A 3-Point Shooting Uptick, Can the Bulls Finally Beat Embiid? Injury Report, and Other Bulls Bullets
Heads up, content might be a tad light here at BN Bulls to start the week.
I’m off to LA this morning for a last-second trip. I’ll be pretty out of commission until Wednesday night. Whether it’s Michael or Matt, you’ll still see someone covering these next two matchups versus Philly. I’ll also plan to still get out a set of bullets each morning. But, otherwise, expect fewer words on the Bulls than normal these next few days.
You: NOOOOOO!!! *weeps*
Me: It’s ok! Don’t cry!
You: I was being sarcastic.
Me: Oh. Heh. Pssh. I knew that.
- Take it from someone who had to be asked roughly 204 times to close the shower curtain after he was done showering: Learning something new takes time! The Chicago Bulls have now been the NBA’s lowest-volume 3-point shooting team for two-straight seasons. One would think that in today’s NBA – where many teams live and die by the long-range bucket – the goal would be to get this number to spike ASAP. However, after finishing dead last in 3PAs in 2021-22 (28.8), the front office refused to make shooting a priority in the offseason. What came next? Another year where the Bulls have comfortably sat 30th in 3-point attempts per game (28.7).
- As much as this has proven to be a roster construction problem, it’s not like the Bulls have zero shooters on the floor. Whether it be Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Coby White, or even Patrick Williams, several players have demonstrated that they can be above-average threats from long-range. Still, the team has refused to increase the number of shots they are taking … until, perhaps, now.
- To be clear, I have never been fully aboard the “shoot 3s just to shoot 3s” bandwagon. You have to play to your personnel’s strengths, and (as uncharacteristic as it may be) hunting mid-range shots, getting downhill, and scoring in the post is what the Bulls’ “Big 3” does best. Now, at the same time, this is a numbers game. You simply don’t want to be last in 3-point attempts during this era, and it simply couldn’t hurt the Bulls to bump this number up at least a little. Fortunately, they’ve finally done that in their last handful of games. Chicago has averaged the 16th-most 3-point shot attempts over the previous four contests. We’ve also seen them sit 7th in makes since their win over Houston.
- The Bulls have drained at least 15 shots from behind the arc in three of their last four games, making this easily one of their best shooting stretches of the season. One primary reason for this has been the team’s improved ball movement. Ranking bottom-10 in AST% this season, the Bulls have sat in the top-13 over these past four games. We’ve seen Coby White, Patrick Williams, and Patrick Beverley all take full advantage of wide-open catch-and-shoot opportunities created by the aggressive offensive play of their teammates. Heck, we’ve even seen DeMar DeRozan find a rhythm from downtown! I did some digging on Stathead and found that the six-time All-Star has hit two or more 3s in four-straight games for the *first time* in his career. I know, crazy!
- The Bulls better hope they keep up the solid 3-point shooting this week. While the Philadelphia 76ers may sit a modest 17th in 3PAs per game, they do happen to lead the league in 3-point percentage. They have seven players currently shooting 38.0 percent or better behind the arc. Three of those players are shooting 40.0 percent or better on at least 5.0 attempts per game. Whether it be Tyrese Maxey, Georges Niang, or James Harden, there are multiple guys throughout the lineup who can catch a deadly rhythm from downtown. Not only will the Bulls have to hit their rotations and close out strong, but they’re going to have to play keep-up on the offensive end.
- While the Bulls did beat the 76ers back on Jan. 6, let me remind you that Joel Embiid didn’t suit up for that game. And, with that being the case, the big man’s perfect record against Chicago remains intact. As much as I’d like to believe that comes to an end tonight – especially after how well the Bulls have played this past week – it’s hard to trust that will happen. The 76ers are really freakin’ hot right now. They’re 9-1 over their last 10 games and comfortably hold the league’s top net rating over that span. This surge has tied them in the standings with the Boston Celtics for the No. 2 spot, and they’re technically only 2.5 games back from claiming the No. 1 seed. The Bulls arguably couldn’t be catching them at a worse time.
- If the Bulls can continue to pull off these surprising wins, however, they could move even further up the East ladder. Currently 1.5 games ahead of both the Wizards and Pacers for the 10 seed, the Toronto Raptors are now only 1.0 games ahead of Chicago after losing to the Bucks last night. Unfortunately, the Raptors do have some favorable matchups coming up with the Pacers, Pistons, and Wizards on the calendar this week … but you never know what might happen!
- Just two Bulls legends …
- Alex Caruso’s injury status is another reason I worry about these next two games for Chicago. The defensive stud had to leave Saturday night’s game against the Miami Heat after just 10 minutes due to the same foot injury that has popped up over the past couple of weeks. According to the latest official injury report, he is now questionable for tonight’s game. Head coach Billy Donovan told reporters after the win over Miami that this will likely be something Caruso has to manage throughout the remainder of the season.
- On the opposite end of the spectrum is Javonte Green. The Bulls’ versatile forward has yet to play in 2023 after undergoing knee surgery, but he’s now been upgraded to “questionable” on the injury report for the first time since the procedure. If he does end up seeing minutes over these next few games, I’d certainly expect him to be on a minutes restriction of some kind. But there is no question that having him back on the bench is a nice boost for this last-ditch postseason run. He provides the team with another high-end switchable defender, as well as someone who can cut strong to the rim and fight for OREBs.
- I’d love to see this again tonight!
- Only 10 more days until the Cubs play at Wrigley!
- It’s bracket season!
AK’s Former Team Makes the Finals, Has LeBron or MJ Been Swept More? Joakim’s Impact, and Other Bulls Bullets