On one hand, it would be extremely Chicago Bulls to follow up a dominant 144-115 victory with something like a hideous 162-4 loss in Atlanta.
On the other hand, all it can take is one victory to turn a season around. And who is to say we will not look back at last night’s game as that kind of pivotal moment?
- I’m not going to deny that things could have looked extremely different if (1) the Mavs weren’t on the backend of a grueling back-to-back and (2) Luka Doncic – the NBA’s leading scorer – took the floor. I’m also not going to deny that scoring 144 points against any professional basketball team is extremely impressive. What Chicago did against Dallas is still worth a massive round of applause, especially when we consider the way they have performed against similarly depleted opponents this season. They barely beat the Wizards without Bradley Beal. They lost to the Raptors without Pascal Siakam. And they couldn’t hang on against a Magic squad without No. 1-overall pick Paolo Banchero. Time and again, they’ve failed to fully take advantage of obvious opportunities … until last night.
- What the Bulls did against Dallas is exactly what a good team should do. Knowing they had another game in less than 24 hours, this was a chance to punch a shorthanded and tired team in the month. They did that to the tune of a franchise-record 82 points in the first half, allowing starters Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic to clock no more than 26 minutes of action.
- They scored those 82 points with easily their best shooting display from behind the arc this season. Chicago sank 19 3-pointers, which included a 10-17 showing over the first two frames. By the end of the night, Patrick Williams, Ayo Dosunmu, and Derrick Jones Jr. each had at least three 3-pointers added to the box score. If I’m being honest, it was actually almost frustrating to see how much this offense opened up with the Bulls’ role players simply sinking their catch-and-shoot looks. It makes you think about what could have been if Arturas Karnisovas actually invested in one of the team’s most glaring holes this season. *sigh*
- Anyway, here’s a look at the Bulls’ on NBA Jam mode:
- Why was this performance from downtown made possible? High-IQ ball movement, of course! Even if we include the game that Lonzo Ball played last season, this might have very well been the Bulls’ best passing performance of the past handful of seasons. While they finished one shy of their season-high 34 assists against Indiana, the way in which they shared the ball in this game was downright beautiful. Everyone played a part in making the extra pass, and this felt like one of the few times this season where the benefits of continuity actually shined through.
- The Bulls played inside-out on a handful of possessions, which allowed Vucevic to take advantage of a collapsing defense and kick out to open shooters. And, even when he wasn’t making the direct assists, he helped generate some of the best possessions of the night by merely making quick decisions. Before we knew it, playing decisively became contagious, as the Bulls continued to find the open man and pass up fine shots for … well … great shots.
- ICYMI: Here are some of the best assists of the night:
- The Bulls aren’t going to be a high-volume 3-point team until this roster is tweaked. I think we can all agree on that. But that also doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be an efficient 3-point shooting team. Built around three offensively gifted and unselfish All-Stars, they have the ability to catch defenses sleeping and create open 3-point shots. Head coach Billy Donovan talked about the importance of this after the game, telling Bulls dot com that creating more high-percentage 3-point looks has been a conversation behind the scenes:
“It’s not that we’ve got to lead the league in three-point shots; just that there are opportunities for us to take more threes that are good shots,” Donovan said. “I’m not saying we want to launch them up, but there are opportunities for us to take more and I thought we did a good job recognizing and taking the ones we should take tonight.”
- This was in the first half. DeMar DeRozan ended the night a +38.
- The Dragic-Drummond chemistry is so darn fun.
- Again, arguably the biggest benefit to last night’s lopsided win is the fact that the Bulls’ got to save their legs. Scheduled to battle the Hawks in Atlanta tonight at 5:30 p.m. CT, the starters’ extra bit of energy could be huge when it comes to securing a win. Zach LaVine’s status, in particular, was a bit of a question since he’s sat out other back-to-backs this season. He said after the game that he planned to take the court either way, but I’m sure the medical staff feels a lot better now knowing he’s coming off his second-fewest minutes of the year.
- Reminder: Atlanta is also shorthanded with both Dejounte Murray and John Collins on the bench. They’re also coming off back-to-back losses to the Knicks and Nets, now sitting just 13-13 on the year. The Hawks will still have Trae Young and Clint Capela on the floor – two players who present tough matchups – but this feels like yet another opportunity for the Bulls to feast on a struggling team. Fingers crossed!
- Don’t mind if I do!
- Not following through on your promise to spend money is a trend in Chicago sports.