Zach Goes Toe-to-Toe with Dame, Solving Problems? Winning Without AC, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Zach Goes Toe-to-Toe with Dame, Solving Problems? Winning Without AC, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Games like last night are 50 percent enjoyable and 50 percent infuriating.

When the “Big 3” plays that unselfish (32 assists on 48 made baskets) and that efficient (combined for 86 points on 60.0 percent shooting), it does show us that this front office wasn’t totally crazy to believe in what these three could accomplish. Yet, conversely, it also reminds us how inconsistent this team continues to be.

The fact that these three can’t perform this way more frequently is why change is still needed. It’s fun to see this every two weeks or so, but that’s not enough to stay truly competitive in this stiff conference.

  • Last night was a great reminder of how special Zach LaVine can be. The Bulls’ two-time All-Star went toe-to-toe with a true superstar in Damian Lillard. While the Blazers’ top scorer dropped a game-high 40 points, LaVine practically matched that with 36 points of his own on a highly efficient 11-18 showing from the field. He was in full attack mode, taking advantage of the Blazers’ lackluster POA defense and getting to the free-throw line for nine attempts (knocking down all nine). Whereas Lillard finished +2 on the night, LaVine finished +27 with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.

  • The sequence below perfectly sums up LaVine’s well-rounded game. He knocked down the deep 3, worked his butt off to position himself for the steal, and made the smart read to set Vooch up for any easy jumper. When he’s firing on all cylinders like this, it’s easy to see why any team would have paid top dollar to keep him around.

  • Consistency is key not only for the team but for LaVine. The Bulls undoubtedly need him to look like a true leader more often, but betting that he can still take that step might be the right move. Look, I’m not totally against the idea of seeing what LaVine’s value would be in the marketplace, particularly if the Bulls wanted to enter rebuild mode. However, I do think they can continue to build a winning product with him in the picture. The fact of the matter is that truly elite shotmaking is hard to find and is what the NBA is all about right now. LaVine remains one of the best three-level scorers in the game, and the Bulls would be silly to move on from that without getting back an absolutely HAUL in return.

  • The Bulls deserve a ton of credit for winning that game without Alex Caruso in the rotation. As the stats have shown, they have been a significantly worse team when he’s not on the floor. They were able to get the stops needed when it mattered most, holding Portland’s top-5 offense to just 41.5 percent shooting in the second half and just five trips to the free-throw line (mostly thanks to a dominant 3rd quarter that the Bulls won 33-17). Even if both Lillard and Anfernee Simons had a big night, it was encouraging to see the Bulls do what was needed to get the win.
  • As LaVine put it, this victory was all about their extra effort on the defensive end. Can they do that more, please?

  • Head coach Billy Donovan also noticed a change in how this group dealt with adversity. He praised them for banding together and avoiding the kind of stagnant offense that can lead to some low-effort defense:

“I thought it was a positive step because sometimes when teams go on those runs we can get a little fragmented or our offense can affect our defense. But I thought the guys worked to stay together and solve problems. I thought our guys played unselfishly and we generated some good looks.”

  • I agree that this felt like a positive step … but positive enough to make a real difference? There are only 30 games left this season. Figuring out these things might be too little too late.
  • It was Ayo Dosunmu’s third-straight game scoring in double figure and his fourth time in the last five games. He’s shot 60.9 percent since January 15th, and he’s been a plus-contributor in eight of the team’s last nine. There is no questioning that this year has been a bit of a disappointment when compared to his rookie campaign, but he does have a chance to redeem himself with a strong second half. He remains a really intriguing two-way prospect.
  • Look at this pass! And look at how high Pat got!

  • The NBA handed out a four-game suspension to Mo Bamba and a three-game suspension to Austin Rivers for their fight earlier this week. Orlando’s Jalen Suggs also received a one-game suspension, while Jaden McDaniels was fined. The full penalties can be seen below.

  • I love some creative mocks!

  • What would you call the Blackhawks’ first half?

Author: Elias Schuster

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