Matching Last Season’s Win Total in January, DeRozan’s Improved Playmaking, and Other Bulls Bullets

Unless the Bulls go on of the greatest losing streaks of all time (*knocks aggressively on wood*), this team will officially outperform last season’s squad.

That’s right, thanks to a victory over the Blazers last night, the Bulls have matched last season’s win total at 31. As Donovan noted after the game, considering how much roster turnover this group has seen, it’s really not worth comparing one team to the next. But the fact still goes to show how worthwhile all this change turned out to be (on and off the court).

•   I wouldn’t challenge Cookie Monster to a cookie-eating contest, but that is basically what the Trail Blazers did last night. Down superstar Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers walked into the United Center ready for a shootout. A team that makes the 6th-most 3-pointers per game, they came out and drained seven of 11 shots from downtown on their way to a 35-point 1st quarter. The Bulls may have been down, but the Trail Blazers were playing right into their hand. Chicago exploded for 44 points in the 2nd quarter to take a 73-65 lead into the locker room. Portland would hit some more timely shots in the second half, but a winning course was already set. If it’s offense you want, it’s offense you get!

•   Not many teams are going to be able to outscore the Bulls, particularly when the team’s “Big 3” is playing as comfortably as they were last night. Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine, and DeMar DeRozan combined for an easy 67 points to make the Blazers valiant effort look borderline disappointing. Still, unfortunately, this isn’t the way the Bulls are going to get to play every night, which is why it came as no surprise to hear Billy Donovan address the defensive concerns quickly after the game. Despite the pleasing bucket-getting, the Bulls allowed an opponent to shoot at least 43.0 percent from downtown for the second game in a row. They were repeatedly late on closeouts against this talented long-range squad, and they reminded all of us how much they miss the perimeter ball pressure of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.

•   The Bulls had six players hit double-figures last night with the most surprising offensive efforts coming from Javonte Green (16 points) and Tony Bradley (10 points). The entire group finished the night 55.6 percent from the field, and there is no question that wouldn’t have been possible without the savvy playmaking of an All-Star Starter. DeMar DeRozan had his second game this season with double-digit assists, flashing the kind of high-caliber distributing we saw develop over his past few years in San Antonio. DeRozan averaged a career-high 6.9 assists in his final year with the Spurs, and he finished as the team’s leading assist-man in all three of his years with the franchise.

•   As I watched DeRozan find Coby White only after Dennis Smith Jr. took that extra step toward the ball, beautifully feed Bradley under the basket as both Blazers went for the contest, and rose above Nance for a two-handed cross-court bullet to Dosunmu, I couldn’t help but think about all the learning he did under Gregg Popovich. He’s talked about the impact of his Spurs days numerous times, but here’s a relevant nugget from Jamal Collier’s recent feature on ESPN:

“Before then, I was a scorer. … If I’m 5-for-30, I don’t care. If I’m 15-for-30. Like that was my whole mindset. [Popovich] challenged me to the point of understanding the game in the complete whole. How to be a point guard. How to be a playmaker. How to dictate the game. How to move without the play. How to play without the ball. How not to turn over the ball.”

•   Seriously, look at how great this pass is …

•   Believe it or not (#sarcasm), Ayo Dosunmu followed in his veteran’s footsteps. The Bulls interim starting point guard dished a career-high 11 dimes for the second double-digit assist game of his career. When the Bulls were hungry for a run, Dosunmu provided four assists in under a two-minute span in the 2nd quarter to help his team ignite a 13-3 run.

•   A double-double machine.

•   A 3-point machine.

•   The Wizards are currently 1.0 game out from the 10th seed.

•   Bears press conference underway!

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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