Submitted by National Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
The Chicago Bulls won their second straight win for the first time this season, defeating the New Orleans Pelicans 124-118 on Saturday night at the United Center.
“Now we have to get back-to-back wins,” DeMar DeRozan said. “These two games should be a blueprint for us.”
Here are 10 notes:
— DeRozan returns from a one-game absence due to a sprained left ankle. He played an intelligent and effective game overall, finishing with 10 assists to go with 24 points. In the fourth, he started looking for his shot more, scoring over Herb Jones in the mid-range for a huge basket late.
“(The ankle) felt good,” DeRozan said.
— For those wondering if the ball movement that defined the Bulls’ overtime win over the Bucks will continue with DeRozan’s return, the answer has arrived early. He helped the Bulls make eight of their first 10 baskets, and one game after recording a season-high 32 assists, he recorded 32 assists against the Pelicans.
“We’re being unselfish, moving the ball, getting the pace,” DeRozan said. “We understand reads, we make quick reads, we shoot the ball, and we play with confidence.”
– Coby White dominated the fourth quarter. White sank back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the fourth to snap a tie. Both were of the temperature screening type. When White followed up with a traditional three-point play, “Kobe! Kobe!” Cheers started at the United Center when he went to the free throw line. He then drove and kicked to a wide open DeRozan for a 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 25 seconds left that pushed the Bulls’ lead to six points. White then threw a perfect pass to Patrick Williams for a dagger layup with 20.1 seconds left. White finished with a season-high 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
—But the Bulls’ injury news wasn’t all good. Not only did Zach LaVine miss the first of at least three more games due to a sore right foot, but Alex Caruso left the game with 2 minutes and 44 seconds left in the second quarter and did not return. Caruso re-aggravated a strained left toe that pushed him in and out of the lineup. Caruso started for LaVine and scored eight points in 12 minutes with two rebounds and two steals. Ayo Dosunmu, who had another solid game, started the second half for Caruso.
— Saturday night marked the first set of back-to-back games for injury-prone Zion Williamson. Entering the back-to-back set, Williamson was averaging 28.4 points on 64.7 percent shooting. He is an attacking player and puts a lot of pressure on defences. “He’s as good as I’ve ever seen him follow his shot when he misses it,” coach Billy Donovan said before the game. Patrick Williams started for Williamson and played textbook one-possession defense when Williamson tried to rotate and drive the baseline. Overall, the Bulls’ defense kept Williamson quiet until the latter stages of the first half. Williamson scored seven points in less than two minutes after his comeback with 2:44 left in the game. Williamson finished with 27 points.
— For the second straight game, Donovan played rookie Julian Phillips in the first quarter. Shortly after going in, Phillips stole a Jose Alvarado pass and ran down the floor in transition, knocking down a pass from Torrey Craig.
— Speaking of the urgency of the game, Donovan also changed Caruso’s usage in the first half. In games where Caruso starts, as he did Saturday, Caruso typically comes out near the 6-minute mark of the first quarter and sits out until about the 6-minute mark of the second quarter. Against the Pelicans, Caruso exited at 6:54 of the first quarter but returned 3 minutes later. He scored five points in the first quarter.
— White extended his streak of games with at least three 3-pointers to eight games, the longest current streak of its kind in the NBA. Over his previous seven games, White led the NBA with 31 three-pointers made. He tied his career high with eight on Saturday.
“It’s something I looked at a lot because he wasn’t shooting the ball well early in the year,” Donovan said. “Being at this point, it’s a big responsibility not only for Kobe but for any goalie in this league. And he was a scorer. We need him to do that.”
“If you look at his games where he scored well, he was off the ball where the ball found him and he was able to get catch-and-shoot opportunities and either fake it or drive it. I talked to him a lot about being off the ball sometimes. Not “In terms of him needing to stay away from the paint. But if he starts the offense with a pass, it gets him off the ball and moving around a little bit and he can find those creases and cracks within our offense where there’s ball movement and the ball splashes on him and now he’s playing against the playoffs.”
— Patrick Williams scored in double figures for the sixth straight time, finishing with 14 points. Williams combined with White and Dosunmu to get off to a strong start in the second half, erasing a 10-point deficit by 9:14 of the third period. The Bulls dominated the third 36-21, seven points ahead of fourth place. The quarter’s production surpassed two recent first-half totals of 33 points each.
— One game after scoring a season-high 29 points, Nikola Vucevic shot just 3 for 12, but rushed to make a big save that led to White’s alley-oop to Williams.
“The ball was there. I picked it up and saw it was a two-on-one game,” White said. “I knew as long as I threw it high enough where (Jonas) Valanciunas couldn’t get it, I knew Pat was so athletic and bouncy and springy that he could go get it.”
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