On a day when the Chicago Bulls were embarrassed by headlines, they came out seemingly unfazed.
To the team’s credit, they played one of their better opening frames of the past few weeks. Through far more disciplined defense than we saw on Sunday night, they held a shorthanded Miami Heat offense to just 21 first-quarter points and took an early 10-point lead.
The optimist in me wanted to believe it was the start of a much-needed blowout victory, but the devil on my shoulder told me to wait. The second quarter looked far more like the Bulls team that has dug themselves an 11-18 hole. They allowed Miami to go on a 17-4 run and score a total of 36 points to take a 57-52 lead into the locker room.
Sharpshooting reserve Duncan Robinson was a big reason for the Miami turnaround, as the Bulls allowed him to start 4-8 from behind the arc. Bam Adebayo also helped pave an efficient path with his 7-7 performance that helped him start the night with 16 points and 5 assists.
Still, it was at least a decent enough first half that I think the Bulls were able to walk into the locker room without a screaming match. That’s progress, right?
Well, if that wasn’t progress, then the next two quarters may have been. Thanks to some more strong team defense and some high-percentage shot-making, the Bulls broke out into a 30-7 run in the second half. It was this stretch that basically sealed a solid 113-103 victory, and the Bulls largely have Nikola Vucevic to thank for it.
Despite a tough matchup against Bam Adebayo, Vucevic looked like his All-Star self with a season-high 29 points and 12 rebounds. He shot a highly efficient 13-17 from the field, knocking down seven of his nine shots in the paint.
The Bulls’ other two stars also carried their own weight rather well, with Zach LaVine putting together a particularly well-rounded performance considering the circumstances. He dropped 21 points on just 7-12 shooting to go along with 7 assists and 6 rebounds. His +21 performance was the best of the night, and the Bulls can only hope it’s a sign of a more motivated and polished max player to come.
A win is a win. I was glad to see them bounce back from that absolutely putrid Timberwolves loss, but it’s going to take a lot more than one win over a Butler-less Heat team to make me think times have changed. This team still has a long way to go, so we’ll see what they can muster tomorrow night against the Hawks.
Until then …
Check out the full box score here.