Back Like They Never Left, a Balanced Team Effort, DeRozan Says He's Old, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Back Like They Never Left, a Balanced Team Effort, DeRozan Says He’s Old, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

I would have given the Chicago Bulls a mulligan if they put up a stinker last night. More than a week off with 10 players moving in and out of protocols doesn’t make for the most stable work environment. Not to mention, those players who were lucky enough to exit protocols this week only got clearance to practice together 24 hours before tip-off.

So, yeah, I thought some kind of sloppy affair against LeBron James would have been unsurprising. But I guess those 8-days made me forget this team has a knack for pulling off the surprise.

•   Whether it be a fully healthy roster or a group missing multiple rotation players, this team’s ability to play their brand of basketball is arguably second to none. Consistency is truly one of this team’s greatest attributes, and it’s fueled by a willingness to defend and unwavering unselfishness on the offensive end. Sure, DeRozan took the Bull by the horns late last night, only further proving he is one of the game’s elite closers. But it was the communal effort from this Bulls team across the stat sheet that ultimately kept the Lakers at a safe distance.

•   Four of the five Bulls starters scored 17 or more points. With the absence of Zach LaVine, it was Lonzo Ball who set an aggressive tone on the offensive end by attacking a Lakers defense that allows the 7th-most points in the paint. He scored nine points in the opening frame, six of which came within 12 feet of the basket. Vucevic was the one to grab the torch in the 2nd quarter, scoring 8 of his 19 points behind two 3-pointers. Come the third, the latest episode of the Carushow aired, and the former Laker dropped a quick 11 points before handing the torch to DeMar DeClosin. It was yet another display of each player understanding what this team needed when they needed it. They all filled their role to a T.

•   I’d also be put on the naughty list if I didn’t give Javonte Green his flowers. A dirty work player who has fit effortlessly alongside the Bulls stars grabbed five offensive rebounds, his second-highest mark of the season. Green now ranks 4th in OREBs among players who have appeared in at least 12 games and stand 6’7″ or shorter. The Bulls’ Swiss Army Knife also added two blocks to the board and finished the night with a +7. In general, I’m not a hug plus-minus fan. The stat itself isn’t always indicative of the impact a player makes, but I do think it’s somewhat telling that Green has been a plus-player in more than a half of the games this season. When he is on the floor, his mix of athleticism and effort is a legitimate difference-maker.

•   The Bulls also got exactly what they needed from Nikola Vucevic last night. He took advantage of the Lakers shorthanded frontcourt with 19 points and 13 rebounds, and the big man even stuffed LeBron James to bring the United Center to its feet.

•   The question now will be whether or not we’ll see a similar energetic Bulls team tonight. Pumped on adrenaline and plenty of rest, this group will be tested with a stretch of three games in four days. The Rockets pose the next challenge, and the Bulls will surely want to right the wrong of being Houston’s 2nd win of the year back on November 24th.

•   As I touched on above, I was slightly concerned about how this Bulls team would look after a week off. DeRozan was on such a hot streak before this unfortunate stint in protocols, and I thought it might take a few games for him to slip back into his dominant rhythm. Not to mention, with no Zach LaVine around to distract the defense, teams could prioritize the veteran that much more in their game plan. But great players do what great players do, and DeRozan looked like the exact same guy we watched average nearly 30 points in his four games before protocols. When asked about it after the game, he made sure to remind us that rest works in the favor of an old man.

•   White’s struggles continued last night, but so did the work.

•   And, hey, at least he had this awesome fast-break jam.


   Great. Love it. Can’t wait. 

Author: Elias Schuster

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