Bulls Have the Best Defense in 2023, LaVine's in a Groove, Dame Gets 71, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Bulls Have the Best Defense in 2023, LaVine’s in a Groove, Dame Gets 71, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

While the Chicago Bulls were letting the Washington Wizards hang around for far too long, I was sending far too many golf balls into the water.

My lovely significant other booked us a trip to Phoenix for the weekend. I got to play a round of very mediocre (that’s probably being generous) round of golf yesterday and will head to the Cubs spring training game today after I wrap up these bullets! So, if content remains rather light over the next 24 hours, you know why.

I’ll be back on the grid and on my couch for tomorrow’s important battle with the Raptors!

  • I’m fully caught up on the Bulls’ second-straight win … and I’m not sure how to feel. On one hand, with the clear goal to still make the playoffs, this is exactly how the team needed to come out of the All-Star break. On the other hand, this latest victory was pretty darn ugly for three quarters. The Bulls really struggled to gain much separation despite the Wizards missing leading scorer Kristaps Prozingis. The offense still hasn’t found a convincing rhythm, and there is real room for concern when guys like Alex Caruso and Patrick Beverley can’t muster more than 6 points combined in the starting lineup.
  • Having said that, oddly enough, this is a Bulls team that seems to care far more about the defensive end. Chicago somehow holds the best defense in the NBA in 2023. Yes, they’re ahead of a Milwaukee Bucks team that has Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Brook Lopez. I’m not at all sure how much I can really buy into this shocking defensive surge, but I can’t deny that the recent numbers have been eye-popping.
  • Over the last eight games, teams have shot just 44.0 percent against the Bulls. In the two games since the All-Star break, they have held the Nets to 37.0 percent shooting and the Wiz to 42.1 percent shooting. While they aren’t necessarily generating a lot of turnovers, they have been playing with newfound energy and focus. They’re walling off the paint, running teams off the 3-point line, and hitting their rotations. The Bulls are simply playing clean defensive basketball, and it’s about the only reason that their postseason hopes are still alive.

“Effort and energy. Holding people accountable,” LaVine said after the game. “Everyone is going out there with the same type of mentality. Even if you made a mistake, move on to the next play and do better.

  • I’ve already mentioned this, but I have to bring it up again: During their first two games together, Caruso and Beverley have been able to replicate a lot of what we saw from Caruso and Ball on the defensive end. While it might drop off a bit, having another high-energy and vocal perimeter defender out there makes a world of difference. LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic are all talented and athletic enough to put their bodies in the right place at the right time, but they need someone out there to lead the way and set the tone defensively. Beverley and Caruso have done a great job of establishing a sense of urgency and hustling to ensure that every shot is contested.

  • CHGO’s Will Gottlieb put together some greats clip over some recent audio from Billy Donovan that displays exactly what the Bulls are hoping to do defensively. It’s all about being active and contesting hard. Don’t get blown by. Don’t allow wide-open 3s. Get a hand up.

  • The Bulls’ ceiling remains capped until the offense shows signs of life. With that said, I have been very happy to see Zach LaVine looking more and more like his old self over the past couple of weeks. Even during the team’s six-game losing streak, we watched the Bulls’ max player drop 38 against the Nets on 64.0 percent shooting and nearly grab a triple-double against the Pacers with 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. Now, over the last two wins, LaVine has combined for 59 points on a highly efficient 23-35 from the field.
  • Patrick Beverley gave LaVine a clear message: “We don’t need you to pass. We need you to put the ball in the hole at an elite level.” I don’t know if it’s been these words that have helped LaVine put together this post-All-Star break play, but I do think it’s the mentality the Bulls need him to have. At this point, with the offense struggling as much as it is, LaVine just needs to be LaVine. He shouldn’t defer to his All-Star teammates nor focus too much on playmaking. The fact of the matter is that he remains one of the best scoring guards in the NBA, and he can help the Bulls most by playing in attack mode. The more of a threat he is scoring the basketball, the more things will naturally open up for his teammates.
  • To be sure, I’m not saying this is always how LaVine should play. He obviously needs to still develop his playmaking skills and want to make the right play. But, at this point in the season, the right play for this team is to look to score. Nothing else is working.
  • Pat Bev seems to be loving his time in Chicago.

  • Did Benny the Bull win?

  • Damian Lillard has joined Donovan Mitchell as the second player this year to score 70+ points in a game. He also joins Zach LaVine in the 13 3-pointers club. What an absolutely absurd performance.

  • Also, this stat is mind-boggling.

  • How impressed are you with these types of games? I’m genuinely asking. While there is no question it’s an incredible achievement, there is also no question that the way basketball is now played allows for something like this to happen. I just wonder if we’ll continue to see it happen at an increasing rate because of the league’s over-reliance on the 3-ball and overall less-aggressive defense.
  • Make the Bears an offer they can’t refuse!


Author: Elias Schuster

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