The Bulls finally have a convincing win, beating the tanking Indiana Pacers 124-109 on Wednesday night. It was an overall offensive effort with Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, Patrick Williams, Goran Dragic and Ayo Dosunmu all scoring in double figures.
This is the kind of offensive team the Bulls want to be. With 10 steals, 18 points off of turnovers and 46 points in the paint, the Bulls are generating offense in transition, moving the ball up and down with pace. They’ve also been shooting the lights out — a combined 26-of-51 on threes in their last two games.
While the shooting may not last, the transition defense is quickly becoming something the Bulls can count on. Led by Dragic and Andre Drummond, that bench unit that struggled in previous games has remade itself while playing alongside one of the Bulls’ two All-Star wings.
More on that to come in another piece, but for now, here are a few things that stood out from the win:
First play of the game for Patrick Williams
On the first play of the game, Billy Donovan drew up a play to get Patrick Williams on the ball with a big switched onto him. It didn’t go as planned — Williams stumbled on the drive and threw up a wild shot. But it’s the thought that counts.
“It really wasn’t necessarily for him, as much as it was just a read,” Donovan said. “If he had an opportunity to drive, to drive. Or he could have kicked it to DeMar and kind of gone into a screening action with DeMar. I think he felt like he had a lane to drive, so he kind of drove it to the basket. I think it was a good decision, unfortunately he didn’t finish it. But it was a good aggressive play downhill.”
From there, Williams went on to hit his next three shots, including a three-pointer, and had a couple assists in his first-half stint.
Williams finished with 10 points in only 15 minutes of play, but went 4-for-5 from the field and looked the most engaged he has all season.
Ayo Dosunmu’s passing
Ayo Dosunmu has always been a good distributor. He averaged just over five assists per game in his final season at Illinois and had a career-high 14 against the Pacers last season on February 4.
Even for his standards, his ability to read the game seems vastly improved.
His decisiveness getting downhill is opening up so many opportunities for the Bulls to get the defense shifting side-to-side. Though he’s not a shifty, break you down off the bounce kind of guy on his own, he’s perfect attacking closeouts and using Nikola Vucevic screens to get paint touches.
He doesn’t get the assist on this play, but he recognizes the way the defender is icing him towards the sideline, and perfectly times his move to get downhill and his pocket pass to beat the big containing.
He finished with seven assists, but the confidence he has in his passing ability really stood out in this game.
Dosunmu’s playmaking is one of the underrated, untapped areas of potential growth for this Bulls team. Watch out.
Bulls three-point defense
In their season opener, the Miami Heat went 6-for-8 on three pointers. The Cavaliers started 5-for-6 in the third game of the season. Then the Celtics started their game 8-for-9 from three. This time it was the Pacers who got ungodly hot in the third quarter, starting out 7-for-9 on threes and shaving a 19-point halftime lead down to four.
Why is this happening?
I don’t know. The thing that’s crazy on that, and I’ve looked into it already.
Said Donovan: “Teams that contest shots at a high level, are up in the high 60 percent of all shots that are contested. We have done a really, really, really good job of contesting shots. And don’t get me wrong, there were shots tonight that were just wide open. That happened. But we’ve done a really good job of contesting, and team’s have just made shots. You’re hopeful that certainly the numbers over a long period of time, show that if you contest at a high rate, generally the shooting percentages drop drastically. For us, that has not been the case.”
For the most part, the Bulls had breakdowns on the initial screening action that led to rotations that were not quite good enough. Here, the Pacers get downhill on the initial pick-and-roll action. DeRozan steps over to help, completing his job as the low-man, but because of the design of the play, Dosunmu has a long way to go to cover the corner. By the time the ball is swung back to the wing, no one is there to help.
Same thing here. Dosunmu does a good job helping after the initial breakdown, but the recovery isn’t quite there. It’s a long way to go for Vucevic, but that’s what happens when you’re facing two shooting bigs.
Obviously these kinds of hot stretches are pretty unusual and won’t likely continue. But that it’s happened already four out of five games, is pretty head scratching.