Don’t look now, but the Bulls are streaking!
Two straight wins, one against the best team in the west, one against the worst team in the west, with Saturday night’s 119-111 win over the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets are a mess. Through three quarters, they shot 15-of-23 on threes, which carried them throughout most of the game. But the Bulls tightened the screws and held the Rockets to 1-of-11 on threes in the fourth quarter, allowing them to rally with a 32-16 win in the final frame. They climb to 31-36 and 10th in the Eastern Conference standings.
Zach LaVine led the way with 36 points (14-of-26 field goals, 3-of-8 threes, 5-of-6 free throws), nine rebounds and five assists. His scoring stretch is as impressive as we have seen during his career as he continues to aggressively attack the rim.
DeMar DeRozan added a casual 27 points (9-of-21 shooting), 7 rebounds and five assists while Nikola Vucevic got things going after a slow start. He finished with 18 points (7-of-15 shooting), 11 rebounds and six assists.
Though the big three played well together, Patrick Williams, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu combined for only six points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Here are my takeaways from the game.
Pat Bev Effect
16 points (6-of-7 field goals, 4-of-5 threes), 10 rebounds, five assists.
Those are some pretty big numbers for anyone, but especially for Patrick Beverley, who had a huge impact on the Bulls win. Beverley was a team high +17 in a game the Bulls won by only eight points. His defense has been tremendous, his knack for generating sparks was palpable in the form of five offensive rebounds, a drawn charge and a block.
The Bulls are now 5-3 since the addition of Beverley.
Bulls a three point shooting team now?
Bulls made 15-of-32 three-point attempts, the highest number of attempts since February 16 and the most makes since February 15th.
That seems like monumental output, but 21 teams take at least 32 threes per game.
Considering the Bulls have been running more and more of their offense through LaVine, the Bulls may end up taking even fewer threes now that DeRozan is playing more of a spot up role.
With DeRozan on ball, LaVine can operate as a catch-and-shoot option (one of the best in the entire NBA). With LaVine on the ball, he may have more opportunities for off-the-dribble threes, but on the team, that has been a net negative on total three-point volume, at least in games since the All-Star Break.
The Bulls are last in the NBA in three-point attempts per game at 28.4, but since the break, they are averaging only 25.3.
Bulls death lineup
Vucevic enters the game with 6:21 to go in the fourth quarter, with the Bulls down 103-102.
Playing along Beverley, LaVine, DeRozan and Caruso, the Bulls finished out 119-111. A 16-7 run that adds to a positive trend we’ve seen since the trade deadline.
Since the Beverley addition, the aforementioned “death lineup” is +22.3 in 247 possessions together. It’s not a huge sample size, but it’s incredibly already the Bulls fourth most used lineup this year. The defense is elite (92nd percentile) and the offense gets the job done (69th percentile).
Play in opponents beware!
Play In Teams Beware
That brings us to the East standings, where the Bulls now occupy the 10th seed. Huzzah!
9 and 12 are still only separated by one game, so things are still very bunched up. But none of these teams seem to want to kick things into high gear and separate from the pack.
A play in appearance is there for the taking. Can’t let it slip.
Up Next: Bulls return home to play the Beam Team Sacramento Kings on Wednesday 3/15