There is perhaps nothing Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan has harped on more this season than navigating momentum. What happens that allows the Bulls to gain momentum? What allows opponents to stop the Bulls runs? Why does that often result in the Bulls blowing leads? How can they learn to shut off the faucet on these teams?
It has been an up-and-down, but mostly down, season in that regard, but the last few weeks have been a marked improvement.
So when the Bulls second unit exploded early in the second quarter to gain a 20-point lead on Sunday afternoon, it could only go one of two ways.
Ultimately, the Bulls were able to absorb the Lakers many runs and come out with a 118-108 win in Los Angeles.
Take the second quarter, for example. Spurred by Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu and Andre Drummond’s incredible scoring stretch, the Bulls pushed their lead to 20 with a LaVine three with 4:54 on the clock. Bulls up 59-39.
Next possession, LaVine missed a heat check three from the logo. The Lakers take a pullup from the logo and misses. From there, the Lakers bring the ball up and hit a three, the Bulls miss and the Lakers get a dunk. Bulls timeout.
In two possessions, the Bulls 20-point lead turns to 15. And the rest of the way, the Lakers are able to cut the lead down to eight going into halftime.
Runs happen throughout the course of any NBA game. Both for and against the Bulls. The fact that they withstood the Lakers advances and extended the lead back to 21 in the third quarter speaks to a newfound resilience and bodes well for their playoff hopes.
The Bulls had 14 deflections and eight steals. They racked up 15 fastbreak points and put the pressure on the Lakers to get back in transition every time down.
LaVine, who finished with 32 points (13-19 shooting, two threes) was on the receiving end of a handful of easy layups and dunks that helped buoy the Bulls offense.
This was not the way the Bulls usually produce. Going 14-of-31 on threes, but only getting to the line 13 times compared to the Lakers 28, they needed every one of those transition points to maintain their lead as the Lakers made their runs.
Nikola Vucevic ejection
After fouling LeBron James on a layup in the second quarter, Nikola Vucevic got hit with a technical foul for complaining.
He then made his way to the bench and turned back to mutter something, presumably inflammatory, towards the ref. Immediately, he was hit with another technical and ejected from the game.
Without getting into the details of calls, missed calls and no-calls throughout the course of the game, the Bulls deserve credit for managing the rest of the game without Vucevic.
Andre Drummond stepped in and had 12 points (5-of-6 shooting) and eight rebounds. Derrick Jones Jr. had eight points (3-of-4 shooting, two threes) and four rebounds including some timely shots to help the Bulls protect their lead.
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Carried by another Zach LaVine supernova, the Bulls now push their record within two games of .500. At 36-38, they remain in the 10th seed, but are tied with the Raptors for ninth and are one game behind the Hawks in 8th.
Up Next: 9:30 pm Central Time on Monday night against the Clippers in LA