at the beginning of November. Sure, we all expected a better on-court product, but one that good that fast? No way I saw this coming. And I would have given my future self a swift kick in the nethers before telling him not to mess with my fragile Bulls emotions.
• Donovan was thrown question after question about the magnitude of this victory, but the coach didn’t bite the bait when addressing reporters after the game:
I’m not going to sit there and take one game in the middle of December and act like this is unbelievable. It’s one game. Playing against a team like this, you find out a lot about yourselves and where you need to get better and how you need to improve. But it’s only one game.
• As a head coach, Donovan is 100 percent right to walk the line of immediate praise and speedy dismissal. He gave his players plenty of props for fighting through continued adversity and grabbing a win that felt out of reach. But he repeatedly talked down the importance of a second victory over a team many believe to be a Finals contender. Fortunately, as just a joe-shmo sitting on my couch, I don’t have to do the same!
• When we’re talking national perception and the overall big picture, last night’s victory felt like one of the most important in recent years. Yes, the team’s blowout win over this same Nets crew probably made more headlines earlier this season, but it’s the way they accomplished this win that has me more assured than I’ve been that the Bulls are, indeed, “back.” With no Javonte Green, no Coby White, 8 minutes of Alex Caruso, a complete beatdown on the glass in the first half, and just a 32.3 percent clip from behind the arc, the Bulls found a way to still beat one of the best team’s in the NBA. That’s what the top teams do. No matter the off-court obstacles or the in-game struggles, they find a way to way to stay alive.
• So, in case it wasn’t already clear, Chicago has easily one of the primer duos in the league.
The @chicagobulls Zach LaVine (31 points) and DeMar DeRozan (29) each scored at least 25 points in the same game for the 11th time this season.
The last duo to record at least 11 such games through the first 24 games of a season was Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in 2000-01. pic.twitter.com/WNyvvPTU9f
— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) December 5, 2021
• DeMar DeRozan currently leads the league in total points this season while LaVine is just two spots behind. As more and more games pass, these two only look more and more comfortable in their respective roles, and nothing demonstrates that better than the continuous 4th quarter dominance. The Bulls outscored the Nets 32-25 in the final frame behind a composed 19 points from LaVine and DeRozan. Donovan’s ability to stagger their minutes throughout the game has led to this right mix of rest and rhythm for both players in clutch situations. What arguably stands out even more than their sheer skill on the offensive end, however, is the massive chip on their shoulder. As two players who recently garnered a “good stats bad team” reputation, they are proving to every single team in the league the true value they hold.
“My mind is just win. Win. Whatever it takes to go out there and win. My mindset just shifts … Not thinking about failure, not thinking about missing shots, everything is about being aggressive and winning, and I can live with whatever the result is after that,” DeRozan said after the game.
• Over their first two matchups, LaVine and DeRozan have outscored Durant and Harden 112-94. The two have also shot 51.8 percent in those games compared to 41.4 from Durant and Harden. You love to see it.
• Another thing that has taken this team to the next level is their ability to adjust on the fly. Whether it be the sudden absence of Green or Caruso or a first-half struggle in the rebounding department, the Bulls have demonstrated they have the right blend of athleticism and intelligence to make the proper in-game adjustments. Last night, after walking into the locker room with a 32-21 disadvantage on the glass and just a 5-11 performance from the free-throw line, we saw the entire team correct their mistakes. The Bulls won the rebounding battle 26-23 in the second half and went 14-16 from the line.
• A big part of the second-half surge was the rookie who looks nothing like a rookie. Ayo Dosunmu scored 9 of his 11 points in the final two quarters, also grabbing 3 rebounds and recording two blocks. I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again: The fact the Bulls got an immediately reliable rotation player with the 38th pick in the draft has been massive. Many questioned whether or not the team had the depth needed to compete in this Eastern Conference, but Dosunmu is a big reason why that storyline has greatly declined.
Ayo came up BIG in Brooklyn last night.
11 points | 5-6 FG | 3 rebs | 2 blocks pic.twitter.com/EI9CsZrVHM
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 5, 2021
• Lonzo Ball doesn’t show much emotion, but even he couldn’t resist a Curry-like celebration after this dagger.
LONZO BALL SAID GOODNIGHT.
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) December 5, 2021
• LET’S GOOO!
Hey, Now! Linebacker Roquan Smith is ACTIVE For Today’s Game Against the Cardinalshttps://t.co/zjy8Te4Td1
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) December 5, 2021