A Well-Executed Game Plan, Vucevic Wins Battle of the Nikolas, KD Slips, and Other Bulls Bullets
In Wednesday’s bullets, we briefly discussed how the Chicago Bulls could pull off an upset victory over the Denver Nuggets. I’m not normally one to toot my own horn, but I’ll go ahead and ding my own triangle.
Here’s an excerpt from that post below:
Now, there is a somewhat reasonable recipe for how the Bulls can hang around with the West’s best team: Put laxatives in their Gatorade jug. Fine, I’m kidding (but I’ll try slipping Benny the Bull a 20). Denver does allow the 10th-most points off turnovers each game, and they also allow the 7th-most points in the paint, per NBA Stats. If the Bulls’ 7th-ranked defense can get their mitts on the ball and turn defense into offense in transition, they could put themselves in a position to pull off the upset. Likewise, Zach LaVine must stay in attack mode and hunt opportunities in the paint.
- Fast forward to 10:00 p.m. CT and Chicago was finishing things off against Denver’s scrubs while “Let’s go, Bulls” chants rained down from the Ball Arena stands. The path to success was pretty much what we outlined above. The Bulls ramped up the pace of play and dominated in transition with 19-6 fastbreak points and an 18-9 advantage in points off turnovers. The Nuggets’ defense came into the night allowing the 7th-most points in the paint and lost that battle 66-38. Zach LaVine must have studied the scouting report front and back, as he never hesitated to attack the Nuggets’ first line of defense off the dribble. He finished a perfect 9-9 at the rim.
- Am I still shocked the Bulls actually pulled off a victory against the Nuggets? Absolutely, especially when we consider the Nuggets walked into the evening 30-4 in their home arena. But there was a pretty obvious game plan for Chicago to keep things competitive against this Finals contender, and I commend them for executing that game plan almost flawlessly.
- I still don’t know if this Bulls’ defense is legit. If we’re being honest, I think the individual effort of Alex Caruso is the primary reason they are considered an above-average unit. Having said that, I do have to give this entire rotation props for their energy and effort on that side of the ball last night. While they were lucky to see the Nuggets miss a couple of open looks, it was their ability to wall off the paint that kept Denver from getting into a groove. The Nuggets average the fifth-most points in the paint per game at 54.6 but mustered just 38 points last night. They shot just 18-35 at the rim, which is a testament to the Bulls’ help defense and physicality rattling the Nuggets.
- You can say that again, Jamal.
- I didn’t have Nikola Vucevic winning the Battle of the Nikolas on my bingo card. I know it might not seem like it, but finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists is an off night for Jokic. This is especially true when we consider he shot just 7-16 from the field and turned the ball over five times. Meanwhile, Vucevic dropped 25 points, snagged 15 rebounds, and finished with an overall +13 performance. His quick decision-making was a big reason why we saw this Bulls team beat the Nuggets at their own game. Vucevic helped keep the ball popping around the horn and took advantage of his open jumpers when they arrived.
- So that’s why Zach LaVine went off!
- Have you seen this yet? If so, watch it again:
- Now, do I fully believe this is suddenly a different Bulls team that can surge their way into the Play-In Tournament? No. But I’d be lying if I said this game didn’t increase my belief by, like, 4 percent. Chicago doesn’t play again until Saturday and watched their starters get some extra rest at the end of the game. There is absolutely no excuse for them not to beat the West’s worst team (Houston) after beating the best team.
- Fred VanVleet didn’t hold back!
- Set to make his home debut for the Phoenix Suns, Kevin Durant slipped on a wet spot during warm-ups and tweaked his ankle. He was forced to miss the game. The question now is how long will he be out? The Suns have yet to say, but the initial rumors aren’t great.
- SEE YA!
- Good for him …