The Tired Magic, DeRozan's 3-Point Shooting, the Backcourt Defense, and Other Bulls Bullets

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The Tired Magic, DeRozan’s 3-Point Shooting, the Backcourt Defense, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

The Orlando Magic will walk into the United Center tonight with tired legs. The East’s 14th-place team will have played less than 24 hours before at the TD Garden in Boston, where they took the Celtics to overtime before suffering their 30th loss of the season. With eight players out tonight due to varying reasons, the Magic will have to rely heavily on a set of starters who clocked heavy minutes last night, including Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Harris, who both played over 40 minutes.

•   Orlando pushing the Celtics into extra time was a good reminder of their talented and energetic youth. While this is a team that may have only seven wins under their belt, they have made opponents like the 76ers, Nets, and Heat earn their victories. It’s certainly possible we see them do that again this evening against the Bulls, especially with DeMar DeRozan and Co. coming off two emotional and tight back-to-back victories. But, at the same time, it’s certainly possible a mix of tired legs for Orlando and recent dominance for the first-place Chicago leads to a redo of November 26th, when the Bulls beat the Magic a 123-88. Let’s hope for the latter!

•   The fact that DeMar DeRozan’s weekend buzzer-beaters both came behind the 3-point line makes things that much sweeter. Knocked for not embracing the 3-point shot over his career, DeRozan is averaging his most attempts from downtown since his last season in Toronto (2017-18). And on those 2.2 attempts per game, the four-time All-Star is shooting a career-high 37.3 percent. The volume may not be the highest relative to his league counterparts, but he is still showing those who have questioned his 3-point shooting that he can now hit the buckets he needs to.

•   To be clear, I’m one of those people who worried slightly about DeRozan’s 3-pointer. While I never believed he had to improve his volume from behind the arc thanks to his elite midrange game (if a player is good at something … let them do that something), I was slightly concerned about whether or not he could hit some of the open looks he was bound to get on this roster. With Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic also drawing their own fair share of the defense’s attention, DeRozan was naturally going to find himself in more catch-and-shoot situations this season. With so little to go on in recent years (the dude shot just 74 3-pointers last season), I was interested to see if he could take advantage of those opportunities … and he has up (until his point)! On catch-and-shoot 3’s, DeRozan is shooting 36.7 percent. When wide open from behind the arc, he is shooting 42.3 percent. Again, he is never going to be someone who takes a ton of these shots, but it’s only added to his greatness this season that he has been able to hit the ones that matter most at the highest clip of his career.

•   Since Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso left the rotation on December 26th, the Chicago Bulls have had the 21st-ranked defense (dropping their seasonal defensive rating down to No. 12). Considering the Bulls have also won every game since both players hit the injury report – and held the 5th-best offensive rating in the NBA – this stat doesn’t matter all the much. But I’d still say it helps demonstrate the sheer impact both Ball and Caruso have on that side of the ball, and how the elite the defensive duo has been.

•   Speaking of Ball, this is good to hear (more on him in a second).

•   The first clip Steven Jones Jr. shared below is a great example of (1) how deadly the LaVine-DeRozan two-man game can be and (2) how quick this chemistry has developed. The moment LaVine sees DeRozan break toward the elbow, he knows where to go and DeRozan knows when to pass.

•   ICYMI: Kyle Kuzma had the proper reaction to DeRozan’s heroics.

•   Russell Westbrook isn’t necessarily wrong. The guy is allowed to have an off night, and we can all be a bit too critical sometimes when the box score isn’t the cleanest. With that said, some of that criticism is warranted when the ball is turned over 9(!) times and a supposed “Finals contender” sits 19-19 on the season.

•   DO IT.

Author: Elias Schuster

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