The Bulls dropped a frustrating road game to the Spurs 129-124 on Friday night and now sit at an even 3-3 on the season.
The Bulls went down early after a barrage of early threes from San Antonio, but climbed out of the hole and put themselves in a position to win. But with Nikola Vucevic (nine points on 4-for-13 shooting) and Alex Caruso (three points on 1-for-5 shooting), the Bulls didn’t have enough in the tank to close out.
Even with Zach LaVine (injury management) out, this game was winnable. It’s less on Vucevic and Caruso than poor defensive execution and attention to detail.
Here are my takeaways from the game:
DeMar DeRozan hits 20k points
It was so on brand.
Draw a switch on the pick-and-roll. Right-to-left cross over. Left elbow pull-up jumper.
20,000 points for DeMar DeRozan.
In a classy move, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich immediately called a time out after DeRozan’s milestone achievement to allow him to soak in the moment.
20,000 is a lot of points. And he’s not done yet.
Andre Drummond dominates
Drummond was a monster on both ends of the court, racking up 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting and 14 rebounds.
Drummond played 22 minutes to Vucevic’s 24, but Billy Donovan went to Drummond to close the game. And it was a good call. Whereas Drummond typically does the majority of his offensive work on tip-ins and lobs, he was bailing the Bulls out on multiple possessions when Vucevic wasn’t able.
Goran Dragic has been the face of the stellar bench unit, but Drummond deserves his flowers. The Bulls have one of the best backup centers in the NBA.
Coby White finally breaks out
We talk a lot about how Patrick Williams is a feel player who needs to be more involved in the offense to be productive, or even noticeable.
I’m starting to think the same is true for Coby White. The Bulls had zero shooters on the floor until White got hot with the second unit.
Aside from the hot shooting (White started 3-for-5 on threes), he did a great job getting out in transition where he is at his best.
From there, the mid-range game opened up, and he showed some nice ability to change pace, snake into these pick-and-rolls and knock down shots.
He also flashed some nice court awareness on this pass to the opposite corner out of a high pick-and-roll. The timing was perfect as White released the pass as soon as the help got a foot in the paint.
Transition defense and communication
The Bulls were ninth in the NBA in defense coming into the game, but the strange trend of three-point flurries against the Bulls continued as the Spurs hit five of their first six from deep, en route to a 121.7 offensive rating.
The two biggest areas of weakness were transition and three-point defense, so here’s a clip that encapsulates the deficiencies in both areas:
That was Keldon Johnson’s sixth three of the game. The Bulls allowed 38 total three-point attempts of which the Spurs made 16.
This was really a matter of poor execution, lack of communication and dumb mistakes. Here Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams are just pointing at one another to pick up Jeremy Sochan. Neither does it. Easy dunk.
This game was littered with miscues and mistakes that came back to cost them at the end of the game when they had a chance to close out. They’ll need to clean things up Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers back at the United Center.