On the third game in four nights, the Bulls were unable to leverage DeRozan’s 46-point performance into a win against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, falling 123-119 to the reigning Eastern Conference champs.
This was a competitive game wire-to-wire and showed that this Bulls team isn’t going to fold against top competition this year.
Still, they fall to an even 5-5 on the season. Here are my takeaways from the game:
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1. DeMar DeRozan bounces back
DeRozan was back to his usual tricks, but it looked even better in contrast to his previous few games. Having scored only nine points in his previous five quarters combined, DeRozan dropped 19 in the first half on 7-of-11 shooting and finished with 46 shooting 13-of-23 from the field and 20-of-22 from the line.
DeRozan has mastered the art of drawing fouls on jump shots. He doesn’t need to attack the rim, necessarily. His timing, positioning and body control are incredible.
I like this play as a way for the Bulls to attack the Celtics switching scheme:
Derrick White starts the possession on Ayo Dosunmu, switches onto Javonte Green and after fighting through a Nikola Vucevic screen, he ultimately finds himself on DeRozan.
Special stuff from DeRozan. Have to appreciate greatness while we can.
2. Zach LaVine is still lacking explosion
You know something is up when LaVine can’t beat Luke Kornet to the basket off the dribble.
LaVine finished with 16 points, but his shot profile shows he took only two shots at the rim and drew only two trips to the free throw line, which didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter.
Having played all three of the Bulls games in the last four days, it’s good to see LaVine working through things with his knee, but he really needs to become a more dangerous scorer to compliment DeRozan.
3. Frustrating night from Patrick Williams
I appreciate that the desire to get to the basket was there. The effort to set screens and rebound was there. But Patrick Williams fouled out (one foul committed on a three-point shooter) and had five turnovers (three traveling violations and an illegal screen), all of which really cost the Bulls.
This last stretch was a back breaker.
It’s important to note this wasn’t a regression game where he hid in the corner. He stepped up and took shots when they were available. He made his presence felt, even if it wasn’t always in a positive way. But these are good learning experiences. It’s much better to see Williams out there trying to make plays in close games than shying away from open shots.
4. Nikola Vucevic catches fire
On a night where scoring was hard to find outside of DeRozan, the Bulls got a boost from Nikola Vucevic who finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. He hit three-straight three pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Bulls get back into the game after the bench allowed the Celtics to build upon their lead.
Vucevic started the year off on a tear, but has slowed down of late. He tends to play well against teams with smaller front lines like the Celtics, so hopefully he can parlay this performance into success in a home-home back-to-back set against the Raptors Sunday and Monday.
5. Bench mob couldn’t find its magic
Led by Goran Dragic, the Bulls bench has been keeping them afloat, if not extending leads to bridge the starters minutes to open the first and third quarters and close the second and fourth quarters.
Tonight, they simply could not find any of that magic. Part of this was because LaVine just didn’t have his legs under him and couldn’t provide the rim pressure that gives this group dynamic scoring.
The other piece was Drummond, whose absence felt more noticeable against the aforementioned smaller frontline of the Celtics.
Without a vertical spacing, Dragic was still able to get into the paint but had no outlet to lob the ball to.
The Bulls head to Toronto to face the Raptors in a Sunday matinee game.