Bulls Notes: Back in the Play-In, The Month of Zach LaVine, More

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Back in 10th (For Now), The Month of Zach LaVine, Beverley’s Big Night, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Beating the Houston Rockets is a lot like doing a backflip on a trampoline. It’s nice that you didn’t fall flat on your face, but I’m not at all convinced that you won’t eat a mouthful of dirt if you tried it on the grass.

  • To the Bulls’ credit, they did what they needed to do. And that’s something we’ve seldomly said this season. They’re now back in the final Play-In Tournament spot (the 10th seed) with 15 games left to go on the schedule. While they’re also just one loss away from potentially having both the Wizards and Pacers leapfrog them yet again, they still deserve a tip of the cap for trimming what was a two-game gap down to zero.
  • They also deserve credit for the way in which they finished last night’s game. Far too many times this year we’ve watched the Bulls do the opposite of what (*shivers*) “continuity” would imply. In other words, they would choke time and again in the clutch and let far lesser-experienced teams outperform them with physicality and hustle. The Rockets did exactly that when these two met back in December. One of the youngest rosters in the league, they simply out-ran and out-worked the Bulls for a full 48 minutes. And for about three-quarters last night, it looked like they were set to do it again. Fortunately, for once, the Bulls said enough is enough.
  • Chicago ramped up their aggressiveness in the 4th quarter to win the frame a dominant 32-16. They shot 9-11 at the rim and held the shockingly scalding-hot Rockets to just five made field goals. Houston coughed the ball up four times in the quarter and scored a total of 5 points in the final 5:40 of action. It was the kind of closing effort you’d expect to see from a veteran squad like the Bulls, as well as the kind of ugly collapse you’d expect to see from a youthful group like the Rockets. Considering how many times the Bulls have failed to meet expectations, that was refreshing to see.

  • March has been the month of Zach LaVine. The max player is averaging 35 points on 56.4 percent shooting from the field. Only Joel Embiid and Devin Booker have scored more points a night over the last five games. As we talked about earlier this week, LaVine has been in full attack mode and is prioritizing a downhill game. He went 9-13 at the rim last night and is now shooting 67 percent at the rim this month.

  • The Bulls entered March 24th in offensive rating. And while they still sit in that same spot, they have actually ranked 4th over the past five games. LaVine is the primary reason for that significant shift. Taking the ball a bit out of DeRozan’s hands and letting LaVine play his more uptempo and assertive game has helped open up the entire Bulls offense. Not only is he setting the tone for the rest of his teammates, but he’s helping generate far more open looks:

“Being aggressive,” LaVine told Bulls dot com. “First half I felt we needed that. Kind of got me tired, but that’s why we have DeMar and Vooch (Nikola Vučević, 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists) and Pat and Coby (White), and all these guys, stay aggressive. You attack; you make them make a decision.”

  • Why this hasn’t been a greater priority this season, I don’t know. But it’s better late than never for this team to realize that things make a lot more sense on the offensive end when LaVine is the man in charge. To be clear, this isn’t to say that DeMar DeRozan can’t play an important role. He can and he should. I mean, let’s not forget he still scored 27 points and finished with a +10 on the night. Not to mention, some games are going to call for his slower pace and more methodical scoring. But LaVine’s natural explosiveness, finishing, and multi-faceted scoring ability are why he’s paid the big bucks. And head coach Billy Donovan knows it:

“I’ve said this many times. When he is aggressive and playing downhill and taking catch and shoots it’s great,” Donovan told Bulls dot com. He’ll probably at the end of the year is going to shoot close to 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. When he does that and is decisive, it opens things for everyone because he’s unselfish; he’ll spray the ball out. DeMar and he can both create. With Zach there aren’t too many shots you don’t want to him to take. If he can get to his spots he’s pretty elite.”

  • LaVine also ended the night with 5 assists – pretty much all of which came thanks to a distracted defense. While I don’t think anyone would label LaVine some kind of gifted passer, he has still improved somewhat significantly as a distributor over the years. Whether it be his cross-court feed to a wide-open Patrick Williams to beat the trap or a great quick pass to Vucevic after driving and drawing the help, he has the ability to take advantage of the stuff that opens up due to his forceful scoring.
  • Last night wouldn’t have been possible without Patrick Beverley. The veteran guard may not end up drastically moving the needle for this team, but he’s undoubtedly made the Bulls far more watchable. The heart and hustle he brings to the floor (Jim Boylen would be proud) have been infectious at times. Plus, he’s doing a lot of the dirty work that the Bulls have missed since Javonte Green went out with a knee injury.
  • Indeed, Beverley finished last night with a Bulls career-high 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. He snatched 5 offensive rebounds that helped lead to a 19-9 victory in second-chance points, as well as knocked down four of the team’s 15 3-pointers. We all know attacking the offensive glass and hitting shots from downtown have been major issues for the Bulls all season, so watching him make a big impact in both areas was a pleasant surprise.

  • Again, beating the Rockets is nothing to be proud of … but I did love this:

  • The Bulls have said the right thing all season long, so let’s see if they can actually turn Alex Caruso’s thoughts into more than just words.

  • The Bulls were at their best with two high-end perimeter defenders in the lineup last season. To no surprise, that appears to be working again this year:


  • What is life?

  • I’m ready for football season again.

  • What a lovely Saturday night!

Author: Elias Schuster

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