I’m about to sound crazy … but I think that’s bound to happen at least a few times when you obsess over the Chicago Bulls for a living, right?
We could look back at last night as one of the most encouraging victories of the season. Was it against a 12-win Pistons team? Yes. Was it with four days rest? Mhm. Was it also on a mutual floor in a foreign land? Yup. But when we consider how poorly this team has played against the bottom echelon of the NBA this season, yesterday’s mid-afternoon victory felt like a potential sign of growth.
The Bulls led by double figures for what felt like the entirety of the game. While the Pistons made a slight run in the second half – as most NBA teams tend to do – Chicago quickly put to a halt to it with some ramped-up defensive pressure and some easy All-Star bucket-making. Overall, they simply took care of business against a lesser opponent in the way they should. Can they take that ability, stuff it in bubble wrap, and safely return it to the states?
- The Bulls’ upcoming schedule is filled with opponents like the one they saw on Thursday. The Hornets, Magic, and Spurs make up four of their next eight games. Also mixed in there is another matchup against the struggling Atlanta Hawks and one against the Tyrese Haliburton-less Pacers. If they can find a way to play with the same sense of urgency they had this week in Paris, they could have a real chance at turning this into a true second-half surge.
- Paris probably couldn’t have gone better for the Bulls. While they were able to grab the much-needed win, they also earned some much-needed rest after a grueling first half of the season. I have to imagine this was a tremendous bonding experience for the team, and we can’t look past the potential value of that after a lackluster start to the year. While there was no indication that this team was having trouble in the locker room, there is no question that a lot of the team’s poor play had been due to some mental gymnastics. Let’s hope this acted as a cleanse of sorts and will allow them to start this second half on a rejuvenated note.
“Being out here has been great,” Zach LaVine said after the game. “The whole experience. My family has been here, we’ve been doing things as a group. The culture, the fans obviously, it was electric. Obviously, capping it off with a win it was great. We played the right way. It was a little sluggish in the beginning, but it was good.”
- On and off the floor, Zach LaVine represented the Bulls in the way a max player should. He first led the team with an easy 30 points on 10-20 shooting from the field. While his hand injury seemed to keep him from hunting his typical catch-and-shoot looks, he did a tremendous job of putting his head down and establishing a presence in the paint. He amassed nine free throw attempts for the third-straight game and knocked down five of his seven shots within 10ft of the basket. Add in his 4 assists and 5 rebounds, and LaVine’s all-around performance helped him walk off the floor with a game-high +19.
- As he headed back to the locker room, LaVine could be seen gifting his shoes to a young fan hoisting his jersey. The man of the people then had a viral moment during his press conference when he fielded a question from a young fan. More on that here.
- I was wondering whether or not the dynamic duo would pick up where they off against Utah. They did.
- We can’t talk about yesterday’s dominant win without also mentioning Nikola Vucevic. After tying his career-high with 43 points against the Golden State Warriors, the Bulls’ big man came out with an almost equally as impressive 16-point, 15-rebound, and 6-assist showing. What I found particularly exciting was the fact that Chicago made a clear effort to let Vooch lead.
- Funneling everything through him during the first quarter was a big reason why the court ultimately opened up in the way it did. Not only was he able to sink some easy shots off the PnR (and shoutout to the ballhandlers for quickly feeding him off the screen), but he dished 3 assists in the opening frame. I have to imagine that allowing him to create from the middle of the floor will be a greater second-half trend. While it can’t be something this team leans on too much, it can be a good way to ensure everyone gets involved without the presence of a true PG.
- Another round of All-Star votes was released yesterday. As things currently stand, DeMar DeRozan remains 6th among Eastern Conference guards with and well behind Trae Young. LaVine has also failed, yet again, to crack the top 10. Final results from fan voting – which accounts for 50 percent of the total tally in determining starters – will come our way next week.
- Is that good?
- Zach LaVine pulled out a new look yesterday:
- I’m very curious to see if Serge Ibaka has any value on the market. My best guess is that he’s just thrown into a multi-team trade or sent elsewhere for a 2nd-rounder. We’ll see.
- The Bulls could never …
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