Keys to Success, A Crunch Time ... Win(!?), Bulls Bench Does it Again, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Keys to Success, A Crunch Time … Win(!?), Bulls Bench Does it Again, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Just keep winning, just keep winning, just keep winning, winning, winning …

(sung to the tune of “Just Keep Swimming” in Finding Nemo)

  • We still might be waiting for the Chicago Bulls to play a full 48 minutes, but they at least played the right 24 minutes last night. After getting bullied in the first half by a barrage of 3-pointers and a 53.3 percent shooting display from the Utah Jazz, the right adjustments were made. Chicago ramped up their own defensive intensity while relentlessly attacking a Jazz defense that has allowed the most points in the paint so far this season.
  • Chicago’s nine forced TOVs in the second half undoubtedly played a critical role in controlling the pace of play and extending their lead. Three of those TOVs came in succession to start the 4th quarter, as Dragic, LaVine, and Drummond all ignited fastbreak opportunities to help Chicago grab a double-digit advantage. Utah was able to shrink things back to a two-score game with 3:43 to go, but another steal by Patrick Williams forced a clear-path foul that pretty much allowed Chicago to seal the game with two free throws and the ball.
  • Few teams are better than the Bulls when it comes to playing in transition and scoring off turnovers (average 2nd-most points off TOVs behind Toronto). And few teams possess the kind of duo that is capable of getting to the charity stripe as much as DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. If the Bulls want to continue to win games without the 3-point line, dominating these two categories is pretty much how you have to do it. The problem with that, however, is it’s a lot easier said than done. Utah turns the ball over at a top-10 rate in the league, and they also happen to be pretty darn awful defending the paint. The Bulls are going to face opponents who play far more disciplined basketball, so are they elite enough in either of those categories to consistently overcome their other shortcomings? I’m not so sure.
  • Lauri Markkanen was the best player on the floor last night. He scored 32 points on 12-18 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds. For a while there, it looked like his big night was going to shut things down early for the Bulls. All that really matters is that Chicago was able to pick up the victory, but I’m still not sure how to feel about his recent All-Star rise, especially as I watch Zach LaVine shoot 7-20 with just 20 points on the night. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’d pick The Finnisher over LaVine, it’s just so strange to see.
  • Thank goodness for the Bulls bench. As the starters continue to look out of sync, the bench continues to be a breath of fresh air on a nightly basis. The uptempo and energetic style of play feels far more like what head coach Billy Donovan had planned for this roster, and we saw how effective it can be last night. Every member of the Bulls’ bench finished with a positive plus-minus, as they shot a combined 55.5 percent from the field and outscored the Jazz’s bench 39-18.
  • Whether it be Andre Drummond dominating the glass, Coby White sinking catch-and-shoot 3s, Goran Dragic always pushing the ball up the floor, Alex Caruso snatching cookies, or Javonte Green morphing into his own five-man unit, the Bulls have arguably one of the most balanced second units in the NBA. Now, if Zach LaVine can finally start to look like … well … Zach LaVine, then I can’t even imagine how difficult this lineup will be for opposing benches.
  • Could last night have broken the Bulls’ crunch-time curse? After being one of the league’s most clutch teams last season, Chicago went into last night just 1-8 in clutch games this year (by the way, that means games that are within 5 points with five minutes to go). They were able to avoid adding to that loss column by looking like the more experienced team that they’re supposed to be. DeMar DeRozan hit his normal clutch shots, but four of the five players in the team’s closing lineup found the bottom of the net. Nikola Vucevic also did a tremendous job keeping possessions alive with three offensive rebounds over this final stretch.
  • There aren’t many guys in the league who make this play.
  • Might need to make this photo my new screensaver.
  • ICYMI: Ja Morant recently spoke about Derrick Rose’s influence on the NBA. He really emphasized how Rose opened the door for players like him to carry a bigger role, and it’s just a good reminder of the influence Chicago’s own continues to have on this game. You can read more here.
  • Bulls Legend.
  • Well … this stinks.

Author: Elias Schuster

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