The sun shines a bit brighter, the coffee tastes a bit sweeter, and the bacon snaps a bit louder the morning after a Bulls win.
What a lovely Tuesday!
- Last night was as encouraging of a victory as we’ve seen all season. Not only did the Bulls finish with six players in double figures and dish 28 assists, but they also snatched 13 steals and held the Hawks’ two top scorers to a subpar shooting performance. The two-way effort and execution were exactly what you’d hope to see at the mid-way point of the season, especially for a team trying to re-enter the playoff mix.
- The Hawks came into the night sitting just 2.0 games ahead of the Bulls. And, despite Atlanta winning five of their last six games, Chicago was able to take complete advantage of the opportunity to gain ground. If they want to ensure this becomes the norm in the second half of the season, mimicking what they did in the turnover and rebounding department should be a priority.
- The way this team stayed connected on defense was incredibly encouraging. While Alex Caruso gets a bulk of the praise for his POA disruption and forced turnover, the Bulls wouldn’t have been able to outscore the Hawks 25-8 in the points off TOV department without a team-wide effort. Active hands were contagious as seven players finished with at least one steal. Meanwhile, the Bulls turned the ball over just 9 times on the other end.
- As for the rebounding, this was one of the rare games where the Bulls feasted on the offensive glass. Despite Atlanta having one of the best rebounders in the game in Clint Capela, Chicago snatched 15 offensive boards to their 9. Nikola Vucevic was responsible for six of those rebounds, while Patrick Williams grabbed three for the first time since Nov. 11 against Toronto. And let’s linger on that for a minute.
- There is absolutely no reason that last night should have been Patrick Williams’ first game with double-digit rebounds this season. He possesses one of the team’s elite builds and is undoubtedly one of the roster’s most explosive athletes. While Vucevic is always going to gobble up rebounds, there is still plenty of room for Williams to make a consistent impact, especially on the offensive end where the Bulls rank just 28th in OREB%.
- Don’t get me wrong, there is an art to being a talented contributor on the glass. And Williams is in the process of learning that art form. But it also just comes down to giving a consistent and concerted effort. Williams has gradually shown a better understanding of how to put himself in the right place at the right time to contribute, particularly on the glass, and this is something head coach Billy Donovan sounds like he expects to see a lot more of:
“I feel like he’s gotten better. He’s improving,” Donovan said after the game. “You can see growth in him. But that’s what he’s got to do. You got to feel him on the backboard. He’s got great explosiveness off the floor … when he gets in and makes those kind of efforts to get on the backboard, he really is an elite rebounder.”
- In addition to his performance on the boards, it was extremely encouraging to see Williams score 18 points for the second time in four games. He’s now dropped 10 or more points in four-straight games and has finished as a plus player in three of those contests. Williams’ offensive aggressiveness and overall feel for the game appear to be trending in the right direction, and this could be absolutely huge in making a second-half surge a reality.
- DeMar DeRozan sure sounds like he isn’t going to let Williams take his foot off the gas.
- Tonight might be the real test. While the Hawks aren’t considered an Eastern Conference juggernaut, they did hold a better record than Chicago. We know those are the games the Bulls tend to show up to … it’s those other battles against the bums that have proven to be the key issue. While the Pacers technically sit one spot ahead of the Bulls in the East, they have lost seven-straight games and are without their engine, Tyrese Haliburton. I don’t care if it’s the backend of a back-to-back, this is the kind of game the Bulls have to prove they can win to finally turn the page on this season.
- DeMar DeRozan got plenty of love from the United Center as he appeared in his 1,000th career game last night.
- Fine, he can be a Bears assistant.
- This is frustrating.