Rebounding Trouble, How Healthy is Caruso? Reaves Trolls Beverley, and Other Bulls Bullets
Ah, I remember the Chicago Bulls’ first game like it was yesterday!
Despite no Zach LaVine, the Bulls waltzed into Miami and took down Jimmy Butler in convincing fashion. DeMar DeRozan had 37 points, Nikola Vucevic snatched 17 rebounds to outplay Bam Adebayo, and Ayo Dosunmu added 17 points with 4 rebounds and 2 steals in his game-high 36 minutes.
After a year where the Bulls mightily struggled to pick up basically any victory over an Eastern Conference playoff team, it was the kind of win that showed they meant business!
Welp, it turned out that business actually meant the 10 seed.
Anyway, happy Opening Day, baseball fans! May this *not* be the highest your hopes are this season!
- Speaking of baseball season, I’d like to remind folks that we’re hosting a BN event in Wrigleyville on April 6. The plan is to have a couple of panel discussions with people here at the site and some special guests. While it is a ticketed event, this will also allow you access to a free beverage, food, and live music! I’ll be there to hang with anyone who stops by and chat about all things Chicago sports (but, ya know, especially the Bulls). If this does interest you at all, definitely grab a ticket here. We’ve never done anything like this before, but I really do think it should be a lot of fun! Just a good way to chill with fellow Chicago sports fans.
- Last thing on that: We’re also running a giveaway for free tickets and two $100 Fanatics gift cards. All you have to do to enter is submit your email and town/state. Hey, even if you can’t make it to the event, a $100 gift card can’t hurt, right? You can fill that out here.
- All right, shameless plug time is over! Let’s now turn our attention to last night’s bummer of a game. In the thick of a tight Play-In Tournament race, every single contest matters. This second-straight loss for Chicago officially put them 2.0 games behind both the Hawks and Raptors for the 8 and 9 seeds, respectively. While they do still hold a 2.0-game lead over the Wizards for the final Play-In Tournament spot, the goal is obviously to make that cushion fluffier and secure at least a home-court Play-In game. There is still time for them to do just that, but it will be a lot harder with only six games left on the calendar. Not to mention, the last two games have raised some familiar concerns.
- As well as the Bulls have played since the All-Star break, 3-point shooting and rebounding disparity remain significant issues. The Bulls were outscored a disastrous 60-27 against the Clippers on Monday. Two days later, they were outrebounded by the Lakers 45-32. The Lakers also used this advantage on the glass to win the second-chance points battle 29-6. With less than two weeks to go in the regular season, the Bulls still rank dead-last in 3PAs per game and just 19th in REB%.
- Now, as I noted in last night’s Enhanced Box Score, I don’t necessarily think the Lakers severely outplayed the Bulls. The problem was that Chicago simply wasn’t generating the kind of offense we’ve seen in recent weeks. While they may have ended the game shooting 51.1 percent, they shot just 45 percent in the first half and got only 16 points from Zach LaVine. When the offense isn’t flowing, the margin for error becomes that much smaller, which is something Billy Donovan noted after the game:
“I just think it happens sometimes,” Donovan said about shots not falling. “If you look at the last time we played them in LA, we shot the ball really well. We shot it incredibly well. Really made a lot of timely shots … When you have a night like we did shooting the basketball, which happens, can you not foul as much, can you rebound the ball, can you do a better job taking care of it?”
- Donovan went on to single out the rebounding as a primary problem. While it was always going to be an uphill battle without Andre Drummond to help counteract some of the Lakers’ physicality, the still Bulls could have put themselves in a better position to succeed. Donovan talked about how guys weren’t racing back into the lane and securing the elbow. They either dropped too close to the rim and watched rebounds sail over their head or stayed too close to the perimeter and couldn’t get to the ball in time. Considering how often this group plays small, we’re going to have to see a more concerted effort to be in the right place at the right time, especially when shots aren’t falling like last night.
- By the way, Patrick Williams HAS to be better on the glass. I know he had the challenge of guarding LeBron James last night, but he can’t finish with just 2 rebounds in a game where the Bulls desperately need his size.
- I’m worried about Alex Caruso. The Bulls’ best defensive player was only able to see 18 minutes of action last night as he continues to deal with a foot injury. Donovan reiterated that Caruso will play through this issue over the remainder of the regular season. I don’t need to remind anyone that the Bulls tend to play their best basketball when Caruso is on the floor, so not knowing how healthy he’ll be as the Play-In looms is scary.
“He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t say anything,” Donovan said when asked about Caruso after Wednesday’s loss. “I can just tell the way he’s moving, so a lot of it was not him asking to come out. I just pulled him out … Alex is going to give everything he’s got, but he’s going to have to deal with this. I said this is going to be an ongoing challenge for him the rest of the year. He tries to fight through it the best he can. He wasn’t, and this is my opinion, he was not feeling great and he was trying to work through it.”
- At least he was healthy enough to do this!
- You have to be able to eat what you dish out, so I didn’t feel bad for Patrick Beverley when Austin Reaves hit him with the “too small.”
- Fortunately, Beverley took the celebration on the chin: “I knew it was going to come out at some time tonight. I’m glad he did it,” Beverley said after the game (h/t Darnell Mayberry).
- I was about to press publish but figured I’d throw a short bullet in about Nikola Vucevic. This game would have undoubtedly been a lot uglier without him scoring at an efficient rate. He led the team with 29 points on 12-16 shooting, and he also snatched 12 rebounds to go along with 6 assists. I’ve been really happy to see his touch return to form this season. Remember last year when he would just miss point-blank layups and his normal turnaround hook shots? The fact he’s gotten back on track will go a long way toward getting him a nice new contract this summer.
- With all due respect to the Bulls, I’m not sure beating them is proof of being a championship-level team.
- THE KINGS FREAKIN’ DID IT! It makes it even better that the team breaking the curse is as fun as this group is.
- Hmm, I’m not opposed to it. But this should probably be a draft-night decision. You have to wait and see how the board starts to fall.
- Shoutout to Seth and Caleb Jones for stopping by to watch the Bulls!