In Awe of Ayo, LaVine Returns, 4th-Quarter Scare, and Other Bulls Bullets

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In Awe of Ayo, LaVine Returns, 4th-Quarter Scare, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

So was anyone in OKC last night to confirm that DeMar DeRozan was not accidentally wearing an Ayo Dosunmu jersey?

No?

Hmmm.

•   I’m on the brink of submitting a formal request to Boss Man Brett to change the name of this blog to Bleacher Nation Ayo. I feel like I gush about the rookie every single day, but he truly gives me no other choice! The 38th-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft has looked nothing short of a lottery talent through his 42 games this season. When it comes to rookies, we often see progress made in increments – perhaps one month to the next (or one half-season to the next). But Dosunmu has shown an almost uncanny ability to progress from one week to the next. He has played like a life-size sponge, and no performance better demonstrated that than his show last night in Oklahoma City.

•   Yes, it was impressive that Dosunmu grabbed a career-high 24 points (especially when he sank that halfcourt buzzer-beater), but it was the way in which he compiled those points that was somewhat mesmerizing to watch. He’s always had a fluid midrange jumper – the pull-up game was a particularly lethal skill for him while in college – but he displayed an ability to get to his spots in the halfcourt better than we’ve ever seen before. It was truly DeRozan-esque the way he confidently put the ball on the floor and worked around the defense to find a comfortable look. Watching the All-Star work on a nightly basis has undoubtedly left its mark, and I also could not help but think about the wise words Bradley Beal gave Dosunmu earlier this season (before Dosunmu immediately used those words against Beal): “Go deliberately one way and just get to your shot. Don’t think about it, just take it and drive and then get into your spot.”

•   Outside the box score, Dosunmu’s recognition to start this game with a scorer’s mentality is a point that I don’t think can be underscored enough. Without DeMar DeRozan on the floor, the Bulls were missing basically a guaranteed 26 point, and Dosunmu recognized the opportunity to fill that void. He started in an absurdly efficient fashion, breaking the franchise record for most consecutive makes for a rookie (9-9). The fact he knew what his team needed and provided just that is a truly special sign.

•   Now, with all that Ayo awesomeness said, it was still clear the Bulls were missing a more experienced ballhandler and point guard late last night. As OKC’s 14th-ranked defense started to trap and bring the ball pressure in the second half, the Bulls started to crumble. They ended the night with 19 turnovers, six of which came in a 4th quarter they lost 32-19. Head coach Billy Donovan tagged it as a great learning experience for the team’s young guards that will have to clock these minutes moving forward. While I don’t disagree, it still left me worried about the IQ and decision-making lost due to the Ball and Caruso injuries. Having the game’s best 4th quarter scorer back in the mix after a night of rest will surely help, but the added playmaking experience of Ball and Caruso will be hard to make up for in crunch-time situations.

•   The scary thing is that the lack of a grounded facilitator and ballhandler is exactly what sunk this team in many games last year. Again, the return of DeRozan is going to eliminate some of this stress, but a big reason the team went out and got Ball/Caruso is they needed strong playmaking and decision-making to avoid late-game collapses like we almost saw last night and like we did see in OKC one season ago.

•   Zach LaVine’s 6-19 shooting performance on the box score may have indicated plenty of rust, but he passed the eye test with flying colors. Considering how scary that knee situation was, I thought LaVine looked as confident and springy as ever. He struggled to get into a rhythm from downtown, but he has the luxury to flip a switch and add points at the line. His 10 free-throw attempts (8 made) were his most since the team’s December 4th win over Brooklyn. We’ll have to make sure he continues to look healthy, but it appears the soon-to-be two-time All-Star is back at full strength.

“I just didn’t want to wait any longer,” LaVine told reporters about coming back one game earlier than expected. “I’ve been working out at home, and it’s about as healthy as my knee is going to get. Obviously, there is nothing structurally wrong, like they said. I felt fine, I just got tired of watching the game.”

•   Speaking of looking healthy, Javonte Green is very much back:

•   NEED. IT.

•   Get caught up:

•   Is the lockout almost over?


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Author: Elias Schuster

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