Imagine if I sat you down on the morning of October 20, 2021 and told you the Chicago Bulls would win more playoff games than the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers combined.
What would come first: The slap to the cheek or a swift kick in the nuts?
• Potentially stealing just one win over the Milwaukee Bucks in a gentleman’s sweep isn’t worth a banner, but the fact that several preseason favorites are already out of the mix does underscore how difficult playoff basketball tends to be. The fact the Bulls even got to this point after four-straight seasons of 31 wins or fewer is an accomplishment. And I have to remind myself of that context with each and every painful playoff possession. This team isn’t a finished product, and the front office knows that. With that said, it is a product that brought the organization into the postseason and won at least a game for the first time since 2017. While I totally understand that isn’t the most exciting result, it does represent a sturdier foundation than anything the organization has had in the last half decade or so.
• Also, yes, Zach LaVine should remain a part of that foundation.
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) April 25, 2022
• For the minority who don’t view Zach LaVine as worthy of a max deal, let me ask you this: What’s the alternative? I truly ask that with the utmost sincerity. Losing LaVine immediately makes this team worse. In fact, if anything, it likely signals another rebuild. DeMar DeRozan will be 33 years old next season, while Nikola Vucevic will turn 32 years old. You can’t build around either of those two for too long. LaVine gives the team a player who is already one of the NBA’s top scorers and a 27-year-old who is just entering his prime. He is a guy the organization can continue to add pieces around for years to come. Unless you’re getting back a player of LaVine’s caliber in some sort of sign-and-trade (they likely aren’t), the Bulls are getting worse. Simple as that. Now, if that’s what you prefer (to start over), so be it. I’d rather continue to invest in talent and try to build a winning foundation with this aggressive front office.
• Anyway, back to the here and now. The Chicago Bulls officially announced on Monday that Alex Caruso was in the NBA’s concussion protocol. The veteran defender has experienced symptoms, and his status remains up in the air for Game 5. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll be able to suit up, but the Bulls have to prepare for a world without him, which starts with Ayo Dosunmu.
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) April 25, 2022
• If there is one thing I would have liked Billy Donovan to do this series it’s have an even shorter leash on Coby White. I understand the threat of his shooting is important against a Bucks defense that allows its fair share of open 3s, but White has struggled to make a consistent impact. Dosunmu played will enough on both ends during the regular season to warrant more playing time, and I think we saw it with his 29 minutes in Game 4. Dosunmu splashed crucial back-to-back corner 3s to help turn things into a three possession game in the third quarter. He may have finished with only 8 points, but he added 2 assists, a steal, and committed zero turnovers and only one personal foul.
• Dosunmu plays well above his years. He’s a high-IQ talent with a two-way fearlessness and transition skillset that has proven pivotal in the absence of Lonzo Ball. He’s a ball-over in the halfcourt, and efficient catch-and-shoot threat, and an already high-end on-ball defender. Am I trying to say this series would be different if he played more than 20 minutes in each games? Not at all. But I think the way this series has gone thus far suggests he’s worth giving more minutes, and he should get that if Caruso is out on Wednesday night.
• I also think it’s invaluable for guys like Dosunmu and Patrick Williams to eat these playoff minutes while they can. I’m not saying Donovan should fork them over at the expense of winning, but any time these two can spend in this environment, the faster we could see them develop.
• WE GET IT, YOU’RE GOOD AT DEFENSE. UGH.
Jrue Holiday has defended 57 shots this playoffs.
40 of them ended up as misses.
Players are shooting 29.8% against him, the best mark by any defender with 30+ shots defended. pic.twitter.com/9ZwAcHMOB3
— StatMusk (@statmuse) April 25, 2022
• The other guy who will have to step up for the Bulls to keep this series alive is the same guy we debated about above. LaVine’s knee and the ridiculous defense of Jrue Holiday has clearly kept him from having a breakout performance, but he’s got at least one more chance tomorrow night. Despite the outcome, I did like a lot of what he showed this weekend, especially in the playmaking department. His ability to step into that role in the absence of Caruso and be that effective with a playoff career-high 13 dimes was impressive.
“In the 2nd quarter, they gave us a different look,” LaVine said after the game. “And with AC going out, obviously, I think I just had to play a little more defect point guard and get downhill. One guy isn’t going to beat them. They’re crowding the paint. Once I break that first line of defense, they’re sending guys into the lane and not letting me or DeMar try to beat them. So trust the pass. Try to get guys open. Put them in rotations like they were doing with us, I think we did a good job in the 3rd quarter with that.”
• *chef’s kiss*
I've personally enjoyed most of LaVine's playmaking in this series.
This cross-court dime is objectively gorgeous. pic.twitter.com/jaKuK6otRu
— Mat Issa (@matissa15) April 26, 2022
• Game respects game.
Smart: “Daaaayuuuumm.” pic.twitter.com/kepUlvMChd
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) April 26, 2022
• This league never lacks petty social media posts!
"Where would Chuck be without the big homies"
KD continues to go at Charles Barkley 🤣 pic.twitter.com/AttneB4uG3
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 26, 2022
• Good to know.
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) April 26, 2022
• Yes, please don’t take a running back early.
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) April 26, 2022