Looking Like Their Old Self, Zach LaVine's Dominant 3rd, Who's Out of the Rotation? And Other Bulls Bullets

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Looking Like Their Old Self, Zach LaVine’s Dominant 3rd, Who’s Out of the Rotation? And Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls were a stick of dynamite last night.

As the fire gradually burned throughout the first two quarters, we watched the Raptors and Bulls trade lead after lead. Neither could gain convincing ground, as both teams attacked the other’s aggressive defense with a flurry of smart shot-making. Then, once Chicago trotted out of halftime… BANG.

It was almost as if Billy Donovan found the team’s identity stuck behind the locker room laundry bin right before tip-off. The Bulls’ performance reflected many of the games we watched in the early portion of this season. They played with the kind of two-way energy that wore down their opponent and eventually made the night a no-contest. And this all started with the defensive effort. They scored 29 points off turnovers as they used a transition offense that sits top-3 in the league to devour easy points. The half-court offense also displayed tremendous flow (almost to a fault when we consider some of the passed-up open looks).

Was is it because Alex Caruso joined the starting lineup? Or Patrick Williams returned to the rotation? Both things certainly helped, but it was simply the communal effort that gave the Bulls arguably their most important win of the season. They now have the tiebreaker advantage over the Raptors in case of emergency, and they also expanded their fifth-place lead on both them and the Cleveland Cavaliers (#ThanksLakers).

One can now only hope this much-needed win triggers a chain reaction. The schedule still remains as tough as ever, and we have to look no further than tonight’s meeting with the Bucks to see just that.

•   DeMar DeRozan may have taken some Pepto Bismol after last night’s win. The Bulls leading scorer overindulged on his matchup against Raptors’ big man Precious Achiuwa. He needed just 14 shots to tie a game-high 26 points in what was easily his most efficient performance in weeks. Indeed, as I mentioned in our Pre-Gamin’ post last night, the absence of OG Anunoby paved the way for this Monday feast. He was in desperate need of a get-right game after a 10-game stretch where he averaged just a 41.1 percent mark from the field. The shot chart is pure art:

•   Zach LaVine also stepped up like the superstar the Bulls need him to be. After a confusing first two frames where he dodged open 3-pointers and played a passive game, he was the catalyst for the team’s 3rd-quarter surge. LaVine dropped 16 points in 12 minutes during an aggressive stint that featured an offensive rebound and putback, two downtown makes, and some beautiful drives to the rim.

•   Why he started the game as hesitant as he did is anyone’s guess, but I have to imagine it’s a mix of nagging knee soreness and a developing eye for the game. I truly do think he had the best intentions over the first two quarters. He made some solid reads, and he helped generate some great ball movement. However, I think one of his next steps is to learn how to blend an eagerness to get his teammates involved with an eagerness to score. In other words, I have a feeling he mentally prioritizes generating shots for his teammates as opposed to taking advantage of his scoring opportunities. It’s never wrong to want to play unselfish basketball, but he needs to realize that first prioritizing his scoring will make it so much easier to get his teammates involved.

•   LaVine kept it real after a big win:

“Every game is a must-win,” he told reporters. “We have to go out here and compete and get ready for the road ahead. It’s not going to get any easier, but come end of the season, that’s all you’re going to be playing is good teams. You don’t want to make a big deal out of it, obviously losing games suck. But if we couldn’t learn from our mistakes and make us a better team from this, then it’s all for naught. So I think we did a good job of getting a win tonight, but we got to go get ready for tomorrow.”

•   With Patrick Williams back in the mix, the Bulls saw a rotation shuffle last night. Troy Brown Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr. were both left out of Donovan’s new 9-man group. We also saw Coby White play just 13 minutes of action, while Dosunmu clocked 24 minutes. To be sure, I think we will see the minutes between these two guards vary depending on the matchup/game script, but it’s still worth a note. The absence of Jones feels like the most noteworthy change. I’ve been a huge fan of what he’s offered this team as a switchable frontcourt defender and a versatile small-ball five. He’s also been one of the team’s better offensive rebounders, which is a skill we all know they desperately need. I totally understand why he’s the odd man out for the time being – the activity of Javonte Green has been awesome, the upside of Williams is too high, and the experience of Thompson is prudent – but I’ll be curious to see if Donovan sprinkles him in depending on the situation. Bulls could use his knack for the highlight play at times.

•   Defense is the best offense.

•   I know it’s kind of dumb, but little things like this are genuine signs of a strong team. You want to see this kind of chemistry.


•   Billy Donovan’s wife is the GOAT.


•   Poor Thadgic. He should be here.


•   Patrick did some great trade deadline contest, so make sure to go check it out!

Author: Elias Schuster

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