Making it Look Easy, LaVine Sets the Tone, Coby White's Two-Way Effort, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Making it Look Easy, LaVine Sets the Tone, Coby White’s Two-Way Effort, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

When I first looked at this year’s March Madness bracket, I could sense the chaos.

While I would’ve never guessed that it would be the first time in NCAA Tournament history that a No. 1 seed would fail to reach the Elite Eight, I did at least anticipate a messy journey to the Final Four. And I can’t help but have a somewhat similar feeling about the current trajectory of the Eastern Conference.

  • The Play-In Tournament, in particular, is shaping up to be anyone’s game. The Bulls’ victory over the Trail Blazers last night helped them gain a 2.5-game cushion over both the Wizards and Pacers. There is still an opportunity for that lead to shrink – especially with some tough matchups out west still on the calendar – but we are in line to see the Nets, Hawks, Raptors, and Bulls duke it out for the final two playoff seeds. A case could be made for any two of those squads to make it out alive, so I talked a little bit more about what each brings to the table in the post below:

  • I’m not sure how to feel about that late-night blowout victory in Portland. On the one hand, I commend this team for FINALLY taking care of business and playing with a genuine sense of urgency despite the Blazers’ heavily depleted roster. Far too many times we’ve seen this group enter similar matchups far too comfortably. On the other hand, it’s pretty embarrassing that I felt any kind of excitement over this win. The fact of the matter is you’re supposed to beat teams like this, and the Bulls’ don’t deserve a round of applause for doing what’s expected (especially this late in the season).
  • Having said that, there were some individual efforts worth mentioning. Zach LaVine’s instant aggression helped set the tone for the rest of his team. Instead of coming out sluggish and deferring to his teammates, he put his head down and went right at Portland’s 27th-ranked defense. He shot 4-6 from inside 8 feet of the basket in the first quarter and went on to drain three 3s in the second frame. Walking into the locker room with 20 points and 5 assists, it was largely LaVine’s immediate control of the game that ended the starting lineup’s night early.

  • Look, I’m likely never going to consider LaVine a true superstar. There is just another gear that he probably isn’t going to reach in his career, and I think it’s fine that we all accept that. But that doesn’t mean he can’t play the No. 1 role on some nights. In a handful of these recent winnable games – aka games the Bulls were losing earlier in the year – LaVine has been fantastic. Whether it be 41 points against Detroit, 36 points against Houston and Minnesota, or 33 points in 30 minutes against Portland, LaVine has played like enough is enough. It’s been a joy to watch.
  • Also, I’m just so happy to have this version of LaVine back. The knee surgery undoubtedly impacted his lift to start the season, but there is no question he’s now fully back to himself.

  • Coby White is making life tough on Arturas Karnisovas. The Chicago Bulls guard has played his best basketball of the season over the past two weeks. He’s now reached double digits in five of his last six games and has shot 18-33 from long range dating back to March 15.

  • Even more meaningful, however, has been his effort and execution on the defensive end. Slowly but surely we’ve seen this area of his game grow this season, and it’s one of the main reasons why we’ve seen his minutes tick up in recent weeks:

“He’s played well. I’m really really happy for him,” Donovan said after the game. “Besides the offensive piece for him, the thing that has been really impressive to me has been the jump that he’s made from last year to this year defensively … If he’s not making shots, there are still ways that he can affect the game. And I think the’s really evolving into a two-way player where he’s playing both ends.”

  • When told about the praise his head coach had for him in the locker room, White spoke about how happy he is to see all his behind-the-scenes work pay off:

“I worked really hard this summer, especially on my defense,” White told The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry and other reporters.” To see it start paying off is a great feeling … I’m getting it done on both ends of the floor. My defense has allowed me to get a good amount of minutes. I’m proud of myself in that regard. I just feel like I’m going out there, and I’m playing my game, and I’m trying to help my team in any way I can.”

  • Another youngster is getting it done on both ends of the floor …

  • No matter what Patrick Williams does right now, some Bulls fans aren’t going to be happy. And, to be fair, I understand that to a degree. He was the No. 4-overall pick, and the expectations are rightfully high when that’s the case. But I’m really starting to think his season is becoming a tiny bit underrated. When we consider how young he is and how odd of a role he’s had on this team, his defensive consistency and improved offensive aggressiveness have been encouraging. Anyway, I’ll probably have to dedicate a solo post to this in the coming weeks.
  • Patrick Beverley probs gonna ask to guard AD now.

  • Some good things to keep in mind …

  • Tab is keeping us in the loop …

Author: Elias Schuster

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