Coby White and Patrick Williams may have seen the tweets.
After scoring 0 points on a combined 0-7 against the Detroit Pistons, the two opened up the scoring for the Chicago Bulls in Indiana. White made a smart read and jumped a passing lane for the steal. As the Bulls’ pushed the pace in transition, White then found himself with a 27-footer of the Vucevic assists. The Bulls’ next two points would come via Williams, who drove into Myles Turner and finished high off the glass.
Less than 6 minutes into the game, all five starters had found themselves on the scoreboard. And it was largely this ability to share the wealth that kept them in lockstep with the Pacers throughout much of the first half. Well, that and some consistently strong defense from the bench mob.
Chicago’s second unit combined for five steals and four blocks as the night went on. Everyone on the bench aside from Ayo Dosunmu managed to finish with a positive plus-minus, including Jevon Carter who had easily his best game as a Bull yet. The guard didn’t hesitate to take the Pacers’ defense off the dribble, creating some nice space for himself on a few mid-range jumpers. He finished the game with a much-needed 11 points on 5-7 shooting. Considering how close this game ended up, he might be the unsung hero of the night.
As for the recognized hero, Nikola Vucevic takes the cake. The big man finished with 24 points and a dominant 17 rebounds on 10-19 shooting from the field. Five of his rebounds came on the offensive glass, as the Bulls, yet again, went on to win the second-chance points battle 18-15.
For a Pacers team that came into the game allowing at least 58 points in the paint during each of their first two games, the Bulls were smart to attack inside. This also translated to a season-high 31 free-throw attempts (of which the Bulls made 26). DeMar DeRozan went to the line for an 8-8 performance, which Zach LaVine had himself a 10-11 day. All things considered, their ability to get to the charity stripe played a crucial role in pulling off this win, as they combined for just an ugly 12-36 shooting from the field.
Speaking of which, the Bulls offense is still very stinky. The fact they managed to pull off this win shooting only 17 shots from downtown and A TON from the mid-range buckets is, well, not the most encouraging. I also fear that it will give them further justification for slipping back into their old ways.
But a win is a win, right? I came into this game expecting a loss, particularly after we watched Indiana score at least 125 points in their first two games. But Chicago embraced the physicality and buckled down for some key defensive stops. While the team 100 percent got lucky with the Pacers botching some open 3s at the end, they also hit the shots they had to in the clutch.
LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic combined for 12 of the team’s last 13 points. While some of these came on ISO possessions by DeRozan, I’m also more than willing to live with that. Does this offense need to change? Yes. But you also need to take advantage of what DeRozan does best when the game slows down.
We’ll talk more about this one tomorrow. Consider me shocked this Bulls team is 2-2 right now, though. We’ll see if they can move above .500 for the first time against Luka on Wednesday.
Check out the full box score here.